Case Study

Hachette Book Group’s Single Source for Digital Marketing

Big five US trade publisher Hachette Book Group (HBG) turned to VIP and featured partner Alley to fulfill a vision to support digital marketing for thousands of titles, authors, and imprints on one central platform, with WordPress at the center.

“Using VIP means that I don’t have to bring in an operations team. My developers don’t have to worry about ‘is the site up or down’, but can focus on creating. VIP does code review, which reassures me that we’re not going to be putting code in that’s going to cause scalability or security problems. Having that second layer of control is a real positive. Frankly, I’d rather have my team focused on being creative and innovative than spending time worrying about architecture.”

Ryan Pugatch, VP of Strategic Technology, HBG

Features

  • Centralized site building capabilities and domain management
  • Custom page builder and template system
  • Elasticsearch for display of dynamic page elements
  • ONIX and Bowker XML integration
  • Comprehensive in-dashboard search

Hachette Book Group (HBG) is one of the largest trade publishers in the US, and a division of Hachette Livre, the world’s third largest book publisher for the general public and educational markets. HBG publishes over 1,700 books per year in addition to audio books and digital-only titles.

Along with a central marketing strategy team and a central IT team, each imprint and publisher at HBG has its own marketing resources. Until recently, each team had its own approach, and content was strewn across numerous static websites supported by various vendors, hosting platforms, and technologies.

“Our marketers were using tools like Squarespace or Wix to create webpages and countless static websites that were either made by our in-house web team, or marketers had gone out and partnered to have something developed and put on an external site. We didn’t have a central repository for our websites, we lacked common best practices, and our analytics were disorganized.”

Ryan Pugatch, VP of Strategic Technology

Ryan Pugatch, HBG’s Vice President of Strategic Technology, led a marketing alignment and enablement project to establish a common platform and best practices that would support all of the organization’s needs. In the first phase, he standardized processes and methodology for bringing title websites to market.  

The Challenge

A Single Source of Content across the Catalog

Pugatch engaged WordPress.com VIP and Alley in 2017 to execute the second phase: building and supporting a custom WordPress platform that would integrate with the industry-standard metadata format and serve as the single source of marketing content for every title, author, and imprint across HBG.

Crucially, one goal was to make the system work seamlessly within the natural flow of their business, spawning new sites easily, and promoting the right assets on the right pages at the right times without the need for constant manual intervention from the marketing team.

The Solution

Custom WordPress Site Builder on the VIP Go Platform

Today, HBG’s US marketing sites and campaigns all run on an instance of WordPress hosted on VIP’s managed cloud platform. Through an Elasticsearch integration built by the Alley team, lightning-fast queries run through a complex set of business rules to instantly surface the right array of assets in the right places on every page. Each time new titles come in to the system, marketers can easily fine-tune and customize the corresponding new sites to their needs instead of building everything from scratch. And all of these sites, pages, and modules can be controlled via a common custom dashboard with its own built-in search.

The Alley team also helped HBG to centralize their digital records via a recurring inventory import process, and created a data structure for their web inventory that improved logistics and UX across all users. Another tool helps the HBG team reuse content from that database across any number of sites, allowing them to spin up new sites from imported data in minutes. WordPress VIP’s hosting reliability and speed keeps this system operating at peak efficiency, whenever it’s needed.

The VIP support team handles all of the WordPress application management, support, scaling, and performance needs, freeing HBG’s marketing team to focus on running marketing campaigns and programs for their thousands of titles each year.

The Results

Now, marketing leads representing HBG’s massive slate of authors and titles run their own campaigns without the need for internal development resources or external vendors. With the efficiencies gained from the new platform and processes, HBG was able to redeploy the web development and design resources that were previously tasked with supporting those campaigns and content updates. They are now freed up to build and design new properties, new features, and custom projects promoting top tier authors and titles.

And thanks to the one platform serving as the single source of content, HBG’s marketing strategy team is on to the next level of detail in establishing and training in best practices, including things like data-driven analysis and optimization, across the entire network of sites.

Expert Management, Guidance, and Support

VIP’s expert managed WordPress hosting and support takes care of all of the scaling, security, performance optimizations, and maintenance to keep the platform running at its peak. VIP’s industry-leading code review assures consistent, high quality, secure code and serves as a helpful resource for the HBG team to elevate their work and eliminate technical debt. Alley’s site maintenance engagement takes care of Hachette’s ongoing needs from a development perspective, ensuring bugs are squashed whenever they appear, the user experience is constantly improving, and the site is as fast and up to date as ever.

This frees Hachette Book Group’s resources from the burdens of DevOps, and frees marketers and developers to focus on making great new stuff.

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