- 300% increase in comment engagement, with a focus on News.
- 25% increase in freelance submissions from journalists in the UK and USA
- 12% increase in PR submissions to Al Bawaba Business
- Increasing requests for partnerships from US and UK tech and media events and programs.
Founded in 2000, Al Bawaba is the largest independent digital news platform and network in the Middle East.
Al Bawaba enjoys the most substantive content licensing system in the Arab World and their cutting edge journalism technology enabled them to build a unique community which continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Al Bawaba contacted Vardot to rebuild and revamp their digital experience in a bid to solidify their reputation as the most pioneering digital news and entertainment networks in the Middle East and North Africa region.
WHAT THEY NEEDED:
Robust Digital Asset Management (DAM)
Being a digital news and media platform naturally demands that Al Bawaba needed a robust digital asset management solution that enables technical scalability. They intended to continue on growing their already sizeable content and reach much higher volumes of multimedia content.
Search Engine Optimization
Ad revenue is a critical issue for digital businesses in the news and media sector and as such they needed to ensure that their website’s SEO doesn’t suffer or drop when they intend to launch their new website.
As of early 2019, they had over 850,000 articles indexed with Google which meant that data migration was a key factor to consider.
A Digital Content Publishing CMS
Al Bawaba is the largest independent producer and distributor of content in the Middle East servicing clients from Dubai’s e-Government to Panasonic and MBC.
They are expanding their already sizeable team of researchers, journalists, editors and developers and as such required a CMS and framework that enables them to run a smooth original content publishing process with identified roles.
An Optimized Digital Experience
As an independent news and entertainment platform; Al Bawaba focuses on engagement and values their readers’ interaction rather than just publishing headlines.
Their diverse community of readers is growing and as such they needed to create an intuitive UX design* that boasts features that made reader engagement and interaction simpler across all devices and browsers.
“The new concept emphasizes original content, premium long-form research, expanded visibility for Op-Eds and a nascent infrastructure for paying subscribers. At a time when many publishers are exploring AI and automating the news feed, we’re focusing on original content” - John Lillywhite, Executive Publisher @ Al Bawaba
WHAT WE DID:
In a bid to create a more dynamic experience for the readers of Al Bawaba; we implemented Layout Builder. Layout Builder is unique in that it can work with structured and unstructured content, and with templated and free-form pages.
Layout Builder is unique in offering a single, powerful visual design tool for the following three use cases:
- Layouts for templated content. The creation of "layout templates" that will be used to layout all instances of a specific content type (e.g. blog posts, product pages).
- Customizations to templated layouts. The ability to override these layout templates on a case-by-case basis (e.g. the ability to override the layout of a standardized product page)
- Custom pages. The creation of custom, one-off landing pages not tied to a content type or structured content (e.g. a single "About us" page).
Practical Digital Asset Management
In the process of upgrading Al Bawaba to Drupal 8; we replaced their Drupal 6 Entity browser with an upgraded and customizable media library that enables content publishers, editors and/or admins to manage and access digital assets (videos, images and etc.) easier than ever.
Due to their extensive library of digital assets and files; Al Bawaba needed a more practical method of retrieving the desired digital file when needed.
The previous media library of digital files needed to be browsed thoroughly to identify the desired image or video. This cumbersome task could potentially take up to 10 minutes from the content publishing process.
As such; we patched the Drupal 8 media library to provide Al Bawaba with:
Faster loading… potentially saving valuable content publishing time.
Convenient file preview… enabling quicker file identification.
With the new Drupal 8 media library; Al Bawaba can now identify and use the video or image they need in under 30 seconds.
Al Bawaba has their own dedicated newswire system called Syndigate.
They use this system to import a daily feed of at least 100,000 articles across the world in 3 different languages - English, Arabic and French. In order to optimize and multiply their traffic from content publishing; they needed an efficient solution that enables them to parse relevant content from Syndigate and publish it on their website.
To address this; we integrated Drupal with Syndigate to enable them to seamlessly integrate content from Syndigate into their content publishing and management process with one click and without opening a new tab to browse the content on the original source website.
Digital frailty is an issue that all journalism agencies are concerned with. It refers to the permanent loss of published content and articles.
Al Bawaba had almost 1,000,000 nodes that needed to be migrated intact from the old Drupal 6 website to the new Drupal 8 website. A challenging prospect for anyone tasked with migrating this massive amount of content.
Extra care and consideration was paid to ensure that all content was migrated safely with at least a 99.99% success rate.
The website search now features the best-in-class Apache Solr 7 search engine which enables an effective search experience for Al Bawaba’s visitors.
An Apache Solr 7 engine feature was also added to Al Bawaba’s dedicated newswire system. Rather than browsing through the massive amount of articles they receive daily; editors now can find the specific search result amongst millions of searchable items.
Tags are an essential feature for a platform that relies on content publishing. Tags are also a critical on-site SEO factor that Google considers important to the user’s news and content consumption experience.
We utilized OpenCalais (provided by Thomson Reuters) so that Al Bawaba are able to publish articles with automatically generated tags relevant to the article.
A practical and time-saving solution in their content publishing arsenal.
However; OpenCalais generates and adds tags in one single field, which could lead to the website’s performance suffering from the heavy load eventually.
As such; we addressed this potential concern by patching OpenCalais to categorize each tag generated in a separate field.
This patch provided the following benefits:
A stronger website search thanks to categorized tags.
Performance of the website will not suffer due to the distribution of tags across numerous fields.
Tailored Content Publishing User Experience
As a digital content publishing platform; Al Bawaba has the strategic advantage of utilizing Uberpublisher. Built on Drupal, Uber Publisher allows publishers to control the way their content is experienced.
From layout management, custom workflows, integrations, to an app store with growing features Uber Publisher provides a full solution that allows digital news and media platforms to focus on crafting their narratives.
Uberpublisher is AMP supported and integrated with essential UX features such as Disqus and Yoast SEO.
Contextual ad placement is also a built-in intelligent feature of Uberpublisher as ad revenue has become a key aspect of monetization and revenue generation for digital news platforms.
Enjoying full control over the process; editors at Al Bawaba can easily manage the ad placement process without compromising the quality of the reader’s experience.
Op-Eds / Long-form articles
Al Bawaba wanted to launch their new digital experience with a focus on original content and long-form articles such as Op-Eds in a bid to humanize the content publishing process and experience for their community of readers.
Given that Al Bawaba is ultimately built on Varbase, a built in paragraph module enabled Al Bawaba to publish long-form articles such as Op-Eds, that feature multimedia content such as videos and images which enriched the user experience across all devices.