New York Public Radio has selected Wagtail as the headless CMS to manage Gothamist.com’s 150,000 pages (20 years worth of content!). (20 years of content!) on Gothamist.com as its headless CMS. The station is migrating all of its brands (WNYC, WQXR, WNYC Studios, etc.) to the multi-tenant Wagtail platform, which is tightly integrated with core content delivery services such as asset management and audio CMS. Kate Staton, who was the Senior Product Manager for Core Platforms & Experiences at New York Public Radio, told us how they got there.
Choosing Wagtail as the New Headless CMS
NYPR chose Wagtail after several months of researching open source and proprietary CMS options. We conducted a series of demos at media organizations in New York City to gain insight into the CMS platforms in use, the size of the team building the CMS in-house, and the pros and cons of open source versus off-the-shelf software. In addition, we conducted a series of demos to sell and purchase a CMS system.
As a non-profit public media organization, Torchbox’s mission and our ability to contribute to it resonated very well with our team and helped us sell the CMS proposal to senior leadership and the organization as a whole.
Initiating the POC
Our team conducted two proofs of concept (POCs) with Wagtail, both of which were successful. the first POC was done as a part-time pet project, and the results were excellent, but it was the page tree structure of Wagtail and how it worked with NYPR’s It was overshadowed by concerns about how it would interact with NYPR’s branding suite.
We knew the page tree was a good fit for Gothamist, but we didn’t know how to apply it to brands like WNYC, WNYC Studios, and the audio programming there. After spending a lot of time and resources re-launching the POC, we were able to focus on the Gothamist use case, which was a huge success in terms of speed of development and meeting the needs of our users. We were also able to better anticipate the needs of the program and imagine how the CMS could create shortcuts to better structure the program without the constraints of a page tree.
Gothamist was built through close collaboration between the digital team at New York Public Radio and the team at Tochbox. To work more smoothly and achieve our goals faster, we decided to add Tochbox’s development and project management resources to our regular Scrum team.
At the time, NYPR staff were in the office (currently telecommuting due to the pandemic), but we were able to mix teams and collaborate remotely with Torchbox. Having Tom, Matt, and Kevin join the team in the office for a week was a great way to bond with team members as we launched the project.
Future Prospects for NYPR
Over the next three to five years, we hope to add an audio content management system, a digital asset management system, and even a taxonomy service based on Wagtail to tightly integrate the three systems. This means that the strengths of Wagtail and the other systems can be leveraged without burdening the CMS. The team wanted to build a clear, easy-to-use publishing workflow on Wagtail that would allow CMS users to easily leverage other systems through API push and pull without having to log into each tool individually.
Once this work is complete, we will be able to bring more sites and brands into Wagtail as a multi-tenant CMS, allowing all teams in the organization to run from the same publishing system.
At that point, we hope to retire our other CMS (a 15-year-old Django-based tool).
Would you recommend Wagtail to other media companies?
Yes, Wagtail is a friendly, easy-to-use CMS that is easy to navigate from both an engineering and content creation perspective. Our content team found it to be very intuitive and required much less training and support than other publishing tools. In addition, we have found that using a customizable, open source tool is very cost effective compared to purchasing an off-the-shelf tool with minimal controls.
Wagtail’s final selling point is the power and creativity of the Torchbox team. Using open source software has provided many cost savings, but leveraging the Torchbox team and knowledge has allowed the team to work at a faster pace and build confidence within the group that they will have support when they need it.