Delivering the latest local news with automatic scalability on Google Cloud
Google Cloud results
- Strengthens infrastructure to handle even extreme traffic spikes with automatic scaling on Google Kubernetes Engine
- Facilitates strategic budget decisions by delivering highly granular cost visibility with Google Cloud
- Empowers teams to build new features faster and autonomously, by creating a CI/CD pipeline
- Enables personalization to build customer loyalty by expediting the building of a data warehouse on Google Cloud
Scales up and down with readership automatically
Information travels fast in today’s globalized society, and a 24/7 mass media news cycle makes newsworthy events from around the world instantly accessible to billions. But while international stories often seem to dominate the headlines, they’re not always the content readers seek out the most.
In many ways, regional media is the glue that holds communities together, focusing not just on big national stories, but what’s relevant on a local level. It’s a focus that pays off: in France, regional and local newspapers were the most trusted source of news throughout 2020, beating even world-renowned national newspapers and public media.
But while regional media speaks to our desire for local communities in a globalized world, its readers also expect it to keep with the times. French regional newspaper La Provence, based out of the country’s second largest city, Marseille, is serving a readership that’s increasingly digital, consuming news on the La Provence website or via the newspaper’s dedicated smartphone application. This digital readership opens up new opportunities for the newspaper to develop their audience.
“For a traditional print newspaper company, the cloud is new territory,“ explains Mathieu Cochelin, Chief Digital Officer at La Provence. In 2020 alone, the newspaper’s digital channels had 72 million unique visitors, a record for the company. “To keep up with the evolving demands of our readership, we need to embrace this change and continue the company’s digitalization.“
A new paradigm for new peaks in traffic
Until 2020, La Provence’s digital services were primarily hosted on dedicated servers. The setup was simple, but lacking the flexibility the fast-paced media environment increasingly requires. Peaks in traffic, a feat of the news cycle that’s as regular as it is unpredictable, required manual attention, and during lows in readership, there was a real danger of paying a higher server cost than necessary.
“To cope with peaks in traffic reliably and cost-effectively, we needed a smart cloud infrastructure that would scale with our demands in real time,” says Mathieu. “We also wanted to leverage the data we’re collecting through our digital channels to transform our customer experience. Google Cloud helps us achieve both.”
For La Provence, moving to the cloud wasn’t just a technical project, but a paradigm shift. By partnering with cloud specialists OP-Rate, Mathieu and his team built cloud expertise and a new development framework alongside a modernized infrastructure. “For us, OP-Rate is more than a technical partner, but a project partner, helping us define a new paradigm for our work and introduce agile methods.”
Breaking the news without breaking the servers
Today, this new paradigm is in full swing. By running La Provence’s digital services on Google Kubernetes Engine and Compute Engine, Mathieu’s team have built a CI/CD pipeline, empowering project teams with a new sense of independence. “We used to work in a hybrid environment and didn’t really have defined staging, production, or development environments,” says Mathieu. “With the migration to Google Cloud, we established a framework for each environment, giving our teams more autonomy when it comes to building new features and services.”
In the past, the joy of achieving traffic highs was always accompanied by a creeping concern that the servers might overload. Sometimes the strain on the database was so high that IT had to ask journalists at La Provence to slow down their work for a minute, and wait for more server capacity. “Extreme traffic spikes can be rare, but you need to be prepared for them,” says Mathieu. “If our site isn’t running, our readers will look for the information elsewhere.”
With Google Cloud, Mathieu’s team no longer needs to worry about losing readers due to insufficient infrastructure: “We used to be constantly in emergency mode, praying that our servers would handle the load. With the scalability of Google Kubernetes Engine, we can rest assured that our infrastructure scales up and down with our readership, and because everything is automated, it doesn’t require any action from us.”
Knowing when to spend wisely, save costs, and stay flexible
Scaling to new heights is one thing, but Google Kubernetes Engine also ensures cost-effective flexibility in calmer times. In the past, La Provence would often be lacking resources during peaks and leave them unused during lows. “As a regional media organization, our budget is quite limited, so it’s incredibly important to use what we have effectively,” says Mathieu. “Google Cloud makes it easier for us to spend exactly as much on infrastructure as our current traffic requires.”
Always balancing a strict budget, Mathieu’s team also uses Google Cloud to monitor the cost of the La Provence infrastructure. “Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to respect the budget, so if something is costing us more than expected, we need to identify and fix that quickly,” says Mathieu. “Google Cloud makes it incredibly easy to get a detailed breakdown of our costs and their origins, and adjust our strategy accordingly.”
Delivering the news that readers want
Mathieu is very proud of the team and the steps they took to build and deploy the migration to Google Cloud. They put a great deal of hard work and effort into the project. But for Mathieu’s team, building a scalable infrastructure with Google Cloud was only the first step of their digital transformation as a news organization. Without having to worry about servers or traffic peaks, they can now focus especially on improving the user experience by leveraging the data from La Provence’s digital channels.
“Now that we’re in the cloud, we’ll be able to use data warehouse solutions, such as BigQuery, to gather all our data in one place and make it accessible for analysis across the company,” says Mathieu. To visualize the data, Mathieu and his team are considering Looker. “Teams will be able to use this data to better understand La Provence’s audience, driving online subscriptions with more targeted content.”
With actionable audience insights from the data lake, La Provence will be able to personalize its digital channels and provide its readers with content better suited to their interests. To build this data pipeline, Mathieu’s team will continue working with OP-Rate, repeating the winning formula of building big data expertise alongside the ideal infrastructure with Google Cloud.
“Today’s readers are looking for engaging digital experiences, delivered quickly,” says Mathieu. “By building our new infrastructure with Google Cloud, we’ve been able to transform La Provence for this digital readership. Now we’re ready to win their loyalty with a great user experience, optimized website speed, and personalized content.”
La Provence is a daily newspaper covering the Provence region in the southeast of France. With 6 million monthly digital readers, it’s one of the most popular regional newspapers in the country.
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