WORDPRESS OUTAGE: Lessons for the Digital Media Industry

TechCrunch during the WordPress Outage

TechCrunch during the WordPress Outage

If you visited the leading digital media sites between the 11th and 12th June you would have been greeted by the famous WordPress theme plant. 

This was due to an outage of the WordPress VIP product. A version of WordPress and service designed for major digital publishers. For several leading sites such as TechCrunch, Quartz and Rolling Stone were down. This incident revealed the extent to which leading digital media companies rely on WordPress for their existence and functioning. It also highlighted a risk faced by digital media companies. What can digital media companies do to cushion themselves against such an occurrence in the future?

There are basically two options that can be considered to mitigate against the risk similar to the WordPress outage. One can be applied in the short term and the second option can be applied in the long run.  

(1) Multiple backup versions

The first and immediate option can focus on creation of the same site on two different platform. in this case it seems most digital media companies had their sites built on WordPress VIP platform. Setting up a site on a different platform as a backup may mean setting up a site on a non- WordPress platform such as Squarespace, Joomla and others. Although this approach may prove to be expensive it may save digital media companies the embarrassment of a shutdown caused by problems faced by their tech provider.

 (2) Own Content Management System

 The second option would involve developing an in-house Content Management System. This is the approach that has been followed by media companies such as Vox Media with their Chorus Content Management System and Washington Post which is another major media company that has created its own Content Management System. These companies are some of the few that have avoided the WordPress VIP outage as they are using in-house developed system.

Media industry reliance on Tech industry

This incident,however, should cause the media industry to reflect about their reliance on the technology industry for their existence. The fact some media companies have managed to create their own platforms indicates that the industry as a whole needs to find a way to develop its own systems.

This may mean a CMS platform developed by the media industry for use the industry widely. Such a system would have to be built in such a way that whenever one is experiencing an outage or an attack the backup version can work while the repair work is conducted. 

The time is now for organisations such as WAN-IFRA to develop survival systems for the media industry as a whole.

Kay Ann