Vector Media Group for Associated Press

Bringing Online Reporting Into the Modern Era

The Associated Press (AP) is a multinational not-for-profit news agency that collects and distributes news to publishers around the world. Cutting edge news deserves cutting-edge technology, so AP set a lofty goal to bring their online reporting & publishing tools into the modern era. They decided to start with two of their sites: Definitive Source and AP Insights.

The solution needed to be intuitive and enjoyable so that writers could focus on writing instead of fighting with a clunky publishing system. And it needed to be cost-effective, which immediately ruled out traditional “enterprise” content management systems.

The AP also needed a team of human-friendly developers who could translate AP writers’ editorial process into an online publishing workflow that was intuitive and effective. So they turned to Vector Media Group; Mike Bowser, AP’s Director of Branding and Creative Services, had worked with Matt Weinberg, Co-founder and Partner at Vector, before and knew that the values of Vector aligned perfectly with the AP’s goals.

As soon as they heard the project brief, Matt and his team at Vector knew that Craft CMS would be the best solution.

I believe this world of $500,000 CMSes is going away.

Craft is a content-first, enterprise-capable content management system that’s flexible enough to make online publishing easy and enjoyable. While Vector would have to do some custom development, a significant amount of the project’s requirements were addressed by Craft right out of the box, with just a few trusted third-party plugins.

With Craft, Vector could deliver the author experience (AX) that the Associated Press was looking for, without the price tag of a complex proprietary back-end. When AP did their research, they confirmed that the cost of Craft plus Vector’s in-depth discovery process and custom dev would still be significantly cheaper than other solutions that claim to “do it all” and still manage to fall (often frustratingly) short.

Craft also boasts a thriving community that offers excellent support and resources. Even if Vector didn’t stay involved for the long haul, the AP would have easy access to experienced Craft developers who could seamlessly pick up where they left off.

In the capable hands of Vector Media Group, Craft could become the AP’s solution—one that trounced an alternative enterprise CMS proposal. Craft was the obvious choice, with unparalleled AX, powerful customization, and an implementation cost that was hundreds of thousands less than the competition.

At the beginning of the project, Vector’s team set a strong foundation with content modeling and meticulous project discovery. This allowed them to tailor the Craft’s back-end publishing experience precisely to the AP’s needs.

The project was complex and there were several sets of decision makers for its various aspects. Vector worked closely with each department to bring into concert everyone’s requirements and kept track of whose approval they needed for each development checkpoint.

Making sure AP’s IT department was on board with using Craft was also crucial. Answering their questions about the server environment and how the project would be deployed, and setting up internal protocol if a site goes down, etc., helped them feel more comfortable. Vector has also been retained to handle infrastructure for AP when their internal tech team gets stretched too thin.

Vector Media Group favors a transparent, human-friendly approach to their projects that are unique in their field. In keeping with those values, Vector hosted a staging server that gave AP writers access to works in progress. Thanks to Craft’s Live Preview feature, writers could start working with real content right away, as the site was being built.

Ap Insights Preview@2X

An article on AP Insights being edited with Craft's "Live Preview" feature.

Vector watched as the AP staff played with the publishing building blocks. Based on Vector’s observations and conversations with the AP, Vector tailored a bespoke set of tools that now gives the AP the freedom to format on the fly.

Vector’s dedicated QA team was able to respond to real issues in real time: adjusting the workflow when it didn’t make sense for AP’s editors and fixing the back-end to accommodate real content needs without breaking the site. This sped up the entire project exponentially.

Thanks to Craft’s flexibility, Vector could modify the back-end and dashboard to make it more comfortable for the AP’s workflow, instead of having to train the AP to work within the constraints of the developer’s workflow. And when it was time for training, most of the writers had played around in Craft enough that they already knew what they were doing; all that was left was some fine-tuning.

The intuitiveness of entering content into Craft was stunning to me. The client actually figured out 90% the control panel before our walkthrough.

Vector’s human-friendly developers enabled Craft to offer an excellent Author Experience natively, with no hacks required. The result is a highly functional, easy-to-use publishing site that is a joy to work with. Many of the staff at AP who have used the two Craft sites are asking to have Vector rebuild their other project sites with Craft.

Because Craft is built on open source tools designed for the 21st century and its license is not an enterprise-level investment, Vector can offer AP these incremental changes to their family of websites without having to take the whole system offline or requiring extra budgeting for a huge system-wide project. Plus, there’s no need for a specialized development team—other than one that can quickly learn the power of Craft CMS.

  • Associated Press
  • Vector Media Group
  • News and Media