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The Al Arabiya News Channel is the leading 24-hour news station in the Arab world and has a reputation for providing on-the-ground, first-hand coverage of major news events in the region. As the most visited news website in the Middle East, Al Arabiya.net has to withstand politically-motivated hacking and denial of service attacks on a daily basis. Within this charged environment, a team of 40 full-time journalists work to add around 200 new articles to the site every day.
Al Arabiya has implemented Magnolia as the core of its new, multichannel, online news and broadcasting platform. It uses Magnolia to serve its growing online audience of up to 70 million page views per month, with up to 20,000 concurrent visitors at any one time. Thanks to Magnolia, it can now publish news in less than three minutes, without compromising on security or stability.
Al Arabiya is Magnolia’s second major broadcasting customer in the region, after having delivered the CMS infrastructure for the channel’s sister station MBC. With former CMS Watch analyst Adriaan Bloem amongst the evaluation team, Al Arabiya looked at several vendors, including Liferay and Polopoly.
However, based on the experience of the MBC.net implementation, Al Arabiya finally opted to work with the Swiss systems integrator Tinext to implement a custom solution built on Magnolia.
The flexibility of Magnolia’s open source platform allowed Al Arabiya and Tinext to create a custom editorial dashboard built for journalists. The new workflow is tailored to the exact needs of Al Arabiya’s dynamic, non-linear editorial process. This ensures that wherever a story emerges, it gets instantly directed to all the relevant teams for any necessary additions, translations and checks.
Speed is essential for delivering online news - and stories no longer just stem from the editorial teams. Al Arabiya needed to be able to work off images and videos sent in from viewers' mobiles and events breaking on social media. Al Arabiya's video platform is integrated, so that videos go live immediately. Finally, the platform is also highly safe - an essential criterion for an organization that's constantly under attack.
Integrating multimedia tools
To compete in the modern online market, Al Arabiya has to deliver a full range of multimedia content, integrated with its existing TV broadcasting platform. Magnolia’s open-suite approach and the ease of integrating third-party systems was a key factor in the choice to implement Magnolia.
Al Arabiya was able to plug the news channel’s existing “Limelight” video platform into Magnolia, making it possible for online editors to publish new TV footage instantly on the website. The channel has also been free to select best-of-breed solutions for other areas, such as web analytics, digital/media asset management and CRM.
Fending off attacks
Al Arabiya works under a constant barrage of politically-motivated hacking attacks. Magnolia’s Enterprise Edition offers an open-source solution built on a solid enterprise Java foundation, fully supported and updated by the vendor. Magnolia uses partners for system integration, devoting its 60 own resources to product maintenance and development.
Magnolia’s openness allowed Al Arabiya to select the best tools on the market and integrate them as a suite. With Magnolia, they also had a choice of system integrators, which is the other key part of this strategy. Tinext understood Al Arabiya's goals from the outset: the team had an unparalleled knowledge of Magnolia and knew exactly how to adapt the product to achieve them. Tinext completed the full Magnolia implementation with customization and integration of third-party systems in just 11 months.
Power and performance
Magnolia is able to handle Al Arabiya’s huge traffic volumes efficiently. The system is now used to run sites in four different languages. Visitors’ page load times have been reduced by one-third, and the CMS has delivered 100% uptime since going live. For the future, Al Arabiya is now looking to migrate to the latest Magnolia 5 release.
At the outbreak of the current Syrian crisis, the site was subjected to seven days of sustained hacking attacks. Our previous system was vulnerable: we were struggling to maintain an in-house code base that had been developed by different people over a period of five years. With Magnolia’s Enterprise Edition, we have clean, open code that is supported by the vendor. They handle the security threats.
If anything, Magnolia should have been at a disadvantage, because we were comparing real world experience [from the MBC project] against the sales pitch from other vendors. The Al Arabiya site was also a more technically demanding implementation. To build the best possible solution, we knew we had to integrate different best-of-breed technologies together with Al Arabiya’s existing broadcast systems. This was where our experience of Magnolia’s openness won-out over anything the competition had to offer.
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