Groupe Le Monde: Turning the page on static news sites to give subscription numbers a boost

About Groupe Le Monde

With a turnover of more than €320 million, the foremost newspaper publisher in France, Groupe Le Monde, is responsible for a number of publications including the iconic daily newspaper Le Monde.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: France

About SFEIR

SFEIR is a community of more than 450 developers, offering innovative technological solutions to small and large businesses.

Groupe Le Monde migrated the website infrastructure for Le Monde and L'Obs to Google Cloud Platform, enabling dynamic delivery for a more fluid user experience to boost subscription numbers.

Google Cloud Results

  • Delivers a more fluid and personalized experience to subscribers by powering dynamic web delivery
  • Reduces the operational burden with managed services, saving developers 2 hours a day
  • Easily handles sudden spikes in traffic thanks to autoscaling on Compute Engine

Le Monde subscriptions up 46% since migrating

Following the liberation of France in 1944, notably independent journalist and editor Hubert Beauve-Méry founded Le Monde. Today the French daily is known all over the world, and is part of Groupe Le Monde, which looks after a portfolio of prominent French titles, including the foremost topical news magazine L'Obs and the entertainment guide Télérama. In 2017, the group had a turnover of more than €305 million (€14.6 million net), with an increasing number of digital subscribers contributing to its growth.

"Our current business focus is increasing our subscription numbers. We want to encourage casual readers to become subscribers, so we need to deliver dynamic content in an innovative way, as well as absorb peaks in traffic. That isn't possible without the cloud."

Sacha Morard, CTO, Groupe Le Monde

"To deliver our digital content, we have chosen a freemium model for our publication websites," explains Sacha Morard, CTO of Groupe Le Monde. "Some articles are available to read for free, but by subscribing, users can access additional features and content." In 2018, Le Monde's digital subscriber numbers grew by 18 percent. It now has more than 313,000 digital and paper subscriptions.

In order to continue this digital growth, Groupe Le Monde wanted to improve the user experience for readers of Le Monde by switching to a dynamic model for delivering web pages. To do that, it migrated the website infrastructure from its data center to Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This has enabled the company to create a dynamic and scalable infrastructure to handle page views and traffic peaks, so that it can deliver a more fluid experience for users. Subscribers can now view their login status and receive recommendations tailored to their interests, as well as enjoy improved web performance.

"Our current business focus is increasing our subscription numbers," says Sacha. "We want to encourage casual readers to become subscribers, so we need to deliver dynamic content in an innovative way, as well as absorb peaks in traffic. That isn't possible without the cloud."

Creating a more dynamic infrastructure

When signing up for a digital subscription, readers want to see added value with a premium user experience. "While subscribers to Le Monde already benefited from larger images, it wasn't possible to provide the completely personalized experience that we were looking for using proxy caches," explains Sacha. Additionally, with the group's legacy infrastructure hosted in its own data center, when something needed fixing, an engineer had to be dispatched to restart disks or change the RAM. "The operational side was costing us a lot, and we were limited by the physical infrastructure in terms of scaling and innovation," Sacha adds.

"When readers receive a mobile news alert, we experience spikes of traffic with double the usual number of unique visitors on the Le Monde website. Google Compute Engine enables us to handle those peaks and scale easily from 50,000 to 100,000 connected users, as we use instance templates and autoscaling features for super-fast deployment."

Sacha Morard, CTO, Groupe Le Monde

As the Le Monde website experiences heavy daily traffic with 600 million page views every month, the group decided to migrate the website for L'Obs as a trial run, and completed this project over three months. "The workload on L'Obs is much smaller, as it has only around 10,000 subscribers, so we decided to start there," Sacha says. The team containerized the infrastructure using Docker before switching to virtual machines on Compute Engine. They use Cloud Pub/Sub, Cloud SQL for MySQL database as well as managed services such as Cloud Memorystore, Elasticsearch hosted on GCP, and networking tools such as Cloud Load Balancing.

As well as delivering content dynamically, the new infrastructure also helps to cope with peaks in traffic. "When readers receive a mobile news alert, we experience spikes of traffic with double the usual number of unique visitors on the Le Monde website," says Sacha. "Google Compute Engine enables us to handle those peaks and scale easily from 50,000 to 100,000 connected users, as we use instance templates and autoscaling features for super-fast deployment." He adds that it now takes just one minute to migrate, compile assets, and update libraries, and just 20 seconds to deploy a new version across the entire infrastructure.

For the Le Monde stack, in addition to the GCP tools used for L'Obs, the team chose Google Kubernetes Engine for its Content Management System (CMS). "The CMS is really important as all the journalists use it for producing both print and digital content," Sacha explains. "Google Cloud Pub/Sub is a key tool for us, as we use it to send data between different parts of the infrastructure. The system is more robust as it's easier to isolate any elements if for any reason they're not working."

Working with SFEIR for a faster migration

As the Le Monde infrastructure is more complex than the L'Obs stack, the migration required more planning. After a year spent building a new website, Sacha decided to get implementation partner SFEIR on board to help accelerate the migration.

"In the past six months, Le Monde subscriptions have increased by 46 percent, and page views by around 24 percent. It's thanks to a better focus on our premium content and improvements in web performance since migrating. Our dynamic delivery uses server-side scripting rather than CDN caching for a smoother user experience."

Sacha Morard, CTO, Groupe Le Monde

"We decided to completely rebuild the Le Monde website, which gave us the opportunity to put in place a lot of optimizations," says Sacha. "We launched the homepage and the article page first, then for the rest of the applications, it was a case of lifting and shifting them across. That's where I asked SFEIR to help." SFEIR came on board in February, and by July, it had migrated across the key applications.

"Working with SFEIR has really speeded up the migration," he adds. "The team knows GCP so well, and has a really in-depth understanding of the process. We were able to migrate the majority of the infrastructure over six months."

Boosting subscription numbers with more fluid delivery

Both L'Obs and Le Monde are now running on GCP, with both migrations taking place without the need for any downtime. Since the new Le Monde homepage was deployed in November 2018, subscription numbers have been rising. "In the past six months, Le Monde subscriptions have increased by 46 percent, and page views by around 24 percent," says Sacha. "It's thanks to a better focus on our premium content and improvements in web performance since migrating. Our dynamic delivery uses server-side scripting rather than CDN caching for a smoother user experience."

The infrastructure is also much easier to manage now. "As the L'Obs migration took place two years ago, I can clearly see the difference since then," says Sacha. "The operations workload has been halved, and most importantly, my developers are more enthusiastic about engaging with the infrastructure. They're keen to learn more about the cloud." Sacha also estimates that using managed services saves each developer around two hours every day on cluster management and other operational tasks. This enables them to spend more time writing powerful code, as well as designing and improving applications. Because they no longer have material limits, developers are also able to work on developing innovative functionality, which gives them much more freedom to play.

Groupe Le Monde now plans to expand its data engineering team and build a data collection and management pipeline. "We want to start using BigQuery and Cloud Dataflow in order to offer more personalized recommendations," says Sacha. "Using GCP data services will enable us to build our managed data pipeline as quickly and efficiently as possible, as all the services are simple to implement and ready to go." He's also interested in how machine learning tools such as Cloud Vision API can automate image selection to do things such as help journalists locate the best images to accompany their articles.

"The GCP infrastructure that we've built is robust, scalable, and can deliver content worldwide," says Sacha. "In fact, because it's so easy to scale and deploy on GCP, we're now looking at offering infrastructure as a service to other media groups. It's a whole new area of growth for us."

About Groupe Le Monde

With a turnover of more than €320 million, the foremost newspaper publisher in France, Groupe Le Monde, is responsible for a number of publications including the iconic daily newspaper Le Monde.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: France

About SFEIR

SFEIR is a community of more than 450 developers, offering innovative technological solutions to small and large businesses.

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Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

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