Les Échos: Forging new paths in quality journalism with Google Kubernetes Engine

About Les Échos

Les Échos is a French daily financial newspaper that counts several French leaders and world-renowned economists among its contributors. It’s part of the Les Échos Group, owned by luxury group LVMH.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: France

About Claranet

Claranet is a London-based IT services firm with operations across Europe and in Brazil.

Les Échos transformed its digital news product, managed traffic spikes, boosted innovation capacity, and took full stack control by hosting its flagship website using Google Cloud Kubernetes clusters.

Google Cloud results

  • Scales up from three replica servers to 18 at critical moment of launch
  • Reduces time to deliver live breaking content from minutes to seconds
  • Supports zero platform interruptions in five months since deployment
  • Provides the freedom to forge a digital future with full stack control

Quintuples computing power for critical deployment

Since brothers Robert and Émile Servan-Schreiber launched Les Échos in 1908, France’s first financial newspaper is one of the nation’s most trusted news sources, with contributors including Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Yet in a newspaper industry facing declining readership the publication saw the need to combine tradition with digital innovation to grow in its mission to deliver quality journalism.

Les Échos was among the first French publications to seize the growth potential of online media, a reason why it sees itself as “one of France’s oldest newspapers, and also the youngest.” More than 80% of the paper’s total audience is today online, and 50% of paid circulation is digital. With a powerful digital strategy, Les Échos’ circulation has grown eight years running in a troubled media environment.

In order to continue succeeding, Les Échos knew it needed to keep evolving. That’s why the paper turned to Google Cloud to provide the architecture for a project that would shape the next chapter of its storied history: a brand-new website designed to meet the demands of 24-hour news cycles, customer requirements, and industry financial pressures.

Dynamic architecture to succeed in fluid environment

The news business is by nature unpredictable. This volatility is compounded in a digital universe where users demand instant access to quality information. Traffic moves at a snail’s pace one moment and becomes a deluge the next, meaning servers can be on the verge of crashing, then sitting idle, bleeding resources.

Les Échos had the experience of crisis situations in which the flood of readers seeking reliable news strained servers at Les Échos’ classic data center to breaking point. “There was an increase in traffic on our website that we couldn’t handle,” says Adrien Pascal, CTO at Les Échos.

“We had an outdated website, and one day felt ready to switch the DNS to point to the new platform. We made a big leap from the traditional data center and website to Kubernetes on Google Cloud. We did so successfully, in just a matter of minutes.”

Adrien Pascal, CTO, Les Échos

For its revamped website, Les Échos needed the most powerful architecture available to host a sophisticated platform designed to deliver big news when readers need it most. Tapping Google Cloud became the natural choice once Adrien grasped how Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) offers boundless possibilities for scalability and flexible microservice deployment. With the help of partner Claranet, Les Échos went from “knowing nothing about Kubernetes” to building a Kubernetes cluster to host the website within three weeks.

Despite that ease, the website deployment was a daunting move into uncharted territory. “The day we launched, we didn't know what would happen,” says Adrien. Adding to the pressure, Les Échos decided to take the whole platform live instantly, rather than in a phased rollout.

“We did a ‘Big Bang,’ which is something others say you should never do,” Adrien says with a wry grin. “We had an outdated website, and one day felt ready to switch the DNS to point to the new platform. We made a big leap from the traditional data center and website to Kubernetes on Google Cloud. We did so successfully, in just a matter of minutes.”

Big Bang toward a bright digital future

“With Google Cloud, our servers went from three to 18 replicas in 10 minutes during the launch. It was a real proof of concept for us, seeing it work seamlessly in the middle of the deployment without any interruption of service.”

Adrien Pascal, CTO, Les Échos

On the morning of April 1, Les Échos launched the flagship website on three virtual servers at a time of moderate news flow. Everything was going smoothly, with users redirected to the new website within minutes, when a big employment story broke that caused a traffic spike right in the middle of deployment. It was a tense moment. But Google Cloud simply quintupled the amount of computing power to absorb the surge in readership.

“With Google Cloud, our servers went from three to 18 replicas in 10 minutes during the launch,” says Adrien. “It was a real proof of concept for us, seeing it work seamlessly in the middle of the deployment without any interruption of service.”

“For a news organization, cloud is ideal. At night and during the weekends, with fewer users on the website, we only want to maintain the minimum infrastructure, to lower costs. When the surge comes, traffic multiplies by 100. Only a dynamic cloud platform can help us handle that.”

Adrien Pascal, CTO, Les Échos

Equally importantly, Google Cloud scaled down server capacity once the crush of traffic subsided, a significant enabler and cost saver in a news environment that swings between bursts of chaos and stretches of quiet. In the three months since its launch, the new Les Échos website hasn’t experienced a single platform interruption. And Google Cloud has boosted Les Échos’ competitive edge by reducing delivery time of live breaking content from minutes to seconds, bridging what is an eternity in the news world.

“For a news organization, cloud is ideal,” says Adrien. “At night and during the weekends, with fewer users on the website, we only want to maintain the minimum infrastructure, to lower costs. When the surge comes, traffic multiplies by 100. Only a dynamic cloud platform can help us handle that.”

Permanent evolution to meet readership needs

Speed and reliability are only part of the equation for Les Échos’ digital future. The new website is rapidly adding new features and enhancing user experience by offering customized layout, recommendations, and authentication. These are tailored to the needs of individual subscribers, for example those who prefer a traditional reading experience are able to download a PDF that recreates the print version. Adrien’s team needs to treat the platform as a permanent work-in-progress. That’s made possible by GKE flexibility in creating and deploying microservices in real time.

One key advantage is the ability to deliver hotfix engineering updates from developer to production within minutes. Just as importantly, new website versions can be rolled back if anything goes wrong, since old versions are stored temporarily in the cloud: “In case of a problem, we just push a button and we go back to these previously built versions, and in 30 seconds we are live again,” says Adrien.

Moving forward, Les Échos anticipates using more BigQuery machine learning solutions, as well as Cloud Functions and Cloud Endpoints, to improve personalized reader experience.

“We’re moving toward more and more data analysis to identify customer needs and satisfy them,” says Adrien. “This new architecture allows us to customize each user’s experience, depending on their usage and preferences.”

Empowered to build a strong development team

Before migrating to Google Cloud, Adrien’s team was primarily focused on frontend performance involving user experience and interface, with backend responsibilities outsourced.

The ease and flexibility of the new Kubernetes cluster is handing control of the entire architecture to Les Échos, enabling the DevOps team to drive every aspect of website innovation: “Having this Kubernetes cluster allows us to create our platform’s future, handling the front and backend ourselves. That's a big change,” says Adrien. “It means that we’re in charge of the whole stack.”

And Google Cloud has empowered Adrien to build a team of developers from scratch: “Until two years ago, there were no developers here,” he says. “Now it's a team of ten people. These technologies allow us to master every layer of the architecture.”

It translates into freedom for Les Échos to have more ownership of its digital destiny.

Thanks to Google Cloud, we’ve taken back control over our IT management and decisions,” says Adrien. “We’re free to innovate, grow, and take the business in any direction we choose.”

About Les Échos

Les Échos is a French daily financial newspaper that counts several French leaders and world-renowned economists among its contributors. It’s part of the Les Échos Group, owned by luxury group LVMH.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: France

About Claranet

Claranet is a London-based IT services firm with operations across Europe and in Brazil.