Four years and $50 million later, SAY Media believes its internally developed content management system (CMS) Tempest is ready for prime time. The company migrated its largest site, xoJane, to the platform earlier this month. And now it's offering the platform for free to partner publications. In return, SAY Media gets the right to sell all unused ad inventory, boosting the reach of its own ad network.
The decision to build a blogging platform from scratch was a natural one for SAY Media, which has roots as a CMS developer that created TypePad and Moveable Type. The online publisher claims the system is fueling growth, including a 162 percent traffic increase for its beauty website xoVain in just a year.
"I think the challenge of having a digital publication now is how do you have a beautiful experience on desktop and mobile and derive ad revenue?" chief technology officer Dave Lerman said. "That's what we wanted Tempest to be."
The new system lets publishers customize page layouts, social media buttons and commenting systems, and it loads pages quickly, especially on mobile devices. It also features ad units that look similar to editorial content; Siemens is the first partner to use SAY Media's Adaptive units on a Tempest-powered site (ReadWrite—formerly ReadWriteWeb).
"The performance hit all of our objectives,” said Ben Silverberg, former Media Planner at PHD who worked on the account.
After testing the platform on its own sites, SAY Media claims LifetimeMoms has grown from 45,000 unique visitors to over 800,000 since it migrated, while Bio has boomed from 8 million to 12 million. It said xoVain grew traffic from 350,000 to 900,000, while ReadWrite rose from 1.1 million to 1.5 million.
But contrary to the others, Fashionista's traffic has dipped significantly since it went on the platform, per independent comScore numbers. (ComScore data was not available for the other sites.) SAY Media said its internal numbers indicate Fashionista is holding steady at 2 million uniques.
While time will tell if Tempest can turn the flagship property xoJane into an even bigger online player, editor in chief Jane Pratt is hopeful it will, considering the options to promote content on social media.
Pratt added that a little over 10 percent of xoJane's traffic comes through social referrals, and with a viral story, that number can jump to 30 percent. The Tempest layout features a social media bar alongside the story, making it easy for readers to share a post or see how many people are commenting on it, something xoJane's active community is notorious for doing.
"That actually draws in more people who want to go in and read and comment," Pratt pointed out.
XoVain editor in chief Anne-Marie Guarnieri also lauded the commenting features. She said it allowed writers to easily communicate with the community, creating a "non-stop beauty conversation."
Lerman said Tempest is a work in progress and encountered a few hiccups during development. Pratt pointed out that when she posted about xoJane's move to Tempest and asked for feedback (taking advantage of the built-in comment system), the Tempest team read the complaints and made changes in real time.