Success story: HuffPost renews its technology with Xalok

Success story: HuffPost renews its technology with Xalok

Since its premiere in 2012 by Prisa News, the Spanish edition of HuffPost had used the same content management technology as its eight international versions, including the original North American edition, founded by Arianna Huffington in the US in 2007.

The content manager was a CMS fully adapted to HuffPost -and maintained by Buzzfeed since buying the header in 2020-, with specific solutions for its design, the advertising inventory and the need to combine an important web edition with a very high distribution orientation in social networks and search engines.

When Prisa News presented Hiberus with the Buzzfeed CMS replacement project to install Xalok instead, four simultaneous challenges were put on the table, which the project had to face:

“How do we guarantee that HuffPost’s audience will not drop after the CMS change?”

  1. The design challenge: The modification of the CMS should be transparent for end users. The website’s current design had to remain unchanged, as it had to remain true to the spirit and character of the HuffPost brand around the world.
  2. The technical challenge: Prisa’s team needed to have greater technical control over the site, incorporating a management that until then depended mostly on Buzzfeed, owner of both the header and the technology used in all its editions.
  3. The challenge of traffic: The change should not imply a decrease in website traffic.
  4. The challenge of writing: The editorial staff found in Xalok the opportunity to promote improvements and proposals, which now had a better fit by the proximity and easy communication between the teams.

Key decisions: the technical-functional document

The technical-functional document of the project was produced in record time thanks to the collaboration of representatives of Editorial, Product, Business and Technology from Prisa, and specialists from Hiberus. This was to maintain all the functionality of the current HuffPost website, but by integrating it with the capabilities of the Xalok CMS.

During this stage, the content structure of the new HuffPost was updated, the metadata was renewed to optimize the search engine positioning of the different types of content, the multichannel distribution was defined (web, social networks, RSS, sitemaps, AMP, instant articles…), the integrations were listed and the precise definition of all the functionality of the website was completed.

What makes the “Life” section so special? Why is ‘Virales’ a tag and not a section? Which criteria should be followed to list the contents in automatic modules?

The extensive knowledge of the Prisa News team of the features, needs and possibilities of HuffPost and the experience of Hiberus team managed to answer all the questions of this stage, to reflect in a 65-page document the decisions and definitions that were to guide the technical development of the new website in Xalok…

And some of these decisions were going to be essential in determining the final outcome of the project:

  • Redo the HTML. While maintaining the design of the website, the project team made a key decision: to completely remake all the web pages. They were not going to take advantage of lines from the previous project with the objective of optimizing the positioning, improving the indicators of the web core vitals, and facilitating the maintenance of the code of the new site.
  • Set up on the GCP. Prisa News has agreed with the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to install the new website on their infrastructure. The Xalok team – an adaptable CMS for different cloud solutions and CDN- worked together to define the new platform’s instances and services. The GCP instances were selected for Elasticsearch, Redis and database, while the calculation engine typologies (e2-highmem and e2-e2-standard) were selected for front-end (cache), central (application) and backend (editor) operation. Hiberus team relied on Terraform to manage the IAC (Infrastructure as code) to optimize and automate platform deployments.
  • New architecture. HuffPost Newsroom and Hiberus team devised a new, more flexible, and tidier, ambiguity-free site map that was moved to the Xalok facility. This was an opportunity to shape and adapt the structure of the site to integrate it with the new needs of a news website. Sections and subsections catered for more stable content needs and the necessary tags were migrated to provide more flexible groupings.
  • Content migration. To move the content from one CMS to another, an API provided by Buzzfeed was used to access the contents of all its editions. With the right accesses, the Hiberus team opted to use this API to consolidate all the contents in their own temporary database in advance of the CMS change, in order to avoid dependencies and be able to work with greater autonomy.
  • Integration with Prisa News. Apart from maintaining those integrations of third-party services that were considered necessary for the project (advertising, analytics, audience, video…) new connections were included to integrate all HuffPost content into Prisa News’ internal systems. In this way, HuffPost became a content repository connected to the rest of the headers managed by this division of the group (El País, Cinco Días and Diario As).

3, 2, 1… ‘Big bang’

January 17, 2023 was the date indicated. Given the characteristics of the website and the size of the wording, the project team opted for a big bang launch; that is, the DNS is changed at a set time and the new site completely becomes airborne and publicly accessible to all users.

«How do I know if the website I see is the new or the old one?» This question from one of HuffPost’s business team members at the time of the big bang showed just how far the website with Xalok had achieved its goal. The editorial team matched the same cover to the two CMS and, barring a small change in a story, it was difficult for the untrained eye to tell the difference.

The question that defined the success of the project: «How do I know if the website I see is the new or the old one?» Within minutes, the new site experienced a productive stress test. Four processes coincided in the time it took to direct traffic to the new GCP infrastructure, set up by Hiberus team:

  1. The website’s own traffic, given that the change was made in the morning, when the audience volume was significant.
  2. Google’s crawler, which began eager to scroll through the pages of the new site, detecting changes in metadata and the new site architecture to reindex content.
  3. It was decided to launch the new HuffPost sitemaps from the first minute. Hundreds of files with all the content of the website (from 2012 to the present) sorted and prepared to optimize their indexing: news, videos, and images.
  4. Prisa News´ internal analysis systems scanned the entire HuffPost content to update the measurements.

As one of the analysts said just 15 minutes after the big bang: «It looks good: it started well».

So it was, in fact. From the very beginning, all website indicators showed an improvement, both in terms of traffic and indexing and performance. The results obtained just a week after the launch were remarkable.

Audience. Consistently, traffic showed an increase in the number of users and page views, especially in traffic from search engines.

Crawling. The growth in petitions received by Google skyrocketed in the first few days, coinciding with a decline in response time: Google visited the new site more frequently and took less time to index it.

Crawling. Amount of queries and response time, according to Google Search Console. On the right side of the graph, the effect of the Xalok launch. The total values of the scale (requests and milliseconds) have been deliberately removed.

  • There was an increase in pages available in AMP. Through the Google Search Console, the project team found that some thousands of URLs had a redirect scheduled from the Buzzfeed API. Several checks were made, and it was decided to delete the redirect. As a result, the problem was fixed in Search Console and thousands of URLs were properly detected as AMP.

AMP. Number of valid AMP pages indexed according to Google Search Console in HuffPost after the CMS change. The total values have been deliberately removed.

  • Both the volume of pages and indexed videos went up in the days after release. The reason is that the new sitemaps gave visibility to content that was published but not indexed in search engines.

Pages. Volume of HuffPost indexed pages according to Google Search Console. Total values have been deliberately removed.

Pages with videos. Volume of pages with videos indexed in HuffPost according to Google Search Console. The total values have been deliberately removed.

  • The decision to remake HuffPost’s entire HTML site had its return: a sudden growth in the number of pages recognized as «usable» in the Google Search Console. It was one of the factors that allowed search engines to index more pages in less time.

Usability. Evolution of the pages considered with «good usability» by Google Search console in HuffPost after the change of CMS. The total values have been deliberately removed.


Conclusion: vision and execution.

To paraphrase Thomas Edison, “Vision without Execution is Hallucination” (Vision without execution is hallucination) has become one of the most celebrated slogans of Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post.

A change that requires the vision of aligning technical, business, product and editorial decisions on the same plane but, above all, requires precise execution. The installation of Xalok in the Spanish edition of HuffPost has served well as support to this same collection: Vision without Execution is Hallucination.

The first installation of Xalok dates from 2009, three years before the Spanish edition of HuffPost landed in Spain. Since then, more than 50 digital media worldwide are using Hiberus technology to create, edit and distribute their content.

The Spanish edition of HuffPost had been using the same technology on its website for over 10 years and had therefore consolidated a certain way of doing things. Renewing the CMS on an information site means changing its structure and therefore dealing with a delicate process of change management.


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Jesús Martínez
Jesús Martínez


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