Readers of Prevention.com know that improving your flexibility offers wide-ranging and long-term benefits to one’s health. And according to Beth Buehler, SVP of Digital Operations for Prevention parent Rodale, flexibility is also important for the vitality of their websites. The 85-year-old company is transitioning its many sites to a Drupal-based architecture and unified CMS. Buehler says there are definite short term benefits to this overhaul, such as meeting increased demand for mobile content consumption. But even more important are the long-term opportunities that result from improving her digital flexibility.
This week, Rodale relaunched Prevention.com the first of its revamped sites based upon the new architecture. The new responsive site offers a cleaner experience that is optimized for cross-platform reading and aimed at serving the increasingly mobile content consumer. Rodale has take work on its mobile sites in-house because, as Buehler points out, “consumers want a seamless experience across different platforms. The way we were doing things, we had to code twice—every time we wanted to add features or satisfy new requirements. It was just about double the work.”
With the new architecture, Buehler says we can expect more than responsive sites from Rodale. “In the next six to nine months, you are likely to see more mobile apps from our brands. In particular, we’re looking at utility apps, as opposed to pure content consumption.” Rodale has a good track record with this approach with brands like Men’s Health and Women’s Health, as well as with creating enhanced e-books that offer a utility app experience in addition to offering the content of Rodale’s book titles.
Another key component of the Prevention.com redesign (which is likely to figure into Rodale’s overall website strategy going forward) was an expanded relationship with Outbrain to increase the opportunities for content personalization. While there is a revenue component to the deal, Buehler describes Rodale’s work with Outbrain as going beyond the recommended links at the bottom of an article. She says they’ll be doing a great deal of experimentation on what’s recommended and the way in which it is presented. While there will be some of those “notorious Outbrain links,” there will also be links to Rodale content and, given what Buehler describes as Outbrain’s “constant work on its recommendation algorithms,” she believes that site visitors will find increasingly relevant content.
For example, Buehler says that they are focused on serving up recommendations not only for subject matter that a user will find of interest, but also for content types they are more likely to consume. “If someone tends to watch videos, we’ll suggest more video content. But we won’t do that for someone who exclusively reads articles.”
Buehler and her team will also be keeping a close eye on traffic and continuously experimenting with personalization and recommendations. In fact, continuous experimentation is a hallmark of her approach to the platform migration and site re-launch strategy. Rodale, says Buehler, will be much more agile moving forward and able to more quickly react to consumer and advertiser demands. “What has me most excited,” says Buehler, “is how we are better able to try new ideas, add new features and launch new products with this flexible environment.”
She says that her primary KPI’s for the site rollouts are engagement (pageviews per visitor) but also what she describes as “commerce conversion,” which drives sales of Rodale books, magazine subscriptions and the sales of goods through the company’s ecommerce initiatives. This year, we can expect to see redesigned Rodale sites released at a rate of about one a month as well as the release of more mobile products, videos and ecommerce initiatives–as part of a larger strategy to test new monetization strategies. Buehler and her team are taking the basic tenant that their fitness experts recommend – to build a strong, flexible core – and applying it to their website platform to fuel more experimentation and new opportunities for their trusted brands.