For over 140 years, the Press Association (PA) has served as the UK’s biggest provider of fast, fair, and accurate news content. Today, PA Group provides a range of global multimedia content and editorial services, including news, sports, data, weather forecasts, images and video as well as more bespoke services. Their diverse customer base ranges across media and from small businesses to global corporations and government agencies.
Originally made up of multiple companies brought together to form PA Group and with such diversification in different types of content and services, more technical cohesion and strategy was needed when John O’Donovan joined as Director of Architecture & Development.
“All of the different parts of the business were utilizing different technologies,” he says. “Each of the various types of data – images, video, news stories and so on – were built and managed on different systems.”
PA needed a new, centralized solution that could handle XML, while also merging a large volume of structured and unstructured content in a useful and efficient way. O’Donovan and his team knew that traditional databases wouldn’t have that capability: “We needed something that could build a single, common platform to align all of our diverse and complex content.”
Speed and efficiency were also key considerations. With previous solutions, the company was spending 70% of their time managing and manipulating data before they could get any use out of it. It was important that the new platform be fast and flexible.
PA has enjoyed a beneficial relationship with MarkLogic for several years. Most notably, they used MarkLogic to facilitate news delivery during the Olympic Games and have rebuilt their central editorial system including certain sports news systems using MarkLogic as the common content store. During the Olympics, PA fulfilled over 50 billion information requests, including competition results, athlete information, news stories and more. MarkLogic rose to the challenge, serving up all that data in a fast and efficient manner for it to be distributed to many different clients in 26 languages across 40 regional territories. “Throughout the whole event, the technology worked exactly the way we wanted it to,” says O’Donovan.
When considering their key objectives for the new platform, MarkLogic was a natural fit; “The platform aligned perfectly with our business strategy and development goals,” O’Donovan says. “They were equipped to deliver a central, common database – one system to accommodate all types of data.”
After a successful launch, the PA team immediately recognized several key benefits. The new system had the flexibility and scalability they needed, which will seamlessly accommodate future growth. It also offered a high degree of security they were seeking.
With the new platform, PA is able to manage data issues much more efficiently. As an example, one specific project would have taken up to 100 workdays to complete with the old platform; with the MarkLogic solution, it took only 34 days – a 66% boost in efficiency. “There are fewer restrictions and less complexity in transforming data from one format to another,” notes O’Donovan. “We can store and manage data in a way that aligns with how we want to present it to customers.”
Overall, PA feels they are utilizing the new tool to the best of its ability, enabling them to not only deliver their existing products, but to also deploy new solutions that were previously too difficult, time-consuming or expensive to build.
After successfully launching several key applications, the Press Association has become a huge advocate of MarkLogic. “We’ve converted many people over to their platform,” O’Donovan says. “It’s fun to watch people use it and have these ‘Eureka’ moments when they realize how easy it is to do things that used to be so complex.”
According to O’Donovan, even the most traditional developers become invigorated by MarkLogic’s clever and unique way of handling structured and unstructured data. “MarkLogic provides an elegant solution for dealing with the complex content issues of the PA.” For this high-volume multimedia content provider, such a capability is newsworthy indeed.