Current advice for developing a newspaper or magazine site with Drupal

kemmett's picture

We are considering Drupal for a magazine/local news style website. I've been a long time lurker on Drupal, but only an infrequent user.

I have a few questions that hopefully people with some experience can advise us on:
1. Is Pressflow still worth considering, or do newer versions of Drupal provide most of these benefits out of the box?
2. Themes -in the last mention I found, Yelvington favours 'rolling your own' from a Bootstrap 3 base, but we don't have inhouse development. Are there any themes that provide a good base, from which we can develop over time?
2b. if we use a pre-built theme, what restrictions are we imposing (speed? flexibility? something else?)

Thanks for your assistance,
Chris

Comments

News Website D7 or D8

Pica's picture

Hi KEmmett,
We have built over 300 newspaper websites. Doing it on your own, unless you are savvy with Drupal, is not a good business choice.

One of the beauties of Open Source is that you can take a theme and turn it into something that fits you situation, but why spend beaucoup hours and money reinventing themes and a final product when a solution that is well evolved and solid quality can be found off-the-shelf?

$169 per month and you get everything included - hosting & support, also. It's a bargain and just good business. Six weeks from start - worth a look. Surf New Media. -Rob

Thanks Rob

kemmett's picture

The Livingstone site is impressive! I notice some of your previous posts where you have mentioned other work you've done, hopefully we can create something as good one day.

At this point, we are looking for information about Drupal, capabilities, and advice on possible approaches. These are all questions I need answers to before working with anyone or any company, so bear with me while I chase down answers :)

Best regards, and thanks!
Chris

Drupal distribution

RAS's picture

As Rob states, you can't do it yourself for $169 a month for hosting support etc. But if you still want to go your own way, if you have not already, check out: https://thunder.org/

Thanks RAS, thunder hasn't

kemmett's picture

Thanks RAS, thunder hasn't appeared on my radar before, I appreciate the heads up.

I've been hesitant about distributions in the past, though there are obvious benefits to getting moving quickly. On a related note, I'm also a bit surprised how quickly Drupal 8 has gained traction, especially seeing something as apparently matured as thunder.

Cheers,
Chris

Thunder.org & Examples

Pica's picture

Hi RAS,
I went to Thunder.org, but I didn't see any examples of serious newspaper or magazine websites. It looks intriguing, it would something I may use.
Am I missing something? Where is a list of clients?
An example of what we do: http://livingstonenterprise.com/ anything like that?
That's what I'm looking for.
Thank you. -Rob

re: Thunder

joebachana's picture

Hello,

Am enjoying this thread so I figured I'd chime in. Actually check out thunderdemo.com to get a provisioned site on platform.sh, from some integrator in Suisse I think. The Thunder distribution is maintained by Burda, a major EU publisher. They've done a good job curating a drupal 8 configuration that would work well for a publisher. I'm looking to put together a pilot myself in the next month or two.

As for themes, there are a few premium themes from 3rd party front end developers that tout utility in news and magazine settings. Here's one as an example: http://bit.ly/2GLu2lE. - caveat, I have NOT tested this or any other pre-made theme, although part of my experimentation would be to see how I can get one to work with Thunder.

Otherwise, if this strategy doesn't work, I agree with @akempler's post regarding building your theme from scratch starting from Bootstrap, although of course you'll need a front end developer to help you with that. With regard to Thunder, you could always just look at their configuration and model it yourself - I've never been a fan of distributions myself but I'm liking what Burda has done and am going to give it a go in 2018.

Finally, you DEFINITELY want to get on the drupal 8.5 party train, with moderation and media in core, there is some really powerful mojo coming the way of publishers under the hood! :-)

Joe Bachana
First Employee at DPCI
1560 Broadway
NY, NY 10036
212.575.5609
www.dpci.com

forgot to mention one more thing re: Thunder

joebachana's picture

there is a #Thunder channel on the drupal slack, if you have questions you'd like to post there.

Joe Bachana
First Employee at DPCI
1560 Broadway
NY, NY 10036
212.575.5609
www.dpci.com

Hey Joe, Thanks for the

kemmett's picture

Hey Joe,

Thanks for the background on the thunder distro. I'll cobble some content together and give thunderdemo a go. Please keep me posted on your thoughts if you go ahead with a pilot of your own. What specific aspects of Burda's work impresses you most?

I love your rousing endorsement of Drupal 8.5! it's got me rushing to download an install and have a look at the improvements you mention :)

Regarding themes: (just thinking out loud) we might trial one or two existing themes on a test site, and get a better feel for the features that are important to us. Until now, I've been focusing on the platform - I'd best start getting some content together.

Appreciate your advice,
Chris

About Thunder

juliapradel's picture

Hello,

there's a Slack for Thunder (thundercms.slack.com), you can join here: https://thunder.org/slack

Read more about Thunder in our brand new case study: https://www.drupal.org/case-study/thunder-the-drupal-8-distribution-for-...

If you have any questions about the distribution, feel free to contact us there or here (I am the community manager, my colleagues daniel.bosen, chr.fritsch, mtodor, and volkerk).

Best regards
Julia

Thanks Julia, I'll take a

kemmett's picture

Thanks Julia,

I'll take a look at a thunder demo this weekend.

Cheers,
Chris

Multiple flavors of Thunder

gusaus's picture

Another reason to consider Thunder is it can be a base distribution with multiple installation provides that target different use cases (Magazine, Newspaper, Corporate Publishing etc.). This is something the Thunder core team members have been evaluating.

There are also partners creating Thunder sites for broadcast media, which potentially could be the basis for another type of child distribution.

I'd recommend anyone interested in evaluating or collaborating on multiple flavors of Thunder, join #thunder in Drupal slack in addition to https://thunder.org/slack

Gus Austin

People seem quite taken with

kemmett's picture

People seem quite taken with Thunder, and it's possibilities. Do you have any personal experience with Thunder you can share?

I tried to get a demo install happening at thunderdemo, but ran into problems. So now I'm trying to get a server running at home to install Thunder. The few minutes I had in Thunder's authoring/admin areas with the demo looked really promising. I do wonder about it's compatibility with 3rd party themes - from what I saw the default theme won't cut it.

Looking forward to trying it out.

Cheers,
Chris

A solid foundation to sustain

gusaus's picture

Aside from being a solid base for all types of media sites, the Thunder coalition provides a solid foundation to sustain https://thunder.org/thunder-coalition

It would be helpful if there was some sort of Thunder showcase, but this wiki should provide a few examples of Thunder sites https://groups.drupal.org/node/516217

While not newspaper/magazine specific, the demo and presentation referenced in this issue should be a good indicator to what the community can build on top of Thunder. https://www.drupal.org/project/university/issues/2944237

Gus Austin

Drupal based newspaper website

akempler's picture

Hi Kemmett,

A while back I built a drupal based platform for a bunch of newspapers and magazines including:
http://www.sunjournal.com/, http://www.theforecaster.net/, and others.
Though I'm not sure what their staff is currently using.
At one point there were about ten or more newspapers using the system.

I found Drupal to be a very good fit for newspapers and magazines.
In addition to creating customized publishing tools, it made it easy(ish) to create and integrate monetization tools such as ads, events, classifieds and galleries. Most of that can be done without much custom development, though it does require a good knowledge of "site building" using Drupal.

As for Pressflow, I had used that for the newspaper sites in the past but most of the enhancements were folded into Drupal 7 core, and I don't believe there is a Drupal 8 version. And if you do pick Drupal, Drupal 8 would be the version to work with - The upcoming 8.6 has some killer features for managing content!

With regards to theming, In each case I generally built the theme from scratch, often using bootstrap as a starting point. However, this is where you will likely run into the need to have a developer with some frontend Drupal themeing experience, if you don't go with an existing theme). I'm not aware of any good base themes for newspapers (though I haven't looked in a while).

Some of the benefits of bootstrap are out-of-the box mobile friendly (responsive) behaviors, and a large set of reusable components. I'm currently using bootstrap 4 for a large government website I'm developing.

A good starting point might be to do a proof-of-concept with Drupal, bootstrap, as well as one or two existing themes that look close to what you want. For example, setting up a home page that displays a few blocks of content from various sections. You can then at least see what kind of roadblocks you might run into with each approach (custom theme vs existing).

I spent about about eight years building sites for newspapers and magazines so feel free to reach out with any questions.

Good luck!

Adam

Hi Adam, Just reading through

kemmett's picture

Hi Adam,

Just reading through everyone's posts, it's becoming obvious that I'll need to follow your closing advice: develop a proof of concept. I don't know what I don't know, and even with just one post more and more questions are coming up.

As I noted to Joe (above), I am happily surprised by the support for Drupal 8.x. When I last worked on public content sites for clients (Drupal 4/5), we would usually only recommend platforms/tech that was at least a generation old.

You mention Bootstrap 4 - is that with a Drupal installation?

While we are looking forward to writing content ourselves, the reality is that we will be working with a variety of contributors, so having a smooth/easy pathway and interface for writers, and effective content management/workflow will be a must.

This will certainly be a learning curve!

All the best,
Chris

Hi Adam, Just reading through

kemmett's picture

Hi Adam,

Just reading through everyone's posts, it's becoming obvious that I'll need to follow your closing advice: develop a proof of concept. I don't know what I don't know, and even with just one post more and more questions are coming up.

As I noted to Joe (above), I am happily surprised by the support for Drupal 8.x. When I last worked on public content sites for clients (Drupal 4/5), we would usually only recommend platforms/tech that was at least a generation old.

You mention Bootstrap 4 - is that with a Drupal installation?

While we are looking forward to writing content ourselves, the reality is that we will be working with a variety of contributors, so having a smooth/easy pathway and interface for writers, and effective content management/workflow will be a must.

This will certainly be a learning curve!

All the best,
Chris

Bootstrap 4 and workflow

akempler's picture

Kemmet,

There is a drupal bootstrap theme:
https://www.drupal.org/project/bootstrap
This makes use of bootstrap 3.
For your purposes and ease of use, I would go with that for testing the waters with bootstrap. When I mentioned bootstrap 4, I am developing that completely from scratch. As such it is a bit more work. At some point the drupal bootstrap theme should offer an upgrade path the the bootstrap 4 version.

With regards to the workflow and multiple contributors, generally you should be able to set that up via existing core and contrib modules such as without needing any specific coding/development. Some useful modules for that include the Content Moderation and Workflow.

  • Adam

Thanks for the pointer to

kemmett's picture

Thanks for the pointer to Bootstrap 3 Adam, I'll give it a try.

Luckily we will be growing this capability, so I can get something rolling, then add some of the extra workflow and contrib features a little down the track. I will have to keep an eye on the differences between Drupal core versions and module compatibility too from the sound of it.

Cheers,
Chris

Further question: what to look for in a news/magazine theme

kemmett's picture

Joe linked to an Envato theme "Hot Magazine", and in another thread I saw mention of Quatro.

I realise appearance is just one aspect of a theme. How it's coded, and the opportunities/limitations of it's structure are just as important (to me, anyway).

So, if you were evaluating a theme to use on your own (fictional, of course) site - or briefing a developer to create a theme from scratch - what would be your "must haves"? And conversely, what would you definitely not want in a theme?

Thanks again for a rich thread!

Chris

re: other suggestions in your R&D process

joebachana's picture

Another thing to consider: We're holding a media and publishing summit on Monday of the week of Drupalcon Nashville. Link here: http://bit.ly/2DjWUCG

The Burda folks will be there presenting on Thunder, and there will be other presentations by media companies that have implemented Drupal in a variety of ways.

Also, I was thinking about organizing a BoF on Wednesday of that week with interested parties to create a proof of concept around Thunder and some out-of-box (OOB) "news" themes. If you're interested, DM me and we'll see about getting that going. Note that I'll also bring up the opportunity at the media summit to enlist others in the effort.

-J

Joe Bachana
First Employee at DPCI
1560 Broadway
NY, NY 10036
212.575.5609
www.dpci.com

I'd love to be involved in

kemmett's picture

I'd love to be involved in Drupalcon, but I'm in Australia :( I will keep an eye out for any recordings or posts that arise from it though.

It would be interesting to check around the event to get a sense of whether media use of Drupal is waxing, waning, or fairly static.

Cheers,
Chris

Follow up on Nashville

kemmett's picture

Hi Joe, mind if I DM you to find out how things went at Nashville?

Cheers,
Chris

Off the shelf themes, etc.

yelvington's picture

It's been quite awhile since I looked at contrib themes that claim to be good options for news sites. Last I checked, the common design error was lack of support for common advertising standards. In 2018 you need to focus on mobile first, which is why Bootstrap-based theming keeps coming up as a recommendation.

In terms of performance -- theming shouldn't be an issue. Pressflow, which you mentioned, was important in the D6 era but not today. If you anticipate scalability issues, look for a hosting provider such a Pantheon that supports external caching (i.e. Varnish).

Pretty much anything you'd need to do on a news site is well supported by the obvious core and contrib modules. Your job is to work out what elements need to be displayed where, which ones need to be editorially managed vs. algorithmic, etc., as well as understanding what (if any) requirements you have for actually managing content development, i.e. workflow. Views and queues will take you a long way quickly.

My only concern about D8 is that the Feeds modules are not yet available. and that could be an issue if you need to scrape or ingest XML on a regular basis, or integrate with an internal newsroom CMS (such as one that supports print).

I appreciate your input

kemmett's picture

I appreciate your input Steve, thanks!

I saw another post (may have been yours in fact??) that mentioned common standards - I sensed a tone of resignation about them. I will check them out to make sure we are compatible. I was also reading up about ad servers (I left advertising before they invented the internet - seriously!).

I don't think scalability will be an issue, we'll be pretty much a Ma and Pa operation....at least for a while. I'm not one for owning the world, just making the most of our little part of it.

I had brief experience with Views and Panels a few years ago; undoubtedly they have improved over time. Queues I don't know....back to the research pile.

I have some trepidation over Drupal versions, for exactly the reason you mention: some modules are compatible, others still catching up. But it was ever the case with open source. Luckily we don't need the kind of integration you mention for the foreseeable future.

Are you still neck deep in the digital news realm and Drupal, or have you found things have become more settled as the industry has matured?

Thanks again,
Chris

I use the Openframework

bgogoi's picture

I use the OpenFramework theme for easy layout option https://openframework.stanford.edu/complex-layout

But ultimately its a mater of design and aesthetics to build a beautiful website ..

My idea is .. if the designers and coders come together ... build a demo Newspaper site with multiple design/versions .. and then share the code online..

Bg

Thanks Bg, I wasn't aware of

kemmett's picture

Thanks Bg, I wasn't aware of OpenFramework.

How did you go modifying this to include various options for ads?

Cheers,
Chris

Complex layout example

bgogoi's picture

Hi

I am basic user with admin skills of Drupal.

The complex layout as the demo in https://openframework.stanford.edu/complex-layout can help you define blocks (rows and columns) with specific width/height...

span2, span3, .. are the built-in key CSS tags to start with.

See an example at one of our news site www.assamtimes.org


For advertisements, you can install your own instance of https://www.revive-adserver.com/download/ independently and https://www.drupal.org/project/openads on your drupal to connect.


Regards

Bg

Thanks for linking to your

kemmett's picture

Thanks for linking to your example Bg, it's helpful to see how you've developed with Openframework to suit your own requirements.

Good luck with your sites.

Cheers,
Chris

OpenFrame & Thunder: anyone got any real world examples?

Pica's picture

Hi, I'm always on the lookout for real world working Drupal news websites.
Does Thunder have any actual newspapers and magazines that I can view?
Or template that we could modify that's "off-the-rack"? (Inexpensive.)

Also, D8 from our experience is not ready for prime time, ad modules and ecommerce are not 100%. We continue with D7 because its solid.
Example www.RiverReporter.com NY and http://freepressnewspapers.com/ is a regional newspaper site (3 papers, one site.)

Send me some links to real newspapers or magazines! Thx. -Rob

Perfect for small publishers and indie media

gusaus's picture

The examples above should provide a glimpse into the types of sites powered by Thunder. Ideally stakeholders and community members could influence the roadmap and collaborate on additional targeted child distributions, installation profiles and themes. That would enable smaller publishers and independent media to deliver powerful sites within their budget.

Gus Austin

Your last sentence is close

kemmett's picture

Your last sentence is close to the hearts of a few people I think Gus, especially with the big changes that represent Drupal 8.

Drupal was my 'goto' for a startup in media/publishing, but I've spent considerable hours trying to get something working...the new tech and dependencies just to get Thunder nstalled are challenging. Prior to this, I was a Drupal advocate, I've installed D5 and D6 sites, and maintained a D6 live site but these last few days have got me asking if I have the ability to even get Thunder running, let alone trust that I can make it how we need it to be.

I was super impressed with the half hour or so I spent in Thunder's admin and 'editorial' area, so impressed it convinced me to spend days trying to get a working install on my home system! But I feel like installing a D7 instance just to confirm to myself that I'm not a complete idiot.

I'm not giving up on Thunder, but it might be a wait and see on Thunder and D8; I wish the D7 ->8 path was more realistic :\

Cheers,
Chris

What's the best approach for theming Thunder?

kemmett's picture

Finally got a local instance of Thunder running. I admire the effort that's gone into it! My first impression of the admin and editorial functionality has been upheld.

Gus, what are your thoughts on the best way to start theming the front end for a news or magazine site? Is there some sort of existing base we could start with, like you do with Zen or Bootstrap for a standard Drupal install? Or does a person have to start theming from scratch?

Cheers,
Chris

Thunder in real life

juliapradel's picture

On our website thunder.org, we've listed some companies who already did Thunder projects and their reference projects - so these are some examples: https://thunder.org/certified-thunder-integrators-cti

Plus, you can read some case studies: https://www.drupal.org/case-study/gardening-magazine-for-hubert-burda-media, https://www.drupal.org/case-study/news-portal-for-media-house-pannonrtv, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/drupals-rebirth-case-study-damn-joan-juan...

Newspapers on Drupal

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