July 22, 2010, 5:11 PM

AlliSports.com scores with a new content management system

Alli Sports keeps up with fast page loads.

AlliSports.com, a publisher of content about national and international action sports, news and events, including Motocross motorcycle racing events like the Dew Tour and Gatorade Free Flow Tour, has a new content management system that helped it handle a 700% spike in web traffic without slowing down its web pages, the company says. An e-commerce application integrated with the content management system also helps the company present targeted offers to web site visitors.

Internet-application consulting firm OmniTI custom built the proprietary content management system for Alli using Zend, an open-source framework for the PHP programming language. It used PostgreSQL as a driving database. The system took about four months to build and cost between $250,000 and $400,000,  according to a spokeswoman for OmniTi. 

The content management system was designed for editors to publish content in three steps: Content Creation, which includes text, video, image or audio files; Association, where the content is described so that it can be found by search engines and web site visitors; and Targeting, which allows editors to dictate where content appears on the site and assign a URL. The platform includes a permission-based system to offer limited access to Alli's affiliate partners.

With the new system, Alli Sports, a joint venture between  NBC Sports and MTV Networks, is able to report on live events as they are happening—and while live videos and other content about an event appear on its web site. For example, during last weekend’s Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross motorcycle race, videos and other digital content about the race was developed on-site by affiliate partners and published immediately on AlliSports.com.

With the new content management system in place, production time was cut by 50%, from Alli’s old system, and traffic spikes were supported without affecting page load times, says Leon Fayer, OmniTI's director of engagements.  

The system was built with a data cache service that organizes content and makes it more quickly available to web site users, adds Fayer. This, Alli says, drastically reduces the number of database requests as site editors update content and users access it, providing for faster page load times. For example, the Pro Motocross event garnered a 700% spike in traffic, or 50,000 concurrent live streams, and page load times remained at 200 to 250 milliseconds. Prior to the system, a traffic spike of this magnitude normally crashed the database and blocked access to other sections of the site, which impacted updates on those action sports events.

An e-commerce application also was integrated into the content management system to enable Alli Sports to create targeted promotions on content pages. “If a user comes back to the BMX section continuously, we can show product placement within the actual publishing side of our business and cater to the end users’ interests pretty accurately,” says Terence Hegarty, Alli's director of technology. The site sells products at shop.allisports.com.

Fayer says easy-to-use, flexible content management systems are becoming imperative for online retailers. “I think as most companies, specifically retail and bricks-and-mortar, try to establish their online presence, they need to be able to take their offline processes and translate it to the web, in terms of timely updates, or changes, and do it as efficiently as they do it offline,” he says.

Sheri McLeish, an analyst in customer communications management for Forrester Research Inc., warns a big challenge for many web site organizations is matching their content management business processes with a customized solution. “Home-built systems tend to be inflexible,” she says. “They need management systems that can deliver content dynamically, so when a customer is interacting with a site, the system can offer different solutions based on the user’s actions.”

AlliSports.com is part of Alliance of Action Sports LLC.   

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