Scientific American

Learn how America's longest continuously scales to 8 million sessions per month with Mura as a Headless CMS.












169 years of content in six months

Migrating America's longest continuously published magazine to Mura

Everybody knows that media is going digital. We needed a platform that could support the web today but also be the foundation for all our digital products going forward. Angela Cesaro, Senior Digital Product Manager, Scientific American

What do you do when you've outgrown your legacy CMS platform?

Scientific American—America's longest continuously published magazine—was feeling the limits of their 13-year old in-house CMS. As demands on their website grew, the web team developed patches, add-ins and customized software to help their legacy CMS keep up with an ever-increasing list of functional demands and editorial initiatives. They not only published print and electronic articles, text and HTML newsletters, but also video content, image galleries, and podcasts for distribution on the site and via Apple iTunes. But working with the legacy platform became burdensome as business demands grew more sophisticated.

The Scientific American team realized they had to find a CMS that could supply content to their website and their e-commerce platform. This new CMS needed to have the power to handle over 165,000 articles as well as images, video content, and podcasts. And it needed to be easy to use, so developers and content administrators could manage the site simply and respond quickly to new feature requests and expectations.

After evaluating several options, Scientific American chose Mura.

From concept to delivery in six months

Scientific American's project consisted of more than just porting complex content and custom features into a new platform. While a two-year timeline is typical in similar large-scale CMS projects, Scientific American had only six months to migrate their content to Mura CMS, develop custom functionality, and go live.

Painless content migration

With such a short timeline, even importing Scientific American's huge content repository into the new system would prove challenging to many content management systems. The team needed to pull content from multiple databases, partner feeds, an extensive WordPress blog network, Scientific American's existing website, and even flat XML. By taking advantage of the Mura CMS's import capabilities, the development team migrated all of the content in just three months, with minimal manual clean-up time.

Having a solution like Mura CMS that fit into our infrastructure with minimal effort was critical to our project's success. It kept our migration smooth and on time. Not being tied to specific systems for search, caching, database, or templating gave us the flexibility and confidence to finish the project on a tight schedule.Nick Sollecito, Technical Lead, Macmillan

Streamlining workflows

But getting the content into Mura CMS was only half the battle. Scientific American needed their CMS to perform efficiently for not only the development team but for content producers as well. They wanted to simplify routine internal workflows, like importing content and repackaging it for customers in a variety of formats. And the site's visitors--more than 6 million unique users a month—needed a quick way to search for and find the content they wanted.

Blue River's professional services group worked with Scientific American's development team to create Mura CMS templates and plug-ins to streamline workflows. By preserving the customized URL structure of Scientific American's former website, content administrators could add new content seamlessly.

Homepages are becoming less important. Every article needs to behave like a homepage—the more links you have from your article, the more likely visitors are to dive deeper into your site. With Related Content, we can create a landing page with all the articles we've ever done on a particular topic in five minutes. Absolutely no developers required.Angela Cesaro, Senior Digital Product Manager, Scientific American

The power of Mura Related Content

Mura CMS's Related Content feature guides site visitors to articles they might like, offering suggestions to interesting articles based on what they are reading. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Using related content, in-house content administrators can build topic-focused landing pages in less than five minutes without involving a developer. When newsworthy scientific discoveries are made, Scientific American's subject matter experts can create landing pages that aggregate all of their stories on a given subject. That way, when site users want to find out more about the topic, it's instantly at their fingertips.


Simple, powerful email creation

Related Content also makes creating newsletters simpler. Web Production does not hand code HTML newsletters. Instead, subject matter experts use the power of Mura CMS to build and populate newsletters targeted at user groups interested in specific scientific disciplines.

Newsletters are another really important way to package content. Different users expect to have content delivered to them in different ways. Some people like to use the site from their phones or computers, and some people want their subject to be curated for them and delivered to their inbox. Using Related Content, we have given subject matter experts the power to create newsletters. So the physics editor is building the physics newsletter, and the mind and brain editor is the one building that newsletter.Angela Cesaro, Senior Digital Product Manager, Scientific American

Meeting today's—and tomorrow's—challenges

Using Mura CMS, Scientific American met their ambitious deadline. The new platform launched mid-January 2014. Scientific American had many challenges to overcome in their CMS migration. Porting a vast quantity of content was a significant one, but hardly the most complicated. Scientific American's web development team needed to implement custom solutions to address a number of their challenges, and Mura CMS helped them solve each one. Related content put the power to create topical pages and newsletters in the hands of subject matter experts. A custom search solution gives site visitors quick access to the content they're looking for. But Mura's flexibility doesn't end there. Scientific American's development team created customized solutions to their caching and server requirements as well. Mura CMS didn't lock them in with a specific search engine, cache solution, or server configuration—making their job easier and giving them the control they needed.

Flexibility and ease of were the key reasons we chose Mura. The development team was able to get up to speed quickly and our wide range of users found it easy to work with.Nick Sollecito, Technical Lead, Macmillan

Delivering user satisfaction

Scientific American site visitors can access all the magazine articles and rich media they have come to expect—but that's only the start of the client experience. Newsletters, related content and search features give site visitors access to the topical information they want, even when that happens to be the latest news or archival stories on biology, ecology, or astrophysics. Whether visiting the site from computers or mobile devices, they experience the same functionality and access the same content seamlessly.

Scientific American's development team has benefited even more from their migration to Mura CMS. Having a single content database as the backbone for their website ande-commerce platform has radically simplified and reduced developers' and content administrators' workloads. Subject matter experts and content administrators, rather than web developers, handle CMS tasks like adding content, creating breaking news story pages, and producing newsletters–enabling the experts to spend more time publishing content without needing assistance from the development team.

A platform for growth

Mura delivered a  platform that is already saving Scientific American time and money. But they're also looking to the future. Mura's flexible architecture allows developers to anticipate the new ways clients will want to access content--and then meet those demands regardless of channel.

Media is facing a challenging marketplace. We are being asked to do more things with fewer resources. Mura reduced the stress on our development group by putting all of the power of creating the content, managing the homepage, managing marketing placements and other content-focused tasks in the hands of the people who need to be making those changes. Mura lets us be a lot more agile and responsive to both our internal and external customer needs.Angela Cesaro, Senior Digital Product Manager, Scientific American