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3 common mistakes publishers make when choosing a technology partner

Imagine this. Your publishing business is booming. Traffic is flowing, audiences are engaged and revenue is rolling in. And then your website crashes.

This is unfortunately an all-too-common scenario, where publishers end up becoming a victim of their own success simply because their technology wasn’t up to the job.

Where things go wrong for publishers..

When it comes to digital publishing, you really can have too much of a good thing. If your website isn’t built to handle large audiences or complex ad-trafficking, life can very quickly get out of hand.

It’s a horrifying thought but thankfully there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you find the best tech solution and a partner you can trust.

Here are the three biggest mistakes made by publishers when building or replatforming their website:

Mistake #1:Your tech partner isn’t equipped to scale for your publishing needs.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a publisher is deciding which technology platform to use and who to partner with for development. And as the sector continues to evolve at lightning speed, this decision has never been more crucial.

What makes choosing the right website developer so difficult is that the publishing industry isn’t regulated. Anyone can call themselves a digital agency and claim expertise in this area. However, tech for niche and enterprise publishing is in fact a rare and specialist skill-set.

The toughest way to discover your web developer is bluffing is when you’ve invested six months and half your technology budget.

Fortunately, an easy way to navigate this complex ecosystem, is to look at established and reputable members of the WordPress VIP agency program. This is a handpicked group of technology agencies that have experience developing WordPress at scale.

Less than 50 organisations hold this title globally, so suddenly your pool of reliable tech providers becomes significantly smaller. Here in Australia, The Code Company is one of just three agencies to receive this acclaimed title. It’s a title we’ve worked hard to achieve and is testament to our reputation and credibility in the publishing world.

The Code Company have a long history of helping the most ambitious digital publishers launch, replatform and create exceptional web experiences. We specialise in large-scale data migrations and bespoke WordPress builds that maximise readership and revenue for speciality publishers.

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Mistake #2 : You rely too much on your internal team of developers.

You employ a technology team. Surely they can handle a website migration, right?

Actually, probably not. Publishing platforms are complex beasts and internal skills gaps are extremely common. Building and maintaining a high performance publishing site is a major undertaking. In reality, it is rare to find internal teams within publishing companies that have the capabilities (or time) to fully answer this brief.

As a publisher, your website is your greatest asset. The last thing you need is a bunch of workarounds and a team that ‘kinda’ knows what they’re doing.

Why bog your internal teams down with complexity and risk when you can partner with a global agency that knows your space inside and out?

Here at The Code Company, we live and breathe publishing platforms every single day. Our expertise goes way beyond the technology and tools. We provide an end-to-end strategic roadmap, ask the questions you hadn’t even thought to ask and have a solution to the issues you never even realised you had. And the benefit of working with a specialist partner is that we’ll upskill your internal team in the latest publishing tech developments as we go.

Whether you’re developing a membership or subscription model, attempting to maximise readership and revenue or navigate the world of personalised content and adtech, it’s almost always better to look outside of your organisation. Yet an effective agency should feel like an integrated part of your internal team.

Mistake #3: You agree to a custom-build or a SaaS platform

Custom platforms often sound great but are usually hard to use. And they are definitely easier to break.

When Australia’s leading youth publication, Pedestrian began experiencing 100% YOY mobile growth, their existing bespoke platform began struggling. As a result, the organisation was incurring significant and ongoing development costs.

By partnering with The Code Company, Pedestrian were able to successfully migrate over 300,000 pieces of content to a new WordPress site, streamline all of their processes and dramatically increase their SEO footprint.


“A move to a widely recognised platform in WordPress proved to be invaluable. The migration by The Code Company was seamless … and the ability to use WordPress plugins, integrate with ad platforms and stay live 24/7 was literally a dream come true!”

– Oscar Martin, Co-Founder, Pedestrian.tv

At the opposite end of the spectrum from bespoke builds are templated SaaS sites. These are great if you’re a blogger or simply dabbling in the world of publishing, but templated sites are a major red flag if you’re a serious publisher.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with subscription-based websites. They are simple, relatively inexpensive (initially at least!) and do what they say on the can. However, comparing a SaaS service to a customised, bespoke WordPress platform is a bit like comparing a model aeroplane enthusiast to an aircraft engineer. Sure, they’re both building aeroplanes, but which do you think is going to fly?

Do you really want your entire business relying on a $50 plugin? A large part of our work at The Code Company involves ‘rescue operations’ with publishers that learnt this the hard way; so take heed!

A final takeaway for online publishers

If you are truly serious about creating a future-ready publishing platform, you need a customised tech solution that you have full control over. A website migration is a major change management initiative and needs its own strategy, solution and execution team.

After 10 years of witnessing the journey of hundreds of online publishers, it’s fair to say that most of the epic failures could have been prevented by avoiding these three common mistakes.

If you’d like to chat about how The Code Company can make your publishing business work better, please get in touch here.

Ben May

Ben is Managing Director of The Code Company. He is passionate about working with publishers on clever and innovative ways to solve complex problems. He works with The Code Company team on all projects, bringing his perspective and problem solving skills to deliver great outcomes.