With a mission to provide “authentic, empowering, and uplifting content,” Trusted Media Brands is behind some of the most well-known family-, home-, and hobby-centered publications in the United States, including Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home, and Family Handyman. All together, its online publications attract 33 million unique visitors each month, and its total digital revenue has grown by 98% in the past five years.
Over the past few years, Trusted Media Brands has been finding ways to expand its appeal to digitally savvy consumers. After being brought on as CEO in 2014, Bonnie Kintzer knew Trusted Media Brands needed to radically transform from a hard-copy magazine publisher into a digital-first, multi platform media company.
The challenge: Deliver high-quality content to visitors as quickly as possible
When Nick Contardo joined Trusted Media Brands as Chief Technology Officer, the company was doing little more than republishing hard-copy magazine content onto its websites. Trusted Media Brands used a content delivery network (CDN), but Contardo felt it wasn’t a good fit for the company’s ambitious digital plans. “[It] didn’t have any varnish or customizability at the edge. It had an old, monolithic structure,” he recalls. “I was nervous that they wouldn’t be able to support us moving forward. We needed a CDN that could perform for us.”
In a world where most media websites rely heavily on dynamic content, Trusted Media Brands is unique. Nearly all of its content is evergreen and static. “Once a recipe, a home improvement project, or a Reader’s Digest article is published, they don’t get changed that often,” Contardo explains. “We also don’t have a lot of login content or personalization.”
Page speed, Contardo explains, is key to satisfying the company’s audiences, who visit their sites for solutions to specific problems. ”Our visitors are very intent-driven. They’re not coming to our sites just to look at pictures. They want to cook something, build something, or learn something. We don’t push out 5,000 articles a month. We focus on content quality and page speed. We publish high-quality articles, served fast, on stable websites.”
This need made Cloudflare an excellent match for Trusted Media Brands. Cloudflare would help the company exert more control over its network edge and cache, and would provide a powerful Web Application Firewall as well. “We don’t have a lot of reasons to bypass cache,” Contardo explains. He, along with DevOps Manager Olena Sokolova, wanted to speed up the company’s web properties by delivering as much content at the edge, from cache, as possible.
The solution: Using Cloudflare Workers to increase cache hit rates
Trusted Media Brands used Cloudflare Workers to develop a solution that delivers an exceptional cache hit rate, improving their website’s performance and position in search results.
“We can get hit with a lot of traffic after we send out a newsletter,” Sokolova says. “Before we had Workers, we had no choice but to bypass the cache for entire newsletter traffic, both due to the legal and data analysis reasons. This wasn’t a good option; we knew if something happened to our internal infrastructure, we’d have to either cancel newsletters or use another solution that wouldn’t be beneficial to the company.” Before Workers, Sokolova explains, all visitors from newsletter traffic would always receive an uncached page, while less than 1% of them needed to see unique content (e.g. to update email preferences). With Workers, Trusted Media Brands was able to program logic ensuring that only visitors who need to see unique information receive an uncached page. Content for all other users from newsletter traffic would be served from a common cache, dramatically improving their online experience. “Even when 1000 people are hitting the same article at the same time, all of them are being served from Cloudflare’s cache,” Sokolova says.
Thanks to Workers and Cloudflare cache, an average of 96% to 98% of Trusted Media Brands’ content is served from cache. Sokolova reports that between this impressive cache hit rate and Cloudflare’s image optimization solutions, Trusted Media Brands’ sites are loading four times faster than they would have with their previous solution.
Because nearly all of its content can be served from stale cache, Contardo says, “We can look at Cloudflare almost as a disaster recovery solution. We could take our servers down for two days, and our sites would remain up.”
“Cloudflare Workers allowed us to maximize our use of Cloudflare caching. No other solution could have done this for us,” Sokolova adds. “We could have managed to do it on the server level, but by using Cloudflare, our sites are faster and more reliable, and we save money on bandwidth and infrastructure.”
Blocking malicious bots with WAF and Rate Limiting
Since Trusted Media Brands runs high-profile, high-traffic websites, it’s a target for malicious bots.
“The Cloudflare WAF setup was fast to deploy and easy to use. From the time we first turned it on, we’ve tripled our traffic, but it just scaled.” Contardo notes.
Sokolova echoes Contardo’s comments about the Cloudflare WAF’s ease of use, especially when setting very specific traffic settings. “We’re discussing the launch of a new product with more granular location settings, which means very granular rules for traffic,” she says.
In addition to the Cloudflare WAF, Trusted Media Brands uses Cloudflare Rate Limiting to protect its sites from malicious bots in situations where content cannot be cached. “Rate Limiting protects us in situations where we can’t cache,” Sokolova explains. “It blocks malicious traffic while letting valid users through.”
Cloudflare provides peace of mind
Above all, Contardo and Sokolova agree, Cloudflare offers peace of mind.
“Our previous CDN provider, Verizon, was always giving us issues,” says Contardo. “Cloudflare’s services just work. It’s one less thing for me to have to think about or worry about.”
“Cloudflare has one of the best technical support teams I’ve personally worked with,” says Sokolova. “When something does go wrong, I have confidence that Cloudflare will address the problem and protect our sites.”
Trusted Media Brands’ sites load 400 percent faster than they would from on-prem infrastructure.
Cloudflare Workers saves bandwidth by serving 95%-98% percent of content from cache.
Cloudflare Rate Limiting protects the company’s sites from malicious bots in circumstances when content cannot be cached.
“We can look at Cloudflare almost as a disaster recovery solution. We could take our servers down for two days, and our sites would stay up.”
Chief Technology Officer
“Cloudflare Workers allowed us to save bandwidth by serving 95-98% of content from cache. With Cloudflare, our sites are 4X faster and more reliable, and we save money on infrastructure.”