Washington Post Gets Views Into Mobile Performance

The transition from paper to digital has forced newspapers to change in profound ways. Today, online and app performance is critical to success.

At The Washington Post, which operates a website and apps for smartphones, tablets and smart watches, performance data is at the center of everything. “It is important to ensure that resources are being used in the most effective way possible, and that we have accurate information about devices and problems,” explains Hardip Singh, mobile development manager.

In the past, a lack of insight made it impossible to fully understand why a problem was taking place. For instance, a customer residing in California might have trouble logging in or using an app, but “we couldn’t get the necessary log data to fully understand what the problem was without the person physically handing over the device.” That made it a difficult to diagnose problems and fix them.

With more than 70 million visitors a month and with a multitude of devices in use—including iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Androids and other devices—the complexity quickly multiplied.

Delivering Insights Into Mobile System Performance

As a result, in January 2016, The Washington Post’s mobile team turned to Sumo Logic, a cloud-based log management and analytics service, to create order from all the chaos. The system ingests huge amounts of structured and unstructured data and delivers deep but targeted insights into mobile system performance.

“We have the ability to run smart queries, generate graphs, and use alerts and other tools in order to analyze the health of applications and overall performance,” Singh reports. “The team is able to set specific performance parameters and understand immediately if there’s a problem.”

In fact, using the dashboard, the mobile group is now able to dive into an app and view anonymous data about how long it takes for specific articles or other content to load. It can view failed login requests and quickly ascertain whether it’s a one-off event or part of an emerging pattern.

“There may be a problem only for a particular time zone, such as in Australia, and it may be related to the fact that the system views the event as occurring in the future,” Singh explains. Previously, the mobile group would have had to examine raw log files manually and search for an answer.

Today, the analytics tool in Sumo handles the task seamlessly. What’s more, the process occurs in real time.

Singh says that the most formidable challenge was getting employees trained to use the system and understand what it can do and how it can provide benefits. Since going live with the log management and analytics technology, The Washington Post and its mobile users have witnessed enormous gains, and the company plans to expand the use of the system in the months ahead.

“The technology performs extremely well, and it has a near 100 percent success rate for producing the log data we require to fix a problem,” Singh says. “We are able to run specific filters and sort through complex queries so that we can fix things faster and better.”

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