4 digital danger zones publishing companies can’t ignore

There are many signs that your website has reached its breaking point — some more obvious than others. While integrating new tech like a paywall can lay bare obvious weaknesses in your technology, it’s often a pileup of smaller issues that leads to a website breakdown. 

In addition to causing technology problems that can directly impact performance and traffic, this “death by a thousand cuts” can slow your pace of feature development to a crawl — and that’s when platform stakeholders take notice. You simply cannot sustain profitability or satisfy customers when your digital foundations are crumbling.

The key is spotting the warning signs early and being proactive before your website reaches its breaking point.

Here are the most common digital danger zones where websites are most likely to fall apart.

1. Publishing industry shifts

Shifts in search and social algorithms, the ever-evolving devices and platforms where audiences encounter your content, and advances in coding languages can render a publishing platform ill-equipped to serve your team, audiences, or business’ bottom line. Sites may struggle to adequately support new requirements but failing to adapt quickly can put you behind your competition.

Meta, Google, Apple, and X all support slightly different methods of content sharing and have their own suite of publisher tools. Changes to these programs can impact publishers’ businesses — remember Facebook’s famous “pivot to video”? — but they also have a technical impact on their own platforms.

It’s vital to ensure your site is always up to speed on the latest standards from major platforms like Google. That way, you maintain high search engine results page (SERP) rankings, website traffic, and revenue. Maintaining an agile, adaptable platform built for extensibility is crucial for pivoting when industry forces demand change.

2. Internal changes in your business

Business model pivots put immense strain on a website’s architecture if it isn’t designed for the new direction. A publishing company shifting from an ad-supported model to a subscription-focused one, for example, requires significant retooling if the original site was ad-centric. Tacking on new functionality, or removing the old, is a major project that may not integrate smoothly with your existing tech stack.

Key personnel departures—think engineers or product leads—is another liability. Unless you have intentionally trained multiple people to deepen your bench, the departure of people who are intimately familiar with the quirks of your platform, can also debilitate your website’s ability to adapt and change. When your institutional knowledge walks out the door, any updates to the website become even riskier. Solid documentation is helpful, but documentation needs to be maintained in order to be useful, and is often deprioritized in favor of new features. 

3. Spontaneous website breakages

Sometimes website fires spark when an external change breaks existing functionality. This could be caused by a third-party service that your site relies on, like an analytics service or advertising provider. Many publishers who support programmatic ads have had malicious ads take over their sites and redirect their users — or worse. Maybe you bought a CMS from another publisher who decided to stop supporting the product they sold you — chances are they’re not going to turn it off tomorrow, but suddenly your site has an expiration date and your existing roadmap goes out the window.

These changes are usually impossible to plan for, but being proactive can really save your skin. Old and inflexible sites have a much harder time adapting. Make sure you allocate resources for continual maintenance to avoid a website collapse.

4. Database performance issues

All roads lead to your database, and changing data structures can result in complex queries that strain performance. Your web engineers are likely to know about these issues and have tools in their arsenal to address them — caching, optimization, refactoring, adding resources — but the tyranny of the urgent means there’s little time to resolve the problems. The bad news is that time doesn’t heal these website wounds — it only makes them worse.

We’ve experienced firsthand how continual website maintenance can feel like fixing your house’s sewer system. It’s an invisible upgrade, out of sight and out of mind until something unpleasant “surfaces.” Instead of investing in making your website more robust and durable, it’s far more enticing to add shiny new features. And frankly, your stakeholders probably demand it.

Deprioritizing your website’s foundation while adding new features to an aging tech stack eventually leads to a host of business problems. These range from the increased time and effort it will take to replatform your site to slower website performance, which negatively impacts SEO and in turn, traffic, and revenue.

You can proactively rebuild before your site breaks down

Crumbling website infrastructure is a liability no publishing business can afford. Ongoing maintenance is critical, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or particularly expensive. Using a common platform like WordPress guarantees some ongoing maintenance for free. But it’s equally important to use an expert partner like Alley who knows when to customize and when not to. 

Don’t wait until your website has ground to a halt under the weight of technological debt. Partner with a digital agency that has experience working with enterprise, high-volume content producers and can get your website up to speed in a demanding, experience-driven digital landscape.

Ready to re-platform on modern, resilient digital infrastructure? Reach out.