Forbes overhauls publishing platform

Custom CMS in 2 months, new mobile site in 1 month

Modern media is defined by speed. Stories break. Content goes viral. And readers flock to whatever site gets them the most interesting, relevant content faster than anyone else. Today, all the action and ad dollars are online.

To attract and keep eyeballs, publishers have to move fast. They need to quickly post articles from writers around the world. And they need to get the hottest, most share-worthy content in front of readers as quickly as possible.

A leading source of business news since 1917, Forbes has always produced quality content. What they lacked was speed. They couldn’t keep up with the quickening pace of journalism with old, closed systems. Outages were common. Changes to the architecture were challenging and costly. It was time for a complete do-over.

Forbes made a bold move. They decided to overhaul their entire platform and rebuild their content management system (CMS) on MongoDB. Now it’s incredibly fast, open to contributors globally and easy to change without going offline. All at a fraction of the time and cost of their old approach.

Forbes first built a custom CMS on MongoDB in just two months. Then they launched a brand new mobile site in less than one month.

With just one full-time and one part-time engineer, the mobile development team was tiny. But the results were huge. Overnight, mobile traffic jumped from 5% to 15% of Forbes.com total traffic, and quickly ramped to 50%.

“In two months, engineers who never touched MongoDB were able to make a product that just scaled out of the box… whatever we needed to do with MongoDB, we just extended the schema.”

Steven Bond, group director of the Forbes.com Software Development Team

Social sharing analyzed in real-time

Content can go viral in minutes and Forbes can’t afford to wait on end-of-day reports. They have a tiny window of opportunity to catch the momentum and drive more viewership.

MongoDB aggregates real-time data, including over one million articles and hundreds of thousands of comments, and delivers immediate insight into how readers are responding to content. MongoDB also simplifies the capture and analysis of Forbes’ clickstream data: what people are looking at, what parts of the page they’re viewing, and most importantly, what they’re sharing.

When an article starts to go viral, Forbes can analyze social sharing as it happens and fuel the momentum by putting the right content in front of readers within seconds.

Better content delivered faster drives more viewership and more ad dollars.

Dynamic content from anyone, anywhere

Gone are the four walls of a physical newsroom where reporters are centrally located. Forbes’ editorial workforce consists of 1,000 writers and bloggers around the globe.

To open up their online platforms to this global network of content creators and marketers, Forbes needed to fundamentally change how content flowed through their editorial workflows. Their patchwork of third-party CMS systems was cumbersome, inflexible and created too many bottlenecks for moving a writer’s draft to a published article.


Now, MongoDB allows Forbes contributors to publish high-value articles in minutes rather than hours and days.

The dynamic, real-time CMS platform is easy for writers to use. On-boarding is fast and flexible. And now the best writers, from anywhere in the world can quickly publish content.

Bold innovation without re-engineering

For the first time, Forbes has the flexibility to continuously evolve their site, offering new ways to create and consume articles without affecting performance. They don’t have to take the database offline and they don’t have to re-engineer their whole approach. Forbes can store any kind of content, retrieve it and change the schema as they go.

MongoDB’s JSON document model and rich query language make it easy for Forbes to store and search different content types with different attributes in a single place – such as article text, social media comments, and third-party tweets about related topics – without normalizing the attributes. Forbes can also easily pull different variations of information together to create new collections of data, such as their renowned Lists, like the “World’s Richest People” or “Best Places to Live.” Adding document properties like a list “ranking” is also simple, making it painless to build lists while maintaining the integrity of original articles.

While regular outages were common with the old site, Fobes is now fast to serve up pages.

They are also fast to innovate. They developed and launched the first CMS implementation in just two months with a small development team.

As the Forbes readership grows, the MongoDB-powered CMS will easily grow with them. Scaling is built into the database - it’s automatic and transparent.

Powering a new publishing model…efficiently

Existing resources are the best resources. Hiring DBAs or developers with special skill sets fell outside of Forbes’ limited engineering budget. Fortunately, their Java developers got up to speed quickly on MongoDB -- a valuable time and cost savings.

Support is now centralized, with a much smaller team of dedicated engineers to maintain the system, search index and APIs. The result is fewer mistakes and more available resources.

“MongoDB gives you the ability to concentrate on your business and create the applications. Everything else is taken care of.”

Steven Bond

Forbes will continue to innovate with new publishing models. And MongoDB will be there to help them quickly pivot to meet evolving strategies -- to drive viewership, advertising and the business.