Virginia Public Media

A Website Transformation that Resolved Competing Stakeholder Priorities

Empowering the VPM team to generate brand awareness, increase online engagement and conversions, and improve operational efficiency

Opportunity

Reinvent a media company’s website to reflect its recent expansion and highlight the far-ranging scope of its offerings with an emphasis on its presence in the local community

Solution

Overhaul the site’s homepage, navigation, and information architecture to allow users to better discover the news and information they need while resolving production bottlenecks with an updated content management system

Outcome

Since the new website launched, VPM has experienced higher page views along with positive results in session lengths, user numbers, and bounce rate

Providing the community with programming that encompasses news, arts, science, and children’s education, Virginia Public Media (VPM) is the source for public media in the local area. Home to original TV, radio, and podcast programming in addition to supplemental features from NPR and PBS, the company experienced recent growth after acquiring multiple affiliates in the state. Already a favorite on traditional platforms, VPM needed its website to become an essential resource for its digital audience too.

A Site as Fragmented as Its Stakeholders

As the region’s leading public media affiliate, VPM leaned too heavily on its syndicated content to drive engagement. Local, independently produced features were difficult to find, and VPM’s outdated site had no clear means of content organization. Along with a limited capacity to surface content that users needed, the site offered few fundraising opportunities for the organization. As a nonprofit, the organization was missing a vital means to extend its reach into the digital market.

When VPM came to COLAB, its website issues extended into the organization as well. The site’s homepage had become a point of contention for internal stakeholders, who were siloed from one another both from a process and content perspective. With a single webmaster responsible for site updates, the site was plagued with internal bottlenecks. Consequently, VPM had applied temporary solutions to resolve bugs and publish content that didn’t conform to site requirements.

With so many constituencies to serve, VPM’s digital team had struggled to establish the website as a priority. With COLAB’s help, VPM.org came into clearer focus.

A Balance of Internal Needs and User Experience

COLAB worked closely with VPM’s stakeholders to understand and prioritize internal needs and balance them against the user experience. We overhauled the homepage to follow site conventions while adjusting content to reflect user habits. After leaning on NPR and PBS features to drive engagement, the new VPM brings more local content to the surface. Plus, at the bottom of the homepage, an events section underscores VPM’s consistent presence in the community.

The website’s design also better serves VPM’s wide audience of radio listeners through easy access to program schedules as well as streaming and mobile resources. We simplified the interface with a modern, neutral look, which gave the site’s content more prominence. We also identified areas of the site for better promotional placement to prevent ad blindness and better support sponsorship opportunities.

To support the site’s stakeholders, we created flexible templates that can be shared and modified to suit the needs of multiple departments. We migrated the site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 and created a design system, which established rules for a more cohesive visual experience. Instead of relying on a single person to build or publish site features, VPM’s teams can communicate, collaborate, and create custom pages aligned with the brand.

Over 7,000% Increase in Page Views to News Content

With the successful launch of the new website in 2019, VPM’s digital team has taken more of a lead in the organization’s marketing efforts. Instead of in-house storage, VPM uses a cloud infrastructure that provides its site a sustainable, flexible infrastructure for the future.

COLAB has been an attentive and collaborative partner on our site. They’ve made connections with stakeholders from each of our functional areas and have helped us craft goals and a strategic approach for improving our site experience that is proving effective at increasing user engagement.

Harry Orell
Director of IT

During a post-launch discovery, COLAB found that VPM experienced a greater than 7,000% increase in page views to news content in the 17 months following the redesign, compared to the 17 months leading up to the redesign. Additionally, VPM has experienced significant growth across all traffic channels during that same period — 58% increase in direct traffic, 69% increase in organic traffic, and 305% increase in social traffic. On the strength of its outlets and affiliates, VPM has long attracted a wide audience of viewers and listeners. Now, the company is positioned to become a presence in its audience’s digital lives as well.