Chicago Sun-Times: Converting Multiple Data Feeds Into Usable Format

The Challenge: Getting Electronic News Feeds Online Faster

The Chicago Sun-Times is a major newspaper (print circulation 475,000) whose readers often visit its website for breaking news. This website typically receives over 2.5 million unique visitors a month.

And in a city as politically connected as Chicago, election results are a particularly hot item. Visitors will go to the site among the many media competitors that delivers breaking news faster - bringing in more readers and improved loyalty.

All media outlets receive the same data from the State of Illinois at the same time. It is their ability to process the data and turn it into a consumer-friendly format that allows one to stand out from the others. But this was made challenging by the fact that the electronic format for the 7 data feeds from the state constantly change, and conversion into HTML code that can be posted online is time-consuming.

So time-consuming, that in the past, Pathfinder, the IT consulting firm for the Chicago Sun-Times kept a dedicated engineer onsite during election nights, to write code that would help in this conversion process. Even after the state switched to XML format, converting it for upload into their MySQL database to create the 25 HTML files for publication takes significant coding effort. And glitches in data feeds occur frequently, with finding the cause a major time-consumer.

Pathfinder wanted to find a solution that would make this process more automated, that could be used without requiring coding knowledge - and that would be relatively inexpensive.

The Solution: a User-Friendly Method for Data Conversion

Pathfinder researched several options, including Microsoft BizTalk server, before discovering and selecting Redberri. They chose it for several reasons, with one of the foremost its ease of use. Even business users with no coding knowledge could use Redberri to map how data moves from one application to another, quickly and easily.

The fact that installation and deployment could be accomplished rapidly (within 3 weeks!) and that it was highly cost-effective, were other important factors that made Redberri the platform of choice for Pathfinder's data conversion.

They used Redberri to import the data feeds, convert them into MySQL and to update the MySQL database. It then requested that HTML pages be built, and the pages moved to the Web service. The entire process was completely automated, and extremely user-friendly from start to finish.

"Redberri is very intuitive even for non-technical users. Users picked it up so quickly, they felt no need to have technical personnel on-site. I was on call at night, but the phone never rang. Instead, I watched DVDs with my family." -Alan Choyna, Senior Engineer at Pathfinder

The Result: Faster, More Accurate Reporting Online

Once Redberri was installed, Pathfinder was able to provide the Chicago Sun-Times with faster processing of data feeds into posted election results online. The Sun-Times received plaudits from both the government and the media industry for their fast, accurate election reporting. And when glitches occur in the data feeds, Sun-Times employees are able to find a fix them almost instantaneously.

This is because Redberri's makes this process much easier, with its full documentation of the process flow. "Users knew where to look immediately, and used the simple visual interface tools to make corrections on the spot," states Bernhard Kappe, Director at Pathfinder.

While improved coverage was the primary goal, the Chicago Sun-Times enjoyed another benefit with Redberri: lowering the cost of administrating election results. Processes were automated, made more intuitive - and required less personnel.

The Chicago Sun-Times was so pleased with the results of the election data feeds, that they are looking to Redberri to help them expand their news coverage in other areas. The first is sports coverage, and converting data feeds from The Sports Network (TSN) into a format that the Sun-Times can use. The TSN feeds are complex and change constantly, and Redberri will be used to assist with the data conversion.

This will provide the Sun-Times with a significant competitive advantage, as they improve their news coverage with the assistance of Redberri's data integration tools.

Contact Redberri today to learn more about how Redberri can help your enterprise leverage its data for maximum effectiveness