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Digital media pioneer Slate Magazine established its podcast network in 2005, and by 2021 the network website averaged 30 million unique viewers per month. Their podcast membership platform, Supporting Cast, backs not only Slate’s network but also those of NPR, Wondery, and other top podcasts and audiobook publishers.
Industry: Digital Publishing
Location: New York, NY
Customer since: 2017

Favorite features
Surrogate key purge
Edge delivery
Customizable VCL
Fastly Fiddle
Fastly TLS

Switching to Fastly cuts purge time from 15 minutes to just seconds

Slate came to Fastly after discovering that their legacy CDN lacked the agility to purge content and complete updates at the speed of their business. Waiting for a change to go live could take as much as 15 minutes, an eternity in digital media. Charges on a per-service basis and requiring XML for updates from an already busy team of developers also nudged Slate to make a change.

Making the switch to Fastly’s edge cloud network cut Slate’s update time from 15 minutes to less than 5 seconds. And with no extra cost to spin up a new domain, developers could start testing new features and services without waiting for an expense approval.

Fastly enables a whole new business channel

In 2019, Slate launched Supporting Cast, a podcasting membership platform that allows podcasters and their networks to offer exclusive episodes and audiobooks.

To make podcasts available only to active subscribers, Supporting Cast provides an individual RSS feed for each user — every episode’s URL is unique to a specific subscriber. If a membership expires, the team can cut off access using Fasty's surrogate key purge to expire that user’s specific mp3s.

Surrogate key purging can be applied not just to single mp3s but entire episodes, series, or users. In most podcast apps, granular purgingallows podcasters to make a quick change, say, uploading a new version of an episode should there be a mistake. Supporting Cast can now expire the episode for every subscriber at once, or if a specific user quits the service, it can expire that user's entire feed.

Fastly empowers Slate to grow without limits

The podcast service has seen notable growth, with tens of thousands of users joining each month. With Supporting Cast still signing new podcasts every week — including big broadcasters — Lavallee said the team appreciates that, with Fastly, they never need to fret about traffic volume before adding new content.

Slate developers deploy faster on Fastly

One of the big differences Slate developers have enjoyed since switching to Fastly is its compatibility with a CI/CD production environment. While their legacy CDN functioned like a black box, Fastly opens the doors for anyone who can code to make and deploy changes. For Slate and Supporting Cast, that means configurations can be deployed immediately — instead of being held up while they're routed through systems administration.

Fastly innovation helps Slate keep growing

As Fastly continues to enhance its platform and offerings, Slate has taken advantage of other solutions in the Fastly portfolio. The company adopted Fastly's Image Optimizer to crop and serve all their images on the fly, so they can maintain only the original image in Slate's data store. "That's much better than us having to keep up with the latest image technology and making the code changes ourselves," Lavallee said.

Logging has also been a useful tool for Slate. The company sends data directly to BigQuery for analytics. With visibility into its own data and control over its code, Slate can circumvent costly ways of tracking with only minimal effort for engineers. "Fastly’s logging options are fantastic," said Lavallee.

Slate developers also appreciate the accessibility and skill of Fastly support when these new solutions are implemented. "For example," Lavallee said, "when we were having trouble figuring out how to configure our shielding, I worked with some of the top Fastly engineers on a Zoom call to fix the problem and review the code together. That rarely happens with a vendor."

"We found Fastly while looking for the fastest purge time we could get. We also noticed that Fastly was popular in the digital media landscape. We did a trial with Fastly, and the purge time was excellent."

Greg Lavallee
VP of Technology

"This platform might not exist without Fastly… We never could have launched without both the purging capabilities and the edge delivery capabilities Fastly gives us."

Greg Lavallee
VP of Technology

"At no point are we thinking, ‘Uh oh, that's a lot of bandwidth.’ With Fastly, there's no worries. I remember those days when capacity was an issue. Now, nobody on our engineering team thinks twice about traffic when someone announces they've signed somebody new, no matter how big."

Greg Lavallee
VP of Technology

"Fastly's documentation is great. I can point developers at it and know they'll be able to figure out what to do. The Fastly Fiddle site is also super handy—we've used some of the recipes, and it's great to be able to test out units of your code and see how they'll work in a production environment."

Greg Lavallee
VP of Technology

"The innovation going on at Fastly seems to be constant. There's always something new happening, and that keeps us up to date as well."

Greg Lavallee
VP of Technology

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