Industry Edge Cloud Strategy Report

Edge cloud strategies for digital publishing

SecurityContent deliveryEdge ComputingIndustryOnline media

Forced to make their digital outlets ultra-responsive, digital publishers are the guiding light as far as web performance goes. However, more can be done to minimize churn, provide exceptional experiences, and make sure they are first with the news.

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Digital publishing finds itself facing a variety of challenges that require attention and adaptation. For one, there’s the relentless pursuit of profitability. Additionally, social media has a pervasive influence that must be addressed, and the proliferation of fake news on social media is undermining trust in digital publications. To cut costs, many publishers are resorting to layoffs and consolidations. Mergers and acquisitions are also becoming more common as companies look to consolidate resources and strengthen their market positions.

In spite of these challenges faced by the publishing industry, it's heartening to note that digital publishing is leading the way by demonstrating how content can be taken online. Even on slow and outdated content management systems (CMS), digital publishers are achieving high-performance scores, which should not just be viewed as aspirational. Therefore, it's imperative that every digital publisher who is not scoring well, and every other industry that sets lower standards, stops comparing themselves to their competitors and instead sets their benchmarks according to the best practices of the web.

This report's goal is to help digital publishers strategize and gain insight into their industry. Still, we feel strongly that the data we discovered is relevant to many other industries. The data shows an industry that is doing remarkably well from a performance point of view, and even if you are focused on different segments, the results are worth a closer look for those in other industries, as it shows what is possible with the right infrastructure.

In today's digital age, one of the biggest challenges for publishers is to make their content discoverable amidst the vast sea of online information, and in particular making sure important editorial pieces and breaking news stories can be distributed and discovered as fast as possible. The internet is flooded with millions of websites, blogs, and social media accounts, which makes it difficult for publishers to grab the attention of their target audience and build a loyal readership. To overcome this hurdle, publishers have been focused on optimizing their content for search engines, promoting it through social media, and investing in effective content promotion strategies to enhance their visibility and reach in the highly competitive digital landscape.

Monetization remains one of the major challenges facing digital publishers. With free content readily available, the continued rise of ad blockers, subscription fatigue among readers, and intense competition for attention, generating a sustainable revenue stream can present significant challenges. To balance user experience and profitability, publishers continuously experiment with different monetization models such as paywalls, subscriptions, sponsored content, and affiliate marketing. Being under such immense pressure to remain profitable has likely led them to optimize their performance and extract every possible dollar out of their content. Other industries that are not yet feeling this pressure should start questioning why they are sacrificing additional revenue and optimization opportunities by not achieving the same level of performance as top-tier digital publishers.

The advancements in technology bring forth certain challenges for digital publishers. To keep up with the constantly evolving technologies like responsive web design, mobile optimization, and emerging content formats like virtual reality and augmented reality, publishers must continuously invest in infrastructure, tools, and skill development. Publishers must remain flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs and preferences of their audiences. In addition, digital publishers must adapt to new trends and consumer behaviors to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving landscape. This includes embracing emerging formats such as audio content, interactive storytelling, and subscription-based services, as well as leveraging data analytics and audience insights to inform content strategy and decision-making.

Distribution is a major challenge in the digital publishing industry. Online publishers must ensure that their content is accessible on various platforms, devices, and channels while providing a consistent user experience. Managing content syndication, digital rights management, and licensing agreements can be a complex and time-consuming task, especially with the emergence of new distribution channels and formats. Furthermore, the digital publishing industry is fragmented, with numerous platforms, formats, and distribution channels competing for market share. Publishers must navigate this fragmented landscape strategically, considering factors such as audience demographics, content preferences, and platform features to maximize their reach and impact.

Finally, data privacy and security are also critical concerns for digital publishers. Safeguarding user data and complying with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) require robust data management practices and transparent privacy policies. Failure to protect user privacy can result in legal liabilities, reputational damage, and loss of trust among audiences.

Overall, while digital publishing offers opportunities for creators and publishers to share their content with global audiences, it also presents challenges that require careful navigation and strategic planning.


As with our previous industry reports, we delved into the performance of a representation across the industry. We wanted to shed light on key factors through a meticulous examination of Google’s CrUX data, and with that provide valuable insights and actionable recommendations for optimizing web performance and enhancing user experiences across the digital publishing landscape.

The digital publishing industry overwhelmingly outperforms any other industry we have analyzed up until now. Looking back at our airlines, ecommerce, and gaming reports, you’ll see that getting a passing score for those industries is reserved for a few. Not with digital publishing - an astonishing 90% of the digital publishers we looked at got the highest possible Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) score!

Having a high-performing digital publishing page is crucial in today's online landscape. It is the entry point to engage and retain users while generating revenue and driving conversions. A fast-loading and responsive page is not only important for enhancing user experience but also plays a significant role in search engine optimization (SEO). It helps in improving visibility and ranking on search engine results pages. A well-optimized page fosters user satisfaction and loyalty, reducing bounce rates and increasing the time spent on the site. Additionally, in an era where user attention spans are short, an efficient page experience can significantly impact conversion rates, whether it is for subscriptions, ad impressions, or purchases. Ultimately, prioritizing the optimization of digital publishing pages ensures not only sustained user engagement but also strengthens the competitiveness and success of digital publishing ventures in a crowded online ecosystem.

Speaking of that, the digital publishing landscape is vast and contains organizations that might be outside what will typically be categorized as online publishing. As such, we decided to focus on the companies and publications represented in Apple News as 1) it’s a large list of publishers, and 2) it has diverse representation across several interest areas. We filtered out a few outliers–e.g. categories with only one or two publications. Overall, we ended up with 212 publications across 15 categories and 165 unique companies, giving us the breadth and depth of a large dataset to greatly enhance the robustness and applicability of the analysis, ultimately leading to more industry insight.

Here are some of the highlights of what we discovered:

  • 90% of those analyzed got the highest possible Largest Content (LCP) score. Everyone else scored average, and no one scored poor.

  • Out of the 211 publications examined, 178 (84.4%) achieved the highest First Contentful Paint (FCP) ranking.

  • 80% of the total pool got the highest time to first byte (TTFB) score. The rest have an average score, again, with no one scoring poor. This is a sharp deviation from previous industry reports, where many of the websites tested ranked poor.

  • Despite many of these organizations' technical foundations being built on outdated CMS systems, digital publishers still achieve high-performance marks.

We don’t write these industry reports to call out Fastly versus the competition. Our intent is to provide a survey across the industry we’re examining, and use that to provide thought leadership and explain how an edge cloud strategy can benefit a given segment. We are making an exception this time. Digital publishing is under a lot of pressure to achieve blazingly fast performance, and in the high-performance set we tested, covering Apple News publication, the majority use Fastly. Here are some of the data points worth accentuating:

  1. Of the 165 organizations tested in this high-performance group, the majority are using Fastly (54%). 

  2. When looking at the fastest LCPs of this group (LCP < 1.5 seconds), Fastly delivers 79% of the websites.

  3. When it comes to the fastest TTFBs of this group (TTFB < 0.5 seconds), 70% of the websites are delivered using Fastly.

  4. When focusing on LCP: 

    • Zero of the fastest 20 sites in the data set use Cloudflare.

    • Zero of the fastest 15 sites in the data set use Akamai.

Digital Publishing image 1

CDN Distribution across companies: Among the 165 companies scored, 89 are using Fastly for delivery - more than the rest combined!

Digital Publishing image 3

Largest Contentful paint distribution: Within the dataset, Fastly delivers 79% of the sites with the fastest LCP score and far the majority of the sites with an LCP score below 2 seconds

Digital Publishing image 2

Time to first byte: Within the dataset, Fastly delivers 70% of the websites with a score below < 500 milliseconds.

About the data: We looked at the March 2024 CrUX data for all Apple News+ publications' website origins ranked in the top 100k and attributed the LCP and TTFB metric 75th percentile scores to the CDN provider detected by WebPageTest for the origin’s domain during the March 2024 HTTP Archive crawl of each website's root page. This is CDN detection method #2, for more details see our methodology page.

Performance challenges

In digital publishing, the importance of a performant website cannot be overstated. This extends to the individual pages as well, as visitors often land directly on a specific news page, rather than enter through the front page. Not only do fast-loading pages contribute to a positive user experience, which is crucial for retaining visitors and encouraging them to engage with the content, but high-performing pages reduce bounce rates, help with SEO, and increase user satisfaction, leading to higher conversion rates and improved audience retention.

Search engines, such as Google, prioritize user experience as a ranking factor. When evaluating the performance of a webpage, a key metric called Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) from the Google CrUX data set is often used. LCP measures how quickly the main content of a webpage is loaded. If the webpage returns a score below 2.5 seconds, visitors can access and consume the important information on the webpage without any delay. This improves the overall browsing experience for users. Websites prioritizing fast LCP scores tend to rank higher in search engine results.

In addition, fast-loading webpages play a significant role in improving search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines tend to rank websites that load quickly and provide a smooth user experience higher in search results. Pages that load faster are also more likely to be crawled and indexed efficiently, making the content more accessible to users who search for relevant topics.

Regarding search engines, news sites traditionally utilize robots.txt to control how search engines crawl and index their content. By strategically configuring instructions, news sites can ensure that their most valuable and up-to-date content is promptly indexed while preventing unnecessary duplication or indexing of less relevant pages. However, news publishers need to balance maximizing visibility and preserving exclusive content, as overly restrictive and static robots.txt rules may inadvertently hinder the discoverability of recent and important content from search engines.

High bounce rates hurt the bottom line

Many news organizations that operate online are struggling with high bounce rates, which presents a significant challenge when it comes to engaging and retaining audiences. Online news consumption is characterized by short attention spans and an abundance of competing information sources, making it a constant struggle for news websites to retain users. With numerous news websites vying for attention, users tend to browse quickly, scanning headlines and articles before moving on to the next website. This behavior often results in visitors leaving after viewing just one page, leading to elevated bounce rates for news organizations.

Several factors, including weak headlines, poor website design, and slow page loading times, can cause high bounce rates. In today's age of information overload, visitors can quickly abandon articles that do not meet their criteria for what they should prioritize. Moreover, the rise of social media as a primary news source has further fragmented audience attention, with users frequently clicking through to news articles from their social feeds only to exit shortly after.

High bounce rates affect statistics and significantly impact revenue streams, audience loyalty, and the overall credibility of news organizations. Advertisers may hesitate to invest in platforms with low engagement metrics, leading to reduced advertising revenue. Additionally, persistent high bounce rates can erode reader trust and undermine the perceived authority of news outlets.

The serious consequences of incorrect news

Online news articles that contain incorrect or outdated information can be dangerous, especially when it comes to correcting misinformation in a timely manner. False news can have serious consequences such as shaping public opinion, influencing decision-making, and even causing panic or unrest. This is particularly worrying in today's digital age, where information spreads quickly through social media and other online platforms.

Moreover, inaccurate news articles diminish the trust in the media and undermine the credibility of reliable news sources. When readers come across false information, they may become skeptical of all news content, making it hard to differentiate between accurate reporting and falsehoods. This loss of trust can have long-term consequences for public discourse, democratic processes, and social harmony.

The issue is aggravated by the fact that online news articles are often not corrected quickly enough, allowing outdated or erroneous information to continue circulating unchecked. Unlike traditional print media, where corrections can be made in subsequent editions, online news articles can remain accessible indefinitely, exacerbating the spread of misinformation.

Outdated Infrastructure easily gets overloaded

Online news organizations often struggle with outdated infrastructure that hampers their ability to scale and serve peak traffic. This can result in slow-loading web pages, frequent crashes or downtime, and limited bandwidth capacity, severely affecting their ability to deliver timely and reliable content to their audience.

Many online news organizations still rely on outdated CMS, servers, and hosting providers that are not equipped to handle the demands of modern web traffic. The lack of investment in infrastructure upgrades or technology refresh cycles further exacerbates the problem, leaving newsrooms struggling to cope with the ever-increasing demands of online audiences. As these issues have not been addressed for years, the cost to correct them can be prohibitive.

User Generated Content (UGC) provides valuable opportunities for audience interaction and content enrichment, but can be challenging for digital publishers to manage. For one, it is important to maintain a balance between encouraging user engagement and safeguarding against abusive behavior and spam which requires continuous monitoring and adaptation of community guidelines, but the volume and speed at which UGC proliferates demands agile content management systems and real-time response mechanisms to promptly address emerging issues.

The consequences of outdated infrastructure are two-fold. First, it compromises the user experience, as visitors encounter slow page load times, buffering videos, and unresponsive websites, leading to frustration and disengagement. Second, it undermines the credibility and competitiveness of news organizations in an increasingly crowded digital landscape. With readers accustomed to seamless and instantaneous access to information, any impediment to their browsing experience can drive them to seek news from alternative sources.

Moreover, outdated infrastructure poses significant scalability challenges, particularly during sudden spikes in traffic due to viral content or breaking news events. News organizations may find themselves ill-prepared to handle the surge in visitors, leading to performance degradation or outright crashes. Such incidents not only disrupt the dissemination of critical information but also tarnish the reputation of the news organization and erode audience trust.

Security challenges

In today's digital landscape, online security has become a critical aspect, especially for digital publishing. As the dissemination of information shifts predominantly to online platforms, publishers face numerous security challenges, including safeguarding sensitive content, protecting intellectual property, defending against cyber threats, and ensuring the integrity of their platforms.

DDoS attacks are frequent in Digital Publishing

Online news outlets find themselves frequently targeted by online attacks that highlight the vulnerabilities of the digital media landscape. These attacks range from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks aimed at disrupting website functionality to hacking attempts that seek to breach security protocols and compromise sensitive information. The motivations behind these attacks are diverse and can include political agendas, ideological differences, the notoriety that comes with taking a major site down, or simply malicious intent. While this is no doubt annoying for those on the receiving end, there’s something larger at play here: the attackers undermine press freedom, silence dissenting voices, or manipulate public perception by disrupting the flow of information. It bears mentioning, that journalists and media professionals often face harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence through online channels, further exacerbating the challenges of maintaining a free and independent press.

Ad-blockers are not just a threat to your revenue

Ad blockers pose significant challenges and consequences for the digital publishing industry, impacting both publishers and advertisers. One major consequence is the loss of revenue for publishers, as ad blockers prevent advertisements from being displayed to users, thereby reducing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and decreasing ad impressions. This loss of revenue can directly impact the financial sustainability of digital publishing businesses, leading to budget cuts, layoffs, or even closures of publications.

Moreover, ad blockers disrupt the traditional advertising ecosystem by diminishing the value of digital advertising inventory. As ad blockers become more widespread, advertisers may be less willing to invest in digital advertising, leading to decreased demand for ad space and lower ad rates. This downward pressure on ad prices further compounds the revenue challenges publishers face, making it increasingly difficult to monetize digital content through traditional advertising models.

Optimization challenges

The abundance of news content available on the internet and the emergence of content aggregation platforms and social media networks have created a major challenge for digital publishers. With an almost endless amount of free content available online, publishers are struggling to differentiate their content and capture audience attention. This oversaturation of content, combined with the lack of effective ways to monetize their digital assets, makes it difficult for publishers to achieve sustainable profitability in an increasingly crowded and competitive digital marketplace. As a result, digital publishers are feeling immense pressure to innovate, adapt, and find new revenue streams to thrive in the evolving landscape of digital publishing.

Paywalls can be both a challenge and an opportunity for digital publishers. While implementing paywalls might deter users who are used to accessing content for free, leading to decreased website traffic and advertising revenue, many publishers still prioritize gating high-value content. This is because it allows them to monetize their most valuable assets, such as exclusive interviews, in-depth analysis, or premium features. By offering such content behind a paywall, publishers can cater to audiences willing to pay for quality journalism, diversify revenue streams, and reduce reliance on volatile advertising revenue. The approach not only helps sustain editorial excellence but can also foster a sense of value and exclusivity among subscribers, enhancing loyalty and retention rates. Additionally, gating high-value content can encourage a culture of quality journalism and accountability within the industry. This commitment to quality over quantity not only benefits publishers and subscribers but also contributes to a healthier media ecosystem.

Readers increasingly turn to social networks as their primary source of news content, marking a significant shift in how information is discovered, consumed, and disseminated. These platforms have become ubiquitous channels through which individuals access a continuous stream of news updates, commentary, and analysis. For some, the appeal lies in the immediacy and convenience, allowing users to stay informed about current events in real-time and engage with content in a dynamic and interactive manner, while others enjoy the personalized nature of social media algorithms that cater to users' preferences, serving them news stories and updates tailored to their interests and behaviors.

The absence of stringent fact-checking mechanisms on social media platforms has led to concerns about the proliferation of misinformation and fake news, undermining the credibility and reliability of the information being circulated. Despite these challenges, the allure of social media as a convenient and accessible source of news content continues to shape the media landscape, reshaping traditional notions of journalism and influencing how younger generations engage with and interpret current events in the digital age.

Traditional newspapers have struggled with outdated technology ingrained in their print-centric workflows. Legacy systems, such as archaic CMS and print-focused design frameworks, present significant hurdles in adapting to the dynamic and fast-paced nature of online publishing. These outdated technologies hinder agility, making it challenging to promptly deliver content and effectively engage with digital audiences. Moreover, the reliance on print-centric workflows often leads to suboptimal user experiences online, as original content may not be formatted or fully optimized for digital consumption.

Traditional newspapers must overcome technological barriers by embracing modern, agile solutions tailored to the online landscape. These solutions will enable them to deliver compelling content experiences and stay competitive in the ever-evolving digital media ecosystem.

Take back your editorial power with instant purge

With instant purge, online publishers have the ability to instantly remove or modify published content across digital platforms. This authority allows editors to rectify errors, update information, or respond to emerging developments in real-time. By doing so, editors maintain the credibility of their publications, ensuring that readers receive the most accurate and relevant information. 

Instant purge capabilities also allow editors to respond immediately to legal or ethical concerns, mitigating potential liabilities and reputational damage. This ability to exercise editorial oversight in near real-time enhances the trustworthiness of online publications and highlights digital media's agility and responsiveness in adapting to evolving audience expectations and dynamic news cycles. As online publishing continues to evolve, instant purge capabilities remain a defining feature, shaping the editorial landscape and to set themselves up for success, digital publishers must choose a CDN that allows them to invalidate content worldwide within milliseconds of receiving a purge request.

Cache is king 

Caching content provides several benefits that go beyond improving website load times. For digital publishers, the most significant advantage is the substantial reduction in latency achieved by storing copies of news content on servers strategically distributed across various geographic locations. When a user requests content, the CDN serves it from the server nearest to the user, minimizing the distance data needs to travel and resulting in faster load times. This enhanced speed not only improves user experience but also leads to higher engagement and satisfaction, ultimately contributing to increased conversions and revenue.

Additionally, caching enhances website scalability and reliability. By offloading traffic from the origin server and distributing it across the network of servers, websites can easily handle surges in traffic, ensuring consistent performance even during peak traffic or unexpected spikes. This scalability is vital for online publishers, as they often experience fluctuating traffic levels or sudden surges due to viral breaking news or viral content. Offloading content from the origin can also help offset expensive infrastructure upgrades that could have wide-ranging consequences, as many of them have built out their infrastructure on outdated architectures.

Moreover, caching on a network of servers can be crucial in mitigating the impact of online DDoS attacks. By distributing traffic across multiple servers, CDNs can help absorb and mitigate malicious traffic more effectively, reducing the risk of downtime or service interruptions. Additionally, many CDNs offer built-in security features such as bot protection, TLS  encryption, and Web Application Firewall (WAF) protection, all further enhancing website security and resilience against cyber threats.

Beyond performance and security benefits, caching on a CDN also has positive implications for search engine optimization (SEO). Faster load times and improved website performance can improve rankings, as search engines like Google prioritize user experience metrics in their algorithms. As a result, websites using CDNs may see an increase in organic traffic and visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).

For information on how to cache more content at the edge:

Instant log files bring real-time editorial intelligence

Instant log files offer real-time insights into user behavior, website performance, and online delivery. Publishers gain valuable visibility into website traffic, including the number of visitors, pages viewed, and geographic distribution. Furthermore, they can show which articles are spiking or running hot, allowing publishers to react and capitalize on the opportunity. These insights allow publishers to make informed decisions on content placement, optimization strategies, and advertising placement to maximize engagement and revenue. Instant log files also help publishers quickly identify and address technical issues such as server errors or page load times, allowing them to take corrective action before it's too late. In addition, online publishers can uncover valuable trends and patterns in user behavior that inform content strategy and audience targeting efforts. In essence, instant log files empower digital publishers to adapt quickly to changing trends and user preferences, ultimately driving greater audience engagement.

A/B testing at the edge

A/B testing and personalization at the network edge have emerged as pivotal strategies for rapidly enhancing user experiences. Presenting two variants of a webpage, app interface, ads or features to users and analyzing their responses, lets companies determine which variant performs better. Whether measured in click-through rates, conversion rates, or user engagement levels, the data provides valuable insight into how news organizations can maximize engagement. By conducting A/B tests at the network edge—where content delivery and user interactions occur—organizations can gain real-time insights into user preferences and behavior, allowing for swift adjustments and optimizations to improve performance and user satisfaction.

Personalization, on the other hand, takes user experience optimization a step further by tailoring content, recommendations, or services to individual users based on any combination of their unique preferences, devices, platforms, behaviors, or demographic information. Personalization algorithms analyze vast amounts of data, including past interactions, browsing history, purchase behavior, and even contextual information such as location or time of day, to deliver highly relevant and customized experiences to each user.

When A/B testing and personalization are implemented at the network edge, they leverage the proximity to end-users to minimize latency and maximize responsiveness. By bringing testing and personalization capabilities closer to users, organizations can deliver optimized experiences in near real-time, enhancing engagement and retention and ultimately achieving their business goals more effectively. Additionally, operating at the network edge allows for scalability and flexibility in adapting to changing user preferences and market trends swiftly.

Authenticate your subscribers at the edge

Implementing user authentication at the network edge can significantly improve the user experience and optimize the performance of online services and applications. By authenticating visitors closer to the point of access, such as a website, application, or network service, news organizations can better protect their resources and sensitive data from unauthorized access and potential security threats.

Moreover, user authentication at the network edge improves user experience by reducing latency and enhancing responsiveness. Digital publishers can streamline the authentication process, reducing the time it takes for users to access resources or services. This improved efficiency greatly enhances user satisfaction. By offloading authentication tasks to edge servers or services, publishers can alleviate the burden on centralized authentication systems. This improves scalability and reliability for large-scale deployments and high-volume traffic scenarios. User authentication at the network edge represents a proactive approach to security and user experience management, offering tangible benefits in terms of security, performance, and usability for online services and applications.

Read more about all the benefits a edge cloud platform can bring Digital Publishing here:


While the industry overall faces uphill battles, we want to acknowledge that digital publishers have come a long way in terms of technological advancement, transitioning from archaic and outdated systems to delivering news with unprecedented speed and efficiency. It is truly remarkable that in an industry that Initially relied on basic content management systems and rudimentary online platforms, digital publishers now take advantage of cutting-edge technologies and advanced analytics to streamline content creation, distribution, and audience engagement. With the help of real-time content processing and automated publishing workflows, news dissemination occurs at record speeds, allowing readers to access breaking stories instantly on various devices and platforms. Additionally, integrating rich media, interactive features, and personalized content recommendations enhances user experiences, promoting deeper engagement and loyalty. By continuously innovating and adapting to evolving digital landscapes, publishers have revolutionized how information is consumed, fundamentally reshaping the media industry.

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