Media and Entertainment

Penske Media Corp. (PMC) expands digital publishing portfolio with Elastic Site Search


  • 300%
    growth in media properties
  • 50%
    reduction in the number of searches
  • 25%
    increase in reader time on site after searching with Elastic Site Search

Stronger brand loyalty from desktop, mobile readers

PMC enhances end-user experience by serving up more relevant search results with Elastic Site Search.

Faster deployment of acquired media brands

PMC grows by acquisition, and can add new searchable portfolio assets into its publishing platform on day one with Elastic Site Search.

Larger advertising revenue opportunities

PMC targeted readership campaigns generate new ad revenue streams powered by the robust search of Elastic Site Search.

Elastic Site Search powers media giant’s business model of growth through acquisition

It all started with a simple A/B test.

Derek Ramsay, the director of product management at Penske Media Corp. (PMC), was searching for a technological solution that would help the company grow seamlessly as it acquired new media properties — adding to a portfolio of brand names that would eventually include Billboard, Variety, IndieWire, Rolling Stone, WWD, Deadline Hollywood, Robb Report, and others.

Like any savvy director, Ramsay ran a brief A/B test on Deadline with the technology he was using, Google Search Console (GSC), against Elastic Site Search. Ramsay quickly realized Elastic Site Search, a product of the Elastic Enterprise Search solution, would enable PMC to constantly onboard new media properties and maintain their business model of growth via acquisition.

When a user clicked on a result in a search powered by Elastic Site Search, we were also seeing an increase in post-search time on page of 25%. That’s a metric advertisers love. Our A/B test showed that, with Elastic Site Search, readers were getting served up more relevant search results because they were performing fewer searches to find what they were looking for compared to Google Search Console.

– Derek Ramsay, Director of Product Management, PMC

As it turned out, GSC was incapable of sustaining the company’s growth objectives, Ramsay says. GSC also made it difficult to quickly onboard purchased properties while at the same time providing rich search experiences to attract and retain readers and advertisers — the lifeblood of any media company.

Fast forward to today.

Elastic’s search solution enabled the publisher to grow its portfolio to 18 online publications — a nearly three-fold increase — over a period of five years.

Elastic Site Search allows Penske Media to effortlessly migrate online brands we’ve purchased into our system and fine-tune search results. Without Elastic Site Search, it would be more difficult for our business model to succeed.

– Derek Ramsay, Director of Product Management, PMC

A robust reader search experience from day one

After acquiring a new media property, PMC uses Elastic Site Search to migrate content from the acquired site into staging environments that serve as the live search engine. This allows for limited but timely reader search on day one. Then, over the next few days, historical content is added to the staged engine before it is switched to a permanent Elastic Site Search engine dedicated to that site.

The return on investment with Elastic, Ramsay says, has been enormous: Among other things, it has allowed PMC to quickly onboard new publications in a crowded online media marketplace and easily add customized searchable assets into its web publishing platform.

With Elastic Site Search, we’ve seen a ton of benefits in terms of just managing and onboarding a lot of new sites. We now offer a better product, with better search, than we did before.

– Derek Ramsay, Director of Product Management, PMC

The switch to Elastic Site Search has also helped boost page loading speeds of PMC’s online publications. Rendering time is critical to readers of any website, especially when it comes to media sites offering up-to-the-minute news stories on desktop and mobile. Ramsay says page load speeds for PMC’s web properties pass the company’s in-place metrics for desktop and mobile.

What’s more, with Elastic Site Search, PMC is easily able to provide both desktop and mobile users the same search experience while at the same time giving their product owners easy-to-use dashboards with search-related metrics. For example, because Elastic Site Search provides the publisher a real-time understanding of what readers are searching for, the company can use this data to show advertisers they are getting premium exposure for their ads.

Boosting advertising opportunities and readership

In addition to improving the overall search experience, Elastic Site Search has allowed PMC to roll out new reader-focused features as well. Some of the new products include giving online readers access, via a search filter, to premium content that is normally published only in print. Thanks to Elastic Site Search, PMC was also able to develop new tools allowing users to search for stories by the author, Ramsay says.  

Variety — a leading entertainment-focused publication — has increased reader and entertainment industry executive loyalty by making it easy to conduct instant searches of tens of thousands of entertainment executive profiles.

For example, PMC has built a microsite on Variety to attract influential online readers by showcasing an annual list of the 500 most important people in the entertainment industry — all powered by Elastic Site Search and offering the same type of user-engagement search features, including filters for year, country, media category, name, and job function.

All of these and other features powered by Elastic Site Search open the door to new advertising opportunities, Ramsay says. Top executives with glowing profiles might be more likely to read or advertise in Variety. And advertisers are more likely to pay a premium if they know their ads are placed on pages catered to and read by key industry leaders. All the while, the Elastic Site Search dashboard enables PMC to show advertisers whether these and other microsites on the publisher’s properties are popular with readers.

Ramsay sees a continued relationship with Elastic to maintain robust search, and to onboard new digital assets into the PMC ecosystem.

We get approached all the time by vendors offering competing search products. We haven't bitten. We’re happy with Elastic Site Search.

– Derek Ramsay, Director of Product Management, PMC