File image: Wesley Diphoko, Head of the Independent Digital Lab. (IOL).
CAPE TOWN - If you visited the leading digital media sites from June 11-12, you would have been greeted by the famous WordPress theme plant (succulent). This was due to an outage of the WordPress VIP product - a version of WordPress that's service-designed for major digital publishers.

This hit several leading sites, such as TechCrunch, Quartz and Rolling Stone.

It also knocked major publishers such as the BBC and affected companies that use WordPress blogs for their official news hubs, such as Facebook.

WordPress said the issue was with its VIP Go service, which allows companies to use its blog technology on their own websites. That meant that the problem quickly rippled out across the various websites that use it, which included many of the world's biggest media organisations.

This incident revealed the extent to which leading digital media companies rely on WordPress for their existence and functioning and highlighted a risk faced by digital media companies.

What can digital media companies do to cushion themselves against such an occurrence in the future?

There are basically two options that can be considered to mitigate against the risk similar to the WordPress outage.

One can be applied in the short-term and the second option can be applied in the long-term.

The first and immediate option can focus on creation of the same site on two different platforms.

In this case it seems most digital media companies had their sites built on WordPress VIP platform.

Setting up a site on a different platform as a back-up may mean setting up a site on a non-WordPress platform such as Joomla and others.

Although this approach may prove to be expensive, it would save digital media companies the embarrassment of an unexpected shutdown by their tech provider.

The second option would involve developing an in-house Content Management System.

This approach has been followed by media companies such as Vox Media with its Chorus Content Management System as well as the Washington Post.

These companies are some of the few that have avoided the WordPress VIP outage as they are using in-house developed system.

This incident, however, should cause the media industry to reflect about their reliance on the technology industry and catering for risk.

The fact that some media companies have created their own platforms indicates that the industry as a whole needs to find a way to develop its own systems.

This may mean a CMS platform developed by the media industry for use within the media industry.

Such a system would have to be built in such a way that whenever one is experiencing an outage or an attack the backup version can work while the repair work is conducted.

The media industry is too important to be dependent on single company systems.

The nature of the media industry is such that its existence should be guaranteed at all times.

The over-reliance on WordPress is presenting a risk for the media industry that should be avoided at all cost.

The time is ripe for the industry to develop its own technology systems.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of The Infonomist. You can follow him on Twitter via: @WesleyDiphoko

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