Morning Brew has come a long way since the brand first launched in 2015. After the success of its newsletter, Morning Brew developed a media ecosystem that now includes a website, podcasts, events, webinars, and other educational programming, a vibrant social media presence, and video content.
Connecting with an audience of 18 million per month is a tall order, though. Delivering the latest news and insights around business and technology, across multiple social and media channels, is even harder. How do they do it?
To find out, Carolina Gonzalez, solution engineer Sanity, sat down with Drew Monroe, director of engineering at Morning Brew, and Drew (not a typo!) Bredvick, solution engineer at Vercel, the frontend platform Morning Brew uses to deploy their content. Check out the takeaways, or watch the full recording:
Morning Brew’s internal content management system (CMS) worked fine when the content team was only sending out a newsletter. But when they decided to become a media company, serving their content in new ways, across different formats and channels, Morning Brew quickly realized their homegrown solution wasn’t going to cut it.
The problem was that their internal CMS was very rigid. Upon logging in, content editors could choose the stories they wanted to include in the current newsletter, and they could write some supporting text—and that was about it. There was no room to expand or modify the schema or representation. This is anathema to a media company, which has to move fast and deliver cutting-edge insights to stay ahead. Frustrated, the content team was constantly reinventing the wheel to get their content out into the world.
The development team wasn’t happy either. Delivering HTML to the web versus the newsletter was a messy process that required elaborate workarounds. The team was using a monolithic Ruby on Rails app to store and serve content. Again, this worked for a simple newsletter, but to deliver more content and allow it to stand on its own outside the structured environment of a newsletter, they needed something more flexible.
As they scaled, Morning Brew knew they wanted a headless CMS. Unlike a traditional CMS, a headless CMS decouples the front-end presentation from the back-end CMS. This allows teams to quickly spin up and repurpose content without a lot of extra work.
“Finding a headless CMS was our first goal, but Sanity is so much more than that. Suddenly we could think about how our data could be used in different areas and mediums,” said Drew Monroe from Morning Brew. “Whether it’s the web, the newsletter, a podcast, YouTube, our commerce sites—we realized we could do it all without our editors duplicating content manually.”
Today, Sanity is managing over 30,000 documents in a production dataset, serving 11 million API requests a month, and over 15 terabytes of data for Morning Brew.
Media companies have to be nimble, so repeatable processes are crucial for success. Editorial and dev teams at Morning Brew wanted to build workflows that allowed each team to do what it does best. “We wanted to templatize our approach and give content teams Lego blocks to build what they need,” said Drew.
For the past decade, WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editors have been the gold standard for content. However, the semantics of a WYSIWYG inhibit teams from creating repeatable workflows around content. By thinking of content as data and removing the semantics of WYSIWYG editors, content teams can focus on content, and dev teams can focus on development. They’re no longer tripping over each other to get work done.
Overall, Sanity has enabled Morning Brew to rethink—and systematize—their whole content creation process. Before, only the engineers had access to the internal schema; by default, they served as gatekeepers for how content was structured. Now, product designers and content creators map out user journeys in Sanity and Figma to think about how a new piece of content fits into the overall schema.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” said Drew.
Morning Brew understands that scalability is impossible if editorial teams can’t own their own content. With Sanity, editorial teams can move fast without tapping engineers every time they want to update the website or post a podcast.
“Standing up a new brand is almost self-serve,” said Drew. Whenever editorial wants to add a new piece of gated content, for example, they can do it themselves, seamlessly adding a PDF or video, a title, and the size form, and collecting all necessary information from the end user. And it’s not just gated content. Teams can self-serve managing and manipulating home pages, nav bars, featured stories, spotlights, and more.
Want to learn more about how Sanity's unique approach of treating content as data can help you launch and iterate faster? Get in touch for a demo.