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The Blast

Custom WordPress Theme Development And Plugin Development

Launched in 2017 by renowned celebrity reporter Mike Walters, The Blast provides 24/7, up-to-the-minute news about the world’s biggest celebrities, all optimized for mobile consumption and social media engagement. The site is comprised of a staff that has been instrumental in breaking the biggest stories about some of the most talked about celebrities in the world.

With extensive experience designing and engineering high-scale, high-traffic publishing sites, Zeek Interactive partnered with The Blast to bring the new media site to life in a compressed timeline and ensure it could:

  • Leverage multiple monetization methods and a variety of media types
  • Handle large amounts of concurrent website traffic and huge viral traffic spikes
  • Provide a fantastic user experience across all browsers and devices

Key Features

DESIGN:  Our design team created a bold, responsive design with a mobile-first approach that looks stunning on all screens from mobile to desktop. The multi-size card layout allows The Blast to showcase a variety of stories in a small space and brightly-colored visual flags label content with calls to action like exclusive, see pics, and play video.

PROGRAMMING: The website is developed in PHP, JavaScript, and MySQL with WordPress. It integrates with a third-party ad network, YouTube, and Brightcove for video management and monetization, and includes a deep analytics integration.

PLUGIN DEVELOPMENT:  Each day at 4:00 am Eastern Time, The Blast homepage is updated to display a new set of curated stories with hand-selected page placement. To manage this unique publishing workflow, Zeek built a homepage publishing tool as a custom WordPress plugin. The plugin allows The Blast team to plan, curate, and prepare the homepage design in advance and even schedule Saturday and Sunday editions on Friday to eliminate the need to have staff working over the weekend.

CMS:  WordPress is an open-source, user-friendly content management system that allows The Blast to manage the website and all of its content and media without needing to edit code or engage a developer. The custom WordPress site gives their in-house team the ability to curate content and quickly create user polls, media slideshows, image galleries, and video features. It also includes the ability to easily add a visual flag label to a published piece of content.

SLIDESHOWS:  Image slideshows are used throughout the site not only to display galleries of images, but to create a monetization opportunity. Zeek developed a custom slideshow feature tightly integrated with ads and analytics to increase ad impressions and track slides viewed.

PERFORMANCE:  When working on a site like The Blast, scalability, optimization, and performance must be top of mind from day one. In the first 30 days, the site went from 0 to nearly 2 million unique views and today the site averages 4.5 million uniques and 8+ million page views per month and experiences viral traffic spikes that bring 10,000+ users to the site at the same time. When operating at this scale, slow page load speeds and downtime are not an option.

For an ad and media heavy site like The Blast, it was critical to streamline the code, secure the right hosting and caching solutions, and incorporate image optimizations. With years of experience building and managing high-scale, high-traffic publishing sites, our team focused on building for scale and optimization throughout development to find the right balance between monetization and performance. We also partnered with WP Engine, a leader in the Managed WordPress Hosting and Digital Experience space for a reliable, scalable hosting solution.

CONTINUED SUPPORT:  Our clients often come to us with internal or third-party resources in place and our processes enable us to seamlessly collaborate with teams of all types. Today, we continue to work closely with The Blast — their in-house team manages the website and content and our team operates as their technology arm.

We pay attention to the site’s page load speed and performance, monitoring monthly site visits and page views, as well as the individual traffic spikes to ensure the site continues to perform well, load quickly, and provide a premium experience even with high amounts of concurrent traffic.

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