Business challenge

To better engage with audiences and become a real-time media organization, the Winnipeg Free Press needed to replace disconnected systems and get the most out of data by making access to it easier.


The Winnipeg Free Press deployed a converged infrastructure solution that gives journalists access to relevant content and recommends articles to readers in real time, leading to booming popularity.



reader engagement and numbers by delivering tailored, real-time content


an edge over the competition by putting relevant data at journalists’ fingertips


up revenues by tapping into audience preferences

Business challenge story

Meeting new expectations

In an increasingly connected, digital world, newspapers and other traditional news organizations must adapt to meet changing demands—or risk losing readers.

Timothy Happychuk, IT Director at the Winnipeg Free Press, begins: “Today, people expect to be able to read about and react to major events that are relevant to them in real time, as they happen. The traditional culture of writing reports for the next day’s newspaper doesn’t work anymore—readers want tailored rolling coverage, and they want it now.”

Previously, all of the content the Winnipeg Free Press produced—from news articles and opinion pieces to photographs and videos—was stored in disparate systems, making it difficult to access content at speed. Timothy Happychuk elaborates: “We had hundreds of disjointed servers and storage platforms from different vendors in place, which made accessing data both tricky and time-consuming. It also meant that we weren’t able to analyze our data.”

The Winnipeg Free Press recognized that it was missing out on opportunities to optimize and accelerate its reporting services.

Timothy Happychuk comments: “To gain data-driven insight into reader expectations and preferences, we needed to bring all of this valuable data together in one place and create a central content library—but to do that we needed to completely overhaul our entire IT infrastructure.”

VersaStack gave us the horsepower to take all of our traditionally disassociated data, connect it and tie it all together through one single pane of glass.

— Timothy Happychuk, IT Director, Winnipeg Free Press

Transformation story

Out with the old, in with the new

To reduce data center complexity, reduce costs and bring new speed to data access, the Winnipeg Free Press decided to deploy VersaStack, an integrated infrastructure solution jointly developed by IBM and Cisco. VersaStack combines Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure, which includes server, networking and management components, with the innovation of IBM all-flash and hybrid storage solutions as a pre-prepared and tested platform. In this case, the Winnipeg Free Press selected IBM® Storwize® V7000 system as the storage component.

Timothy Happychuk remarks: “We replaced hundreds of servers and storage units, as well as miles of legacy cabling, with a single VersaStack appliance—dramatically simplifying IT operations. The beauty of VersaStack is that it combines best-of-breed solutions from Cisco and IBM, so we know we’re getting a solution we can rely on. Cisco’s compute and networking solutions are second to none, while IBM is a market leader in the storage space.”

The Winnipeg Free Press worked closely with IBM to implement VersaStack, as Timothy Happychuk recalls: “The IBM team sent out some engineers to validate the design of our VersaStack set-up. They then worked with us to migrate data from our existing systems to VersaStack, ensuring a smooth transition.”

By consolidating to VersaStack, the Winnipeg Free Press gained a single repository for all digital content. Timothy Happychuk comments: “VersaStack has given us the horsepower to take all of our previously disassociated data and tie it all together through a single pane of glass. What’s more, the proven reliability of IBM storage solutions mean that we can sleep easy knowing the system we use for 145 years’ worth of content isn’t going to suddenly go down.”

The company also uses the built-in IBM Easy Tier® functionality offered by IBM Storwize V7000 to optimize the movement of data between high-performance flash and standard hard drive resources included in its storage platform. Timothy Happychuk explains: “Easy Tier moves the most frequently accessed data to our flash storage, making it quicker and easier for users to find what they’re looking for. Working in real time, Easy Tier brings a level of cognitive computing to our IT architecture that enables staff to search for content in a way that we never thought possible.”

Thanks to the high capacity and performance levels of VersaStack, the Winnipeg Free Press is also able to delve deeper into its data for the first time. Today, all data flows through IBM Storwize V7000 into the organization’s custom-developed analytics engine in real time, enabling the Winnipeg Free Press to gain unprecedented insight into readers’ preferences, behavior and interests, and deliver content at speed. “The results have been truly eye-opening,” remarks Timothy Happychuk.

The IBM solution has placed us in a uniquely advantageous position of being one of the only traditional media companies to enjoy day-over-day, month-over-month, year-over-year growth in readership.

— Timothy Happychuk, IT Director, Winnipeg Free Press

Results story

Creating the content that readers want

With VersaStack, the Winnipeg Free Press is on the path to becoming a real-time news organization.

Timothy Happychuk elaborates: “VersaStack gave us the horsepower to take all of our traditionally disassociated data, connect it and tie it all together through one single pane of glass. Now, when journalists or photographers are sent to cover a big event, they are able to rapidly pull up information on previous happenings that might be related in some way. Being able to go back and reference previous articles and reports enables staff to quickly develop a better understanding of what they are covering, helping them to identify themes and patterns that enrich their reporting.

“Being able to access all published content at the drop of a hat—as well as what’s happening in real time—means that journalists are armed with context when they’re out in the field covering newsworthy events, and so can tailor the investigations to ensure they report on what readers want to know. It also means that events are reported on faster, so that readers can follow the news as it happens on our website.”

Big data and analytics systems, based on VersaStack technology, have changed the way that the Winnipeg Free Press approaches content creation—enabling it to tailor reporting to suit readers’ interests. Today, the Winnipeg Free Press is using real-time analytics processing to develop personalized content and digital payment offerings that allows readers to pay per article. Popular ‘Recommended for You’ content and the ability to purchase individual articles online—rather than taking out a long-term web subscription or buying the day’s newspaper—have boosted readership.

Timothy Happychuk says: “Thanks to our powerful, easy-to-use converged infrastructure, we are now able to pull up, analyze and take a closer look at our data—and we’ve learned so much. Being able to analyze the content we produce and how people respond to it in real time has changed the way we operate, and how we deliver stories to readers.

“VersaStack has placed us in a uniquely advantageous position of being one of the only traditional media companies to enjoy day-over-day, month-over-month, year-over-year growth in readership,” remarks Timothy Happychuk. “It has given us tremendous power and flexibility to reach readers in the way they want to be reached, with the information that they actually want, in the format that they want it.”

The Winnipeg Free Press recently won two International News Media Association awards based on the phenomenal continued growth in readership—bucking the trend for traditional news organizations—and its innovative analytics systems for content recommendation.

Timothy Happychuk concludes: “Not only are our journalists better equipped to create content and report on news faster, thanks to their new analytics capabilities, we are also far more in tune with what readers want. Supported by VersaStack, we are increasing engagement and boosting readership—driving up advertising and circulation revenues. Most importantly, our 145-year-old organization is thriving in the new digital media age.”

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About Winnipeg Free Press

The Winnipeg Free Press is an independent publisher serving the city of Winnipeg, Canada and the surrounding communities. In addition to its print newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press publishes local, national and international news, as well as weather, sports and entertainment content, online seven days a week. Its professional journalists, photographers and videographers produce content for an active readership of 145,000 people. Winnipeg Free Press won two International Newspaper Marketing Association (INMA) global media awards for the innovative way it engages with its audiences.

Solution components

  • Storage: VersaStack
  • Storage: Storwize V7000

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