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Microsoft International Press - YFM

Date: Wednesday, 18 Sep 2002 14:18 PM
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Yfm Revamps Its YWorld Web Site by Moving from Red Hat Linux to Microsoft Technologies

The original case study can be found at:

The YWorld Web site was originally developed and maintained internally on a Red Hat Linux platform with Apache. However, the response to Yfm's engaging Web site became so overwhelming, with visitor numbers increasing daily, that it was impossible to update the content on a regular basis using the existing infrastructure. Yfm required a more scalable, reliable product that offered a more flexible way of updating Web site content.

By teaming with Absol and Delapse consultants, Yfm implemented a solution built on Microsoft technologies that not only streamlines this process, but also adds exciting features, like real-time chats and interactive polls. Better still, the new, award-winning site was built and maintained at a fraction of the total cost of the previous environment.

Company Overview

Yfm is the largest regional radio station in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a listener base of 1,552,000 a week, and 50 employees. Established in 1997, Yfm began a rapid ascent in popularity and now enjoys unparalleled loyalty from South Africa's urban youth, ages 16 to 29. Yfm operates as the only radio brand in South Africa that continually walks the cutting edge of technology, music, and creative originality. A recent South African government poll places Yfm DJs fifth in the top 20 most influential people in South Africa.

In 1998, Yfm released a national youth lifestyle magazine, Y Mag, and, in 2000, a Web site, YWorld. Both have increased the value of the "Y" brand and reflect the heart of Yfm, which is an expression of real people talking to real people in a style and language they understand. There are no restrictions on the languages used by the station - you can speak Zulu, Sotho, Afrikaans, or a unique township street language called "tsotsi-taal" and receive a response from the Yfm DJs. Combine this linguistic agility with DJs who have a real connection to life in the new South Africa - along with the hottest, most pumping jams with ownership of the artists producing these sounds - and you have the Y experience.

Business Challenge

YWorld Web site was originally developed and maintained internally on a Red Hat Linux platform. However, the response to Yfm's engaging and compelling Web site was so overwhelming, with visitor numbers increasing daily, that it was impossible to update the content on a regular basis with the existing infrastructure.

"We wanted DJs and programmers - among others - to be able to update content continuously and to interact in 'real-time' with our Web site visitors," says Dirk Hartford, CEO of Yfm. "But with the old site, we first had to hand over content to the developer, who would then code the content, and then we could post it. This procedure was not only slow but also extremely expensive."

Yfm required a more scalable, reliable product that could offer a more flexible way of updating Web site content.

Why Yfm Chose Microsoft and Absol

Because the site had been running on a Linux platform, Yfm considered PHP as a solution, as well as MySQL and PostGres as alternative database servers. Yfm chose the Microsoft solution, which is widely supported, stable, scalable, and fast. Yfm realized that, although the Linux and PHP software might initially appear cheaper than Microsoft solution, the actual cost would have been greater in the long term with those alternative solutions.

"With the Linux site, we thought the costs would be very low," says Kim Thipe, Marketing Director, Yfm. "But, it seems like we were always in the process of building - there were always things that had to be updated by the developer, and the costs just became astronomical. With the Microsoft solution, our cost is 80 percent less than with the Linux site."

Yfm saved money in several ways by choosing to develop the solution on the Microsoft platform:

- Building and deploying the system was faster and less expensive than it would have been on the Linux platform, because there are plenty of experienced developers available for the Microsoft solutions.

- The Microsoft solution is easy to manage, so Yfm does not have to hire highly specialized, expensive staff to run the site.

- Yfm staff can update content themselves, which improves the frequency of information publication and reduces site maintenance costs.


Yfm required an open platform solution, one that is widely used and well known among numerous content partners. Additionally, in order to plan for growth of the site and the customer base, Yfm needed the solution to be highly scalable.

Integration, Functionality, and Syndication

In just two months of development time, Absol and Delapse teamed with Yfm to create a three-tier, comprehensive content management solution that included a complex user management and profile handler fully integrated with e-mail and Short Message Service (SMS) functionality for customer relationship management (CRM). By using XML, syndication of content with various site partners is possible in what is a "push and pull" environment. Called AbsolPublisher, the core content management system uses Java components, with an ASP-based user interface (UI).

At the site, registered users receive secure passwords that the site authenticates and then enables them to participate in a variety of exciting and interactive online activities, including competitions, chats with DJs and celebrities, surveys, and opinion polls. Users can also discover the latest news about community-related events.

User-Oriented Delivery

The solution enables Yfm to update and integrate its database of 7,000 registered members much more effectively. The content is stored in a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 database and is format independent (HTML, e-mail, SMS) as well as delivery-medium independent (HTTP, Wireless Application Protocol [WAP], Simple Mail Transfer Protocol [SMTP]). The system applies rules based on a user's requested format and compiles a document best suited to the user's interface. YWorld Web site content is delivered generally through the Web, e-mail, and SMS. By being XML-compliant, an additional interface enables bi-directional content syndication with a variety of partner Web sites, including the MSN portal. For example, Yfm was able to send an SMS message to each mobile phone of a particular DJ's 3,000 fans to announce the release of his new comedy CD. Yfm can tailor its messages and announcements by communicating in the language most familiar to a specific pool of people.

"Building on Microsoft technologies, including SQL Server 2000 and Windows 2000 Server with IIS [Internet Information Services], we were able to create a secure, integrated solution that allows content to be delivered in many formats - HTML, e-mail, and SMS - says Mac Anamourlis, Managing Director of Absol.

"In addition, the content can be accessed in many ways, including on the Web and from WAP phones."

The Microsoft technology solution implemented has enabled Yfm to live up to what its mission statement says it seeks to achieve: "An expression of real people talking to real people in a style and language they understand to ultimately enhance the Y experience - an attitude, a lifestyle, a culture, a people, a movement."

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