Penton Media

Penton Media


Penton Media, Inc. is a 125-year-old business-to-business (b2b) media company that produces digital and print publications, and coordinates live events designed to provide buyers, sellers, and industry experts with the information they need to make decisions. Penton has deep and long-running experience in over a dozen industries with an online reach of over 90 million unique visitors a year. 

The Challenge

One of Penton’s recent digital initiatives involved creating a Drupal-based comparison engine for eventual use on many different web properties. The engine allows site visitors to select items for comparison, then sort and filter them based on a variety of attributes.

Consumer and business-to-business (b2b) sites frequently offer product-comparison functionality so shoppers can efficiently investigate the features of an array of products. However, most of these sites focus on a narrow group of products and are therefore applicable in only one context. Penton’s comparison needs are more diverse, and their goal is to use the same engine to power up to 150 different web sites that compare a wide array of products and services.

The Solution

In building the engine, Achieve created several modules, taking care not to hard-code logic related to the types of items the engine compares. Instead, configurations for what types of items to compare, which data point attributes to use, how many attributes to display in the initial comparison, and many other options, including configurable email notifications and messaging on the site, all happen via web-based administration. This makes the engine more flexible, and it enables non-technical administrators to quickly deploy a comparison site.

When companies sign up to showcase their products on certain Penton web sites, they pay for a “service level agreement.” A lower-cost service level agreement displays smaller-sized images of the company’s products and shorter product descriptions on the web site, and does not allow for certain features, such as “Request More Information” emails from interested site visitors.

Custom Drupal modules handle the remaining display options, enabling Penton to offer companies a variety of service levels.

On the end-user side, typical features, such as saving frequent and favorite comparisons, are available to registered users on the comparison sites.

The Result

The Achieve team’s expertise in Solr configuration allowed them to configure it to index the Drupal data and optimize the comparison engine’s performance. Additionally, Solr is configured to respond to the comparison requests and push all the relevant data. Drupal is only involved in parsing the data for display, which greatly improves the performance of the comparison engine sites.

Achieve and Penton partnered to create the project requirements, and Achieve architected a solution that fit those business objectives.  Importantly the comparison engine satisfies immediate needs and also provides flexibility so it can be used as more sites come online.

The engine is a piece of technology that allows Penton to execute the core of their business—adding value to b2b transactions by effectively managing and sharing information and making it accessible to end users.


Delivered a cutting edge comparison engine to add valuable information to each of Penton’s digital properties to better inform their clients and customers that enables them to make better business decisions.