For Discover, online growth doubles as an operating bright spot (we now have approximately 1 million monthly unique visitors) and an all-consuming strategic concern (continuing to grow and monetize that traffic).

Based on my conversations at trade events, however, many publishers still struggle with the basic issue of getting content online in a way that is timely, efficient and interactive.  On top of that, the twin financial and publishing crises make it unlikely that anyone can round up the capital to do a 1999-style $5 million custom CMS development.

Enter the open source content management system.

FOLIO: covered a number of CMS solutions in an article last year, along with Drupal and a few other open source options in a blog post this summer.

At Discover, we went with Plone, which was recommended by our outside developers and seemed to combine a simple, intuitive platform with a robust open source development community.  You can read a case study about our March 2007 launch here at the Plone site.

Almost three years later, here are my takeaways on our open source experience:

  • Open source delivers on the basics. The move to Plone delivered on the basic value proposition of open source: we got a very sturdy platform that worked well for our editors and didn’t have to pay a dime in license fees.
  • Any concerns we had about security or support were unfounded. Plone worked as well or better in these respects than the custom CMS we inherited when we acquired Discover Media in 2005.
  • Our open source platform did not work well for a subset of more specific media applications. The downside of open source is that the functionality you get is dependent on where the developer community decides to spend its time.  In our case, this meant that Plone wasn’t able to support our desired features in areas like blogs, photo galleries and video.
  • You can solve this problem by integrating industry standard media solutions with your open source CMS. We were able to work with our developers to integrate best-of-breed providers like Brightcove (for video and photo galleries) and WordPress (for blogs) to create a blended solution.