Most publishers are scrambling to update their online content management system (and may even be on their third or fourth upgrade). The choices are staggering and smaller publishers can often be at a loss.
Publishers should choose wisely. Once a CMS is installed, it can be expensive and both time- and labor-intensive to switch to a new system—you can’t just cut and paste content.
Here, Joe Bachana, president of DPCI, a company that helps publishers select and implement content management systems, lists how to approach the process.
What Do You Really (Really) Need?
Get your authoring so your editors and writers can just get online and publish content to specific channels, Bachana told FOLIO:. Publishers should allow people to edit quickly. For image-heavy content, publishers should think about how a prospective CMS can handle galleries and slideshows.
If you go the hosted or enterprise route, understand what you’re getting yourself into. “Many publishers went with a ‘fast model’ over the last year and some now feel like they’re locked in,” Bachana said. “With hosted solutions, what happens is lot of publishers have outgrown the CMS but there is no way can they buy proprietary system because it’s too expensive. If you’re a certain size, it’s perfectly fine to look at outsource.”
Just like a magazine redesign, put together a graphic representation of your site first. “People pick a CMS and start implementing before they have the visuals,” Bachana said. “You can design your Web site completely in Photoshop or Illustrator. Get site maps and wire frames done and write a synopsis about what’s going with each age, and you’ll be ahead of the game.”
Open Source Options
Open source CMS platforms are becoming increasingly popular because they can be implemented at little cost but they aren’t just for smaller publishers. Fast Company uses Drupal, Discover uses Plone; Las Vegas Sports Magazine uses Joomla.
If you’re doing a fair bit of video or social media, according to Bachana, you may need to augment your open source CMS with a dedicated provider such as Brightcove or Altuna for video and KickApps or Ning for social media.
Drupal and Joomla are starting to emerge as the dominant open source platforms with a large base of developers behind them. But each has its own drawbacks. “Drupal tends to be harder to implement but once you get through that it’s a brilliant product for feature richness,” Bachana said. “The opposite is true for Joomla. It’s easy to implement but not as robust a product to implement on an ongoing basis.”
Don’t just look at the product but also the community behind the product. Many publishers have fallen into the trap of adopting an open source platform that seems perfect for them, only to see it wither from lack of support for the development community (several years ago Primedia adopted an open source initiative called “Krang” that today is all but defunct in the developer community). EasyPublish is an open source system that’s been implemented at Hachette Filipacchi but it doesn’t have much support globally and only a few partners in U.S.
Even after you’ve chosen and implemented a CMS, recognize that it’s a constant process. “It’s like a garden—you can’t plant a seed and let it go,” said Bachana. “You want to buy or implement a CMS that does a good job of supporting SEO. But that in itself—just putting up articles—is not enough. You need to spend some time each weekly enriching tagging and making sure URLs and titles exemplify your strategy.”