Choosing a CMS for a Newspaper

Having the right CMS (Content Management System) for a newspaper has never been more important than today. If you’re striving for a Digital First business model, it becomes absolutely critical. Based on our experience, we provide some key considerations as you undertake one of the most important business decisions for your publication.
First – Reflect
While it may sound a little trite, it can be very helpful. One tactic we use is Design Thinking. Bring together your sales team, editorial, IT, circulation, audience and marketing teams. If you have an analytics team, be sure to include them. Take a day or half-day and use a Design Thinking facilitator (from outside the company) to guide you. We’ve always found some interesting surprises.
Get Back to the Future
Not the movie. Be sure to look ahead and make some considerations. This is where your IT team plays a key role. You’re going to need to consider several critical technologies coming down the pipe along with how and if you might leverage them. You’ll want to consider;
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Analytics (how this will play with monetization, audience, marketing and editorial)
  • Drones (impact on editorial)
  • Cloud infrastructure or On-Premise or a hybrid model?
  • Augmented Reality
  • Ability to be agile and move quickly
  • Voice/Audio (e.g. Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple)
The Vendor and The Relationship
Whatever CMS you choose, you’re likely going to be in a long-term relationship with the vendor. If you choose a pure Cloud-based solution, you’ll want to consider their business strength. If they shutdown or are hacked, what happens to your content? Do some solid investigative work here and ask about their financial security. You need to go beyond the usual interviews with existing clients of theirs.
If you’re going on-premise, you may want to consider an escrow clause for the software. This isn’t really possible with Cloud based, but you can demand right to know in case of impending bankruptcy and the ability to port the solution to another host.
Also, if they say they use an Agile Methodology for development, have your IT team assess that they do (provided your IT team uses this approach.) If you’re IT team or theirs uses the Waterfall Methodology, it’s time to walk away.
The future and today is all about interconnected services and capabilities. An ideal vendor understands this. The two best we’ve seen in this regard is ARC Publishing and CUE by CCI/Escenic. With CUE being the best in terms of API’s and building for the future. ARC is good, but they’re building their own ecosystem. While WordPress may look enticing, beyond a smaller newspaper, WordPress holds many challenges.
Avoid Hybrid Approaches
A new CMS can be expensive, we get it. It can be tempting to create a hybrid model that tries to mesh some old stuff with new stuff. While this may seem to save dollars, it won’t. You’ll end up paying more for custom API’s and software to make the old work with the new…which also means it will break more often and cost more to maintain. We have another post coming about this.
Scoping, Detailing and Planning
This is a huge investment, so you want to be sure. There are no guarantees. We highly recommend hiring a project manager from outside to guide the process. Getting some outside experience to help with writing project charters, guiding the vendor selection and helping avoid internal politics and ensuring a balanced business decision is made. Always hire a vendor neutral consultant in this regard.
There are a number of other considerations you’ll want to make and here we just wanted to touch on them briefly. We’re building a more comprehensive guide and of course, we’re available for a chat.
The key take-aways are that you want to ensure you’ve got the primary stakeholders at the table from start to finish. It’s not just the investment in the CMS solution, it’s the long-term costs of maintaining it, the vendor relationship and the ability to make the CMS pay for itself with revenue models beyond just advertising.

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