The Future of Newspaper CMS Platforms

As newspapers move down the path of digital maturity, the Content Management System (CMS) platforms they use are changing drastically. Since we first reviewed the top 4 CMS platforms for newspapers in 2018, a lot has changed and we can start to see what the future is going to look like. In January of 2021 we will be releasing our latest update on the top CMS platforms, that still remain at four. So lets the look ahead.

The Newspaper of the Future

The primary technology that newspapers will lean on in the coming years is Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically the areas of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP.) The two key players already making strides in this area are the ARC Publishing platform born out of The Washington Post several years ago and the other is born out of Canada’s Globe & Mail Newspaper. The New York Times has also worked with AI, initially in the area of sports reporting but is playing in other areas. So does this mean the reason for deploying AI in the newsroom is to reduce editorial teams? Not at all. Quite the opposite.

The Rise of the Augmented Journalist

There have been stories of robojournalists and roboreporters. But we see it very differently. Newspapers are using AI to help with fact checking vast amounts of data they collect from the social web and elsewhere. ML tools can help in validation as well as conducting some baseline research. This provides cognitive boosting to reporters so they can write more informed stories, faster. Humans still and for a very long time to come, write better stories than an AI can. The kind of AI that can write compelling emotional and human stories is not quite there yet.

Already the NY Times has found the benefit of augmented reporters when it comes to sports content. Turns out, AI is very good at doing score summaries, so the reporters can focus on the human side of those games, teams and players. Thus connecting fans with their favourite sports more deeply and in turn those readers are more likely to become loyal subscribers, thus keeping the paper alive and journalists employed.

Advanced Analytics
A core focus of both Sophi and ARC has been using advanced analytics (read Big Data) to move beyond just understanding clicks and web traffic to much deeper content and audience analysis. Newspapers know that to win today and in the future, their content has to be as best it can. Better content and understanding what subscribers and potential subscribers want is critical to topping up revenues lost to the likes of Google and Facebook.

Newspapers know that relying on Google, Facebook and programmatic advertising is not the business model. Using advanced analytics and seeking to better understand the reader will result in more subscribers and ways for advertisers to reach customers more meaningfully through special campaigns and offers.

Private Market Places
Although not necessarily a technology, the rise of the PMP (Private Market Place) is coming. A CMS of the future will need to interconnect with other newspapers for ad brokering. National brands would work with multiple newspapers across a country and the newspapers would be able to provide the reach while getting higher margins per ad than through programmatic. Reporting would be better and much more reliable. Newspaper websites would be much faster if they don’t have to have several programmatic plug-ins running in the background, brands would have built-in safety and the newspapers would get a revenue bump. Programmatic has hurt newspapers and troubles in the industry show it’s hurting advertisers and consumers as well. Already there are some PMP’s in play and so CMS’ in the future will have to be ready for this.

Many newspapers have been into podcasts for a few years and more are incorporating them into their business model. They offer new revenue opportunities, syndicating revenue and another channel to drive digital and print subscribers. But no CMS yet has the ability to manage podcasting.

Future newspaper CMS’ would be able to help in the same way they do with the editorial process along with deciding what goes in front of and behind paywalls.

Data Monetization and Infornomics for Newspapers
The term infonomics is quite new, but it essentially means treating information as an asset and finding new ways to monetize information. One example would be for newspapers over one hundred years old that have a vast inventory of obituaries. That data could be a boon to the healthcare industry in tracking causes of death. Public transportation authorities could use the data to gain additional context to transport problems such as accidents. There are other opportunities.

Traditionally, newspapers have been awful at managing their information as an asset. But then, that’s the same for pretty much all industries. Future CMS’ may have information asset management applications embedded, where they can figure out what content other industries, government and organisations might purchase or content products that can be created from evergreen content.

These are some of the elements we see newspaper CMS platforms incorporating in the coming years. Should ARC, Naviga and remain innovators, they have opportunities. But there is room for disruptors.

Author: Giles Crouch is managing partner and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for sapient.d and a digital anthropologist. He’s worked with newspapers and magazine publishers around the world on digital transformation (adaptation) strategies, developing digital-first approaches and business models and conducted over 300 netnographic studies for brands and in the areas of foreign and public policies. He’s spoken at over 100 events and been interviewed by international news media on issues around the intersection of humans and technology.

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