Media companies took notice when venture-backed sites such as Vox and BuzzFeed plunged tens of millions of dollars into their content management systems. With cool names like Chorus and Kinja, these systems were so sexy that they were used as recruiting tools for designers and writers.
Shortly after this “CMS renaissance,” The New York Times spent several years creating a new content management system called Scoop, only to announce this summer that it was adopting new technologies developed by Facebook, including Relay and GraphQL, to store, connect and retrieve data. In its announcement, it admitted that its existing version of Scoop can’t do it all and doesn’t even support all its websites.
Syndicating And Targeting Content Creates New Challenges
I applaud the Times for being public about combining tools from other companies with its own system. Unfortunately, it is all too rare to hear this kind of honest discussion about how to create the best content management stack, as many publisher development teams guard their decisions carefully and push too hard to create the whole technology in-house. The right balance requires compromise and collaboration from everyone involved.
Unlike with ad tech, companies can often get in a debate about “build or buy” for content management systems. As responding to fast-changing industry trends around distribution and monetization becomes such a huge part of content publishing, a CMS is bumping up against classic ad tech issues. The pace of change is now dictated by outside companies, and publishers are, to an extent, at their mercy.
Today, the typical content website generates a lot of traffic and about a sixth of its revenue from content distributed on social media platforms, a number that is likely to grow. Video has become a key revenue generator, and mobile has changed the nature of content templates and page design.