Decades ago, media companies were firmly in control of content distribution. They meticulously crafted the stories, images and advertising into newspapers that subscribers read each morning.
The rise of digital content changed everything.
Media companies lost control of content distribution and monetization, explains journalist Kyle Chayka in the Nation article, “In the Shadow of the CMS.” He believes building their own CMSes might be the key to taking back this control. “If traditional media companies can build their own distribution and monetization method via the new CMSs, then they can counter the tech duopoly’s advance on their terrain and wrest back some control,” he writes.
This control over how content is managed is critical, not just for the media industry, but for any business competing in the digital world. Chayka astutely observes that CMSes “increasingly influence not just how stories look but how they are produced, discovered, read, and monetized.”
This raises the question, how much control does a CMS have over how a business manages, distributes and monetizes its content? And what should you do about it?
The problem with traditional content management systems
While CMSes have come a long way in allowing users to create unique-looking sites, there are still strings attached that make using an off-the-shelf CMS (no matter how customizable) more of a limiting factor than a competitive advantage.
Content management systems by definition determine how your business manages content. Popular CMSes offer numerous options, plug-ins and customizations that make it feel like businesses have more control, but the reality is that the CMS is almost always a factor in content decisions.
As one developer would frequently remind me, you can make the CMS do anything with enough time and money. Like most marketers, I wanted to move fast and not kill my budget, so we would work around the CMS.
In this way the CMS influences decisions that shape a business’s digital portfolio: Who has access to content? Where and how will you publish content? Can you support mobile apps, IoT and other channels? How creative can you be with page design? What features and tools will you integrate into the CMS? How quickly can you ship new products? What KPIs will you measure?
What trade-offs each business chooses will vary, but if you and your competitors are using the same CMSes, how much of a competitive advantage can the CMS itself offer?
This subtle pressure from the CMS can steer businesses away from innovative products and initiatives that would set them apart. Furthermore, competitors using a CMS or CMSes with similar limits will face the same content bottlenecks and roadblocks to faster shipping.
Is building your own CMS the answer?
Building your own CMS can be an appealing option, but businesses need to consider the resources needed to develop, maintain and continually upgrade a CMS and the related technology. Technology and digital products are accelerating at such a rapid pace. Businesses starting a home-grown CMS run the risk that it will be obsolete before they realize a return on the investment.
Some insight into the magnitude of developing a CMS can be gained by looking at The New York Times Open. Here The New York Times shares its digital journey and the many projects they have undertaken from creating a text editor to simplifying their tech stack with modern technologies (React, Relay and GraphQL).
The New York Times initially developed their CMS, Scoop, in 2008. It took until 2015 to become their primary CMS for print and digital and in May of 2018, they announced “the culmination of a years-long project to create an article ecosystem that promotes internal efficiency and delivers an enhanced reading experience for our users,” in “Reimagining The New York Times Digital Story Experience.” It took 10 years to reach that goal and they will need to continue to invest.
“The digital revolution, however, has not stopped. If anything, the changes in our readers’ habits—the ways that they receive news and information and engage with the world—have accelerated in the last several years. We must keep up with these changes,” The New York Times’ 2020 Group stated in their January 2017 report Journalism That Stands Apart.
A new solution: Content infrastructure
For businesses that want to modernize the way they manage content and break free from common CMS complaints, Contentful proposes a new solution: Content infrastructure.
Content infrastructure provides a means of creating, storing and managing content from a single content hub in a way that empowers you to use and distribute that content anywhere. Content flows easily to populate websites, apps, digital billboards, wearables and all the digital products you haven’t imagined yet.
Instead of imposing limits and standardization that affect how businesses manage their content, we help customers, including TUI Nordic and Telus, create a flexible, modular content infrastructure that empowers editors, designers, marketers, product managers and developers to work more efficiently and innovate beyond the boundaries of the outdated CMS model.
For digital leaders, product managers, editors, marketers and other CMS-users
Escape tedious chores and departmental gridlock. The web app empowers editors to create unique content on any platform, in record time, and independently of developers.
Flexible content modeling - Create custom content types, pick and choose individual fields, and arrange entries in flexible hierarchies.
Rich editor interface - Intuitive, customizable interfaces will delight editors, designers, marketers and product managers with time-saving features that make it easy to create, preview, publish and reuse content across products.
Support for multiple languages and locales - Granular locale settings help you launch on time, every time.
Roles and permissions - Reimagine work flows and collaboration with granular control over roles, permissions and content governance that keep your content safe and your team productive.
Integrate with the tools you love - Easily integrate with your favorite tools for analytics, testing and more.
Content infrastructure lets you build without any limitations. Code in any language and use your favorite tools and frameworks. Manage, integrate, and deliver digital content across all types of clients, devices, and platforms.
Speed up your development cycle - Powerful APIs, well-documented features, and working demos help you prototype with ease and build sophisticated apps faster than ever before.
RESTful API - Our stateless API with compact JSON payloads gives you full programmatic control over content, assets, and translations.
Microservices Architecture - The fully decoupled write & read APIs ensure a fault-tolerant service that evolves without breaking your apps.
Optimized for speed - We use advanced caching techniques and integrate tightly with external CDNs to deliver API payloads in the sub-100 ms range.
Mobile-friendly - Enjoy stellar mobile performance thanks to selective sync, image auto-compression, and support for offline persistence.
Learn more about the advantages of ditching the CMS and building your content infrastructure with Contentful.