By Chris Schagen, on Mar 3, 2020

Debates about the future of content wrangling

Wrangling nesting dolls

Eavesdrop on a conversation about the state of content management right now, and you might be a bit overwhelmed. The WCM Magic Quadrant has been canned. Personalization, which has been the subject of much hype and investment, has been declared dead by Gartner. Talk at the NRFtech 2020 Vision left everybody confused. And there are whispers of a second CMS war. It leads you to ask, what exactly is going on in the world of content management? And should we be locking the doors and stocking up on canned soup?

We’ve wrangled the best pieces on the web to give you the lowdown on what’s been happening, and maybe assuage your fears.

The WCM Magic Quadrant and the corresponding Critical Capabilities report should be kicking its heels up in Florida right now because it’s been retired. Gartner, the research and advisory firm, announced that due to client demand shifting from Web Content Management (WCM) to Digital Experience Platforms (DXP), they would not be producing the much-loved report. Why? The clue is in the name. Content management doesn’t belong to the web. Wearables, Alexa, Google Home, digital displays, apps, and chatbots have elbowed their way in and demanded a new kind of system. One with capabilities like workflow, video-embedding, drag-and-drop, localization, and translation. It turns out this change is a good thing. Gartner’s booting of the WCM Magic Quadrant is a response to a changing industry, and content platforms like Contentful are no longer just for early-adopters. You can read more about why Gartner killed off the quadrant here.

Preston So, the senior director of product strategy at Oracle, notes, “One of the most surefire signals of a coming paradigm shift comes when there is a substantial change in terminology and in how industry analysts like Forrester and Gartner envisage the CMS market.” For Preston, the name change isn’t just a name change –– instead, it symbolizes a divide. There are two clear camps of content management vendors forming, and they’re up against each other. For him, this is nothing short of war. So, what are the two sides? He agrees with Deane Barker of Episerver that there will be content management and experience management. Many systems will cover both, but other systems like headless vendors will only be on the content side.

Where there is a war, there is usually a winner. Who will win the second CMS war? We say: whoever keeps users in mind. What matters is the end-user experience, and any squabbles are merely a distraction. The core conflict is producing a content platform for developers, marketers, editors, content creators, translators, and designers. According to Preston, this is the holy grail of content management. You can read more of his thoughts, and why Contentful and its editorial functionality comes out on top.

Confusion around content management terminology was also heard at NRFtech 2020 Vision. According to Emily Pfeiffer, senior analyst at Forrester, the more we struggle, the less sense we’re making. She says of the recent meetings, “Hearing from the digital council underscored for me that even these very savvy business leaders are frustrated by the constant onslaught of contradictory and changing mandates.”

Our willy-nilly use of words comes back to bite us. More and more technology companies are jumping onto trends and adopting words like “unified” and “connected” in the same sentence as “decoupled” and “headless.” Everyone wants to be everything, even if it’s contradictory. You can read her insights into the conversation at the NRF here.

Gartner didn’t just make waves by cutting the WCM Magic Quadrant. They’ve also proclaimed that 80% of marketers will abandon personalization efforts by 2025. The reasons: a lack of ROI and the perils of customer data management. It’s becoming a lot harder to collect, integrate and protect data, and marketers will find that it’s just not worth the effort. And when personalization backfires, it can be terrible for consumer trust. According to Mark Demeny, the director of content management strategy at Contentful, there is some truth in the claim. He writes in his article, “Is the hype around personalization dead?” that the hype is indeed dead, but abandoning personalization is a wrong move.

We see content as the cornerstone of any digital experience — a content platform can be the connective tissue that enables companies to build their own digital-experience stack. Learn more about what we’re doing at Contentful and see if we’re the right fit for your company's stack.

Chris Schagen

CMO at Contentful. You can follow Chris on Twitter.