Enterprise CMSes vs. Blog CMSes

True or false: Most major news organizations (e.g. The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, ESPN, etc) would be better off running their entire online publishing operations through a modified blogging platform (e.g. WordPress, Movable Type, Newsvine, or a home-grown solution) than through an enterprise CMS.

In other words, in five years, will mainstream news sites essentially be collections of individual writer blogs tied together mainly with section indexes and cross-linking?

56 comments on “Enterprise CMSes vs. Blog CMSes”. Leave your own?
  1. Sean S says:

    I say true.

    And I recommend ExpressionEngine.

  2. I’ve wondered this myself. I recently began working at the Houston Chronicle newspaper. I’ve also just started learning Expression Engine on my own time using my own site.

    I’ve wondered more specifically at what point would an off-the-shelf CMS like Expression Engine (which I love btw) not be the best solution? How well does it scale?

  3. Ryan Sholin says:

    True, but the holy grail for newspapers is a CMS that outputs useful XML to a useful print layout system, automagically.

    Publish your story on the Web, first, but remove all the dual-entry that goes on now to herd that same story into print.

  4. Hmmm, I’d say True – more so for the home grown solution. I’ve not played with EE, but I’ve taken WordPress to a level of torture that I don’t think it could handle the sheer customization needed for many of these sites.

    Not that it’s a bad thing – but it’s very catered to blogging. Although it has CMS power (and I’ve gutted it for many a site), I always seem to end up frustrated by it’s lack of user friendly tools (media still comes to mind) or core needs (customizing the admin, publication approval, newsletter management, etc). I love it, I still use it for everything, but I find more and more it fails my needs as I get into bigger sites.

    It’s funny you write this, I was just searching for a commercial CMS to see if I liked anything out there as an alternative… haven’t found anything yet. I’m thinking framework and home grown.

  5. Tony says:

    Blogging is certainly going to become a bigger aspect of it, but this kind of solution seems to lack the ability to do custom spreads. Probably a CMS system like concrete5 would be the best mix.

    Off the subject, but did anyone see the PBS newshour segment on non-profit journalism doing the research for sixty minutes the other night? This is the future of journalism right here:

  6. Andy says:

    Does this mean you’ll be publishing the Newsvine platform in the near future?

  7. Mike Purvis says:

    I think Brady’s nailed it. Ultimately, Rails and Django are solving the same problem as WordPress and EE… just from the opposite side. Instead of a blogging platform that you write templates and plugins to, you get a webapp platform with all kinds of tools to help you quickly craft a CMS. (A List Apart is sort of the obvious example here.)

  8. Devon Young says:

    Yes! I’ve already found WordPress (WP) very ideal for sites like these. Whether one uses WP or MT or whatever else, it does make things much easier. There’s also a growing number of “blog” CMS’s that might develop into something perfectly suited for these kind of places with their defaults on install. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Django goes 1.0, that really takes off in the commercial sector.

  9. Aaron Egaas says:

    I say false, the future of content management is in object relation based CMSes built with frameworks like Rails, Cake, Zend Framework, Django, etc.

  10. Christian says:

    Geez, seriously? False as false can be.

    Ignoring workflow issues and, to a lesser extent, scalability, why would major media outlets devolve themselves into a collection of aggregate WordPress blogs? That would only further the misguided notion that media organizations — particularly print media — are nothing more than a collection of independent columnists and reporters.

    If you’re going to ask this question, you ought to ask the opposite question too: In five years, would the Huffington Post and Daily Kos be better off running their entire online publishing operations through an enterprise CMS instead of a motley assortment of only-a-slight-variation-away-from-MySpace blogging platforms?

  11. Derek Willis says:

    True-ish on the first part; more on the homegrown solution versus enterprise system (although if a corporate parent controls the infrastructure decision, then I’d say maybe 10 years is better than 5). The second question, which is somewhat distinct from the first, I’d have to say no. Individual writer blogs will be a part of it, but in order to fill time and space group blogging and reporting efforts will remain more important for most news organizations. Competing with individual blogs on thousands of topics isn’t possible for any news organization; collective talent and quality helps set them apart, particularly on investigative work.

  12. That would be an extreme re-factoring of the blogging CMS concept to make it ‘fit’ a news site. Blogs can fit into a greater system, but there’s no reason to make an entire system fit into a blogging CMS. I have written other applications into WordPress, but a full-blown CMS is going to output more than just text and tables of data.

  13. Geof Harries says:

    Speaking from experience deploying a fairly modern news website with ExpressionEngine, the software is definitely up to the task. EE can easily produce community calendars, paid memberships, RSS feeds, mobile versions, comments, user-defined content and media galleries. Of course, each of these features is not accomplished without a lot of forethought and planning, in addition to third-party plug-ins, but it’s a very solid system. I don’t know if EE could run the New York Times, but for most news media companies, ExpressionEngine is more than sufficient.

  14. G Love says:

    True, False, True/False

    True: Enterprise content management solutions have dropped the ball on the sort of reader interaction technologies, development communities, and content re-use that newspapers cannot survive without.

    False: Scale matters. When you’re dealing with a base of 2 million pieces of content, growing by ~150,000 a year…working off of multiple frontend servers and databases, in a mixed environments…and being able to withstand a Katrina-style traffic surge, newspapers need to hear a bit more than “Just front it with memcache”.

    True/False: No matter what solution is chosen, in the end, any CMS solution that lasts past 2 years devolves into a development framework. Everyone’s needs change…different staffing, content, business model, who knows. What is purchased or downloaded is just the starting line.

  15. Jeff Croft says:

    The answer is that off-the-shelf blogging platforms (WordPress, MT, TxP, etc.) are a horrible, horrible solution for a serious news media site. However, so are most enterprise CMSes.

    The right solution for a serious news media site is almost always a modern, homegrown solution. Pretty much al of the news sites that are known for being innovative and “with it” run homegrown software (or licensed versions of someone else’s homegrown software; for example, The Las Vegas Sun and some of The Washington Post’s properties run Ellington, the homegrown solution we built in Lawrence).

    A custom solution is always going to be the best solution, for obvious reasons: it lets you build exactly what you need. Of course, it’s also more expensive and require more resources to maintain. But if you’re asking “what is the best CMS solution?,” I say it’s a homegrown system built by people that know what they’re doing and understand your organization inside and out.

    Personally, I’d never be comfortable running a serious news site on either a blogging platform or 90% of the “Enterprise CMSes” out there.

  16. Ethan Kaplan says:

    True. We run Drupal for a record label, so each site is essentially a collection of blogs and the entire company a collection of those.

    Smart pieces, loosely coupled will always beat monolithic any day.

  17. Caleb says:

    News organizations are as much about public image as the content they produce. Do you think they would stoop to publishing on top of the same platforms as the lowly blogger? They are, in the public’s eye (they hope), above that.

    Is it the best solution for their sites in the end? You bet. Will we see major news outlets make the switch? No way.

  18. Nikolai says:

    A large number of newspapers are already running on Drupal: http://www.theopensourcenewspaper.org

  19. Mike D. says:

    Good discussion, hitting on the question from multiple angles. It’s not so much a question about whether existing blog software like WordPress is up to the task of running a major news site, but more about if the ultimate pie-in-the-sky CMS for major news sites *looks* more like current blog software or current enterprise CMS software. Up until a couple of years ago, I would say enterprise CMS software. But if we say that the “story page” is growing more and more important compared to the rest of the site, I think blog software currently does a better job at producing this particular page type. It also does a better job at producing author archives, date archives, and a few other things. What it doesn’t do (among other things) is produce great section indexes and all of the other things news sites like to use to drive traffic throughout the site.

  20. Ethan Kaplan says:

    @Caleb – and that is why newspapers classified markets are being killed by a company of about a dozen people running on Linux, Apache, PHP and MySQL.

    I worked in newspapers for 6 years (16 to 22 years old, was the first webmaster of the OC Register).

    I had to tip-toe past their pagination servers to avoid jostling the boards of the PDP-11.

    IN 1996!!!!!

  21. Bruce says:

    I think Jeff is pretty much correct – My experience in newspapers and magazines is that custom is usually the way to go.

    Blogs only seem to work nicely for new (predominantly online) publishing businesses that are able to shape the product around the capabilities of software. The requirements of a newspaper are so varied and ever changing that you would quickly become frustrated and start making custom modifications.

    However, content management about far more than just the nuts and bolts of publishing a website. I begin to think that something like Google Apps/Docs with it’s collaborative tools and MoveableType API could be dovetailed into separate web publishing system and print systems in a manner that is extremely beneficial to how businesses manage content across all mediums.

  22. I think we are witnesses the infancy of the CMS. By that I mean I believe most publishing websites will move away from enterprise systems and build there own. This will lead to a greater selection of solutions and therefore ‘products’ that almost seam enterprise ‘like’.

    A previously developed framework, like Code Igniter, may end up being used; making easier to roll your own CMS. Custom CMS’s are the way of the future.

  23. Jeff Croft says:

    …but more about if the ultimate pie-in-the-sky CMS for major news sites *looks* more like current blog software or current enterprise CMS software.

    In that case, I would say it look more like current blog software — but current blog software definitely has a long, long way to go to cover the needs of most major news organizations.

  24. CC says:

    Our university purchased an “Enterprise CMS” system (Luminis CMS from SCT), and our role as the communications outfit meant we would have to use it to manage, among other things, the online news outlet.

    I don’t think many readers here would be surprised to hear that now, three years later, we’ve ditched the Enterprise CMS system altogether. Not just for publishing news, either – the entire university has abandoned it because it was so “enterprise-y” that no one would use it.

    Instead, our web team did some research on how people work at our university, the corporate culture, the general comfort level with technology, and the publication needs. Once we had all that, we produced a custom solution within a month that now supports hundreds of sites whose content is managed by people of practically all skill levels, and which everyone not just uses, but actually says that they *like* to use. Our collective web presence has never been more consistent, updated, and IT-support-free.

    And because our investigation showed that news is a hugely different beast than the CMS for, say, academic department pages, we’re developing a separate application that is custom-tailored to meet the needs of the news group. It will be available for other units at the university to use if it more closely matches what they do with their site.

    So, cast my vote for designing a custom solution to meet your organization’s needs. For lone bloggers and small businesses, it may be worth it to tweak an out-of-the-box solution, but for large organizations, spending a little work on making sure your publishing platform meshes with your needs, employees, and audience makes a lot of sense in the long run.

  25. Khoi Vinh on the same topic: http://www.subtraction.com/archives/2007/1019_if_it_looks_.php

    Another big question is what news orgs will look like in 5 years. In that climate, buying and maintaining enterprise system might just be cost prohibitive. Or an even darker question of having the staff needed to fill these system with content.

    I vote for the smallest system with the lightest footprint. All running in a browser.

  26. Geof Harries says:

    Enterprise CMS software, which for me has included Red Dot, is simply not pliable enough to fit into this new journalism paradigm. And although I’ve already cast my vote for ExpressionEngine, a homegrown solution, with tools and design inspired by blogging software (because news = conversation) is the best long-term bet.

  27. Patrick Shaw says:

    Just a quick note from someone that actually implements CMS tools (mostly small, but some large) for the local nonprofit community. At NPower Seattle, we use Plone (www.plone.org) and also know that tools such as Drupal and Joomla are terrific, too – if those tools can power Jet Propulsion Labs, MTV and the Seattle Times, the City of Bern, and many more – I’d vote that they are way better than a blogging only tool.

    On top of that – the engine for those tools are substantially in place, so while the effort to implement would certainly be large – it wouldn’t be custom software development – it would be customizing to meet the needs of that newspaper. For my .02 – I think customizations beat custom software more often than not!

  28. Rex says:

    I suddenly want to do a parody mockup of a Tumblr version of CNN.com.

  29. Rex says:

    Mike: I think it’s interesting that you put Newsvine in the “modified blogging platform” category rather than the “enterprise CMS” category. Sure, it shares some pedigree with blogging, but isn’t it really more of a “completely custom” solution? (Necessarily so, of course.)

    I guess part of what I’m getting at is this: imagine starting from scratch and building Newsvine on top of Movable Type. Doesn’t sound too attractive, right? I think that’s why any news organization would have the same reluctance. And it’s why I think Newsvine actually IS a “completely custom enterprise CMS.”

    That said, I’ve recently helped some medium-sized media companies extend MT as their core CMS platform. Do I think it would work for a truly big media company? I think it would be very tricky. Some of the things alluded to above — section layouts, external media — aren’t native ideas to blogging platforms. (Imagine trying to do nightly.msnbc.com in an extensible way with WordPress. SUXORS!) That said, these blogging platforms also bring some features that aren’t typically native to CMSes either (community pages, comments, profiles, etc). But that’s where it’s fair to ask if that is a problem of the CMS, or the problem of bureaucracy within media companies?

    An interesting case-study to me is the biggest blog network in the world, Gawker Media. I bet you think it’s built on top of a blogging platform, right? Well, to some degree it is. It’s using the UI of Movable Type. But under the hood, it’s a completely custom CMS. Why? Because they really wanted to do things that these platforms wouldn’t allow them to do. They ended up building all of their community features themselves. If a blogging platform wasn’t good enough for the world’s biggest blogging company, it makes you wonder.

    That said, I would love to see a news org adopt Tumblr!

    I think your followup hits it right. The big news orgs will continue with custom CMS solutions that borrow liberally from blogging platform philosophies.

  30. Baxter says:

    I’ve been down that road, attempting to use WordPress for two national magazine’s web sites. It failed miserably. It had to be hacked silly to provide and semblance of what they needed, and really, it never did.

    At first glance it looks like the off-the-shelf system will work, but it doesn’t take long until the shortcomings in a multi-user, deadline-driven, ever-changing landscape become apparent.

    As others have suggested, Django and it’s ilk are the real winners here. Build the CMS you need, take care of the other functions as you like, and output in multiple media types.

  31. Mike D. says:

    I think your followup hits it right. The big news orgs will continue with custom CMS solutions that borrow liberally from blogging platform philosophies.

    Yep, I think that’s exactly what I’m getting at. The enterprise CMS of the future (and even the site it produces) should really look a lot more like a blogging platform/blog network than it currently does. And yeah, that’s kind of what we built Newsvine to be: a “normal looking” news site built on a ton of intertwined blogs and mainstream wire content.

  32. Jeff Croft says:

    I think the real point to be made here is that online journalism — at least GOOD online journalism — is so ever-changing and constantly moving that organizations really need a platform they can extend and modify very quickly. Off-the-shelf systems just don’t provide this kind of flexibility. I know people will argue they do. They’ll go on and on about WordPress plug-ins and EE’s custom fields. But the people that make these arguments have never had to deal with a serious news site.

    The reason homegrown solutions (like Newsvine’s) and CMSes built on open-source frameworks (such as Ellington, built on Django) are right way to go here is that they provide an organization with a platform that is ever-extensible. There are no limits. None. And that’s what news organizations need, because they can never truly predict what kind of system they’re going to need to tell a story that hasn’t broken yet.

    ExpressionEngine in particular has definitely set itself apart from the blogging crowd as being more flexible and robust as a CMS for things other than blogging. But I still wouldn’t choose it for a news site because of limited extensibility. My understanding is that EE will soon be built on top of CodeIgniter, giving it an extensible platform on which to build custom pieces. Depending on the implementation, that may make it much more attractive, in my eyes.

    In short, the biggest problem with most off-the-shelf systems are that they don’t provide enough extensibility for a serious news organization trying to provide innovative coverage.

  33. We are having these discussions as we speak at the newspaper I have been running online from 8 years, http://www.constructionequipmentguide.com.

    A new hire is pushing very strong for a change to a Joomla, or Drupal system to run the site and I feel that the homegrown method suits most people best.

    At its simplest, all it is is placing data into a database and retrieving it from the database. And there isn’t THAT much involved in that task, so if you start there and build around it, I think most people will find that building your own system works out better in the end.

  34. Jason says:

    I’ll vote true. These large companies should be using them, something like WordPress which is Open Source. It would cost them a lot less to just hire a couple people/maintainers to keep their own special branch (if needed) running than it would to be maintain the one-off beasts they are today, right?

  35. Jay States says:

    I almost took a job with a major newspaper/media company last year because they were using Django/Ellington. All of their regional newspapers are using it…

  36. jeremy says:

    I think the reliance on enterprise publishing systems is due to the fact that they are tied to the publication scheudule of a print product. I think it is safer to say that news organizations are more likely to adopt the emergence of smaller ecosystems within their larger brand – and Blogs tend to adapt really well to managing, and maintaining that.

    (I still prefer WordPress over EE)

  37. Kevin says:

    To me I see that its not that people are adverse to enterprise solutions, rather those solutions often are much slower to adopt techniques to allow their systems to easily expand.

    Systems that have a solid framework that is not black boxed and easily tapped into often can offer a best of both worlds approach. Allow the client to get up and running and add/scale or whatever later.

    I think back to a pitch from Peoplesoft on their portal product. It looked reasonable but when we the developer team peered at the API, well lets just say for the cost we could have built a very nice CMS system.

    I personally believe enterprise systems are misguided in that they often are actually too focused in solving a single problem and not really suited to other industries. Systems that are less restrictive and even if not “enterprise” are often better. After all the fact that people would even consider WordPress for large orgs should speak to agility of the app.

    Oh, though I am primarily a ColdFusion developer, Code Igniter ROCKS! so glad to see a nice framework like that. EE will fit nicely into my recommedations for non CF customers.

  38. […] In other words, in five years, will mainstream news sites essentially be collections of individual writer blogs tied together mainly with section indexes and cross-linking? – Mike Davidson […]

  39. Al says:

    What about other considerations such as the design of the application to tolerate literally thousands of items flowing through it daily? I would think that a really solid solution for a news site would need to be ever-extensible to store all of the appropriate meta information about the current item – so it isn’t just being flopped together through a single text field.

  40. I joined a newspaper company in 2001 to help maintain and develop a newspaper CMS system, which the development manager began creating on his own in 1994. In the past seven years, we’ve brought in web browser interfaces, RSS feeds, AJAX data handling, online publishing tools which allow the output to be sent direct to our printers, some 100 km away. The whole pre-production process for online and print output is controlled through our custom CMS. We’ve improved the public site, added loads of functionality and both brought in and removed features which have been cool and which have been faddish. We have around 30,000 visitors per week (it’s a local paper) and the CMS has needed maintenance and work from day one. It’s a great system, customized for our own needs and yet portable, saleable as part of a publishing concept which has been pushed internationally in the German-language newspaper market for the past four years. Editors, journalists, entrepreneurs and business managers have been bowled over by what it can do, and have said that they have never seen anything which can match it.

    The newspaper industry is about power and control. Publishers don’t like being told that they’re doing it the wrong way and they don’t like smaller companies coming along and telling them that they can do it better. When it comes to online publishing, companies in Switzerland are slowly coming to terms with blogs, despite the fact that they have been around since 1998 (in their current form, when Blogger became popular). Even the company I work for, who has followed my blogging and personal website development and journalism since I joined them, is still reticent about changing the way they do things and to consider allowing journalists or contributors to run their own blogs. Newspaper publishers promote their products and don’t like to lose control over the overall content. However hands-off the editor in chief pretends to be, there is always a level of control, someone looking over the shoulder of the person writing.

    Blogs may well be adopted to keep up with current trends but in a professional publishing environment, they will never take over the role of professional, structured journalism. Journalism is and will always be a team sport. However much personal publishers (or “bloggers”) contribute and however important and relevant they are or become, they will never match the commercial and focused success of a team of professional journalists within a regular newsroom environment. There’s just too much money at stake. Any CMS – whether open-source or commercial – which covers the needs of a blogger, a corporate site manager and a publishing team will continue to be the most sought-after software tool in modern publishing.

  41. […] (Written in response to a blog post by Mike Davison about content management systems.) […]

  42. If publishing workflow were introduced into the blogging format I think the large business/enterprise adoption rate would sky rocket.

  43. Brad says:

    It’s pretty clear that the cat is out of the bag. Tribune has marshalled its homegrown CMS to all of its newspaper properties, but perhaps their most infuential newspaper, the latimes, has rapidly turned its journalistic efforts towards Typepad. That may be just a stopgap solution, but just try porting 64 separate Typepad blogs to HomeGrown CMS 2.0 — it ain’t happening.

    I’m expecting a commercial CMS backed by an OS framework, such as Expression Engine 2.0/Codeigniter to step into the void here and offer extensibility as well as a path for migration. Migration is the kind of thing that Commercial solution can leverage, whereas, ideally, the user would only need it once.

  44. Matt says:

    Here are three examples of more traditional newsy things being done with WordPress:

    http://allthingsd.com/ (the most bloggy of the three since their redesign)

    Most one-off or internal CMSes I’ve seen have had pretty weak interfaces – in an open market as products they wouldn’t survive. With only a little bit of extra work in the beginning you can make the off-the-shelf open source CMSes, particularly Drupal and WordPress, absolutely sing and work within whatever design, organization, etc you like.

    But it’s after the initial roll-out that the real benefits start. WordPress has maintained backward compatibility in templates for 3 years now. As the platform you picked continues to innovate and improve you get all those upgrades for free, often things that would never make the cut for an internal CMS. (For example we just added Google Gears support to speed up the interface.)

  45. Collin says:

    Alternatively, could the mainstream media just publish their articles strait to their Recycling Bin? Currently that is where the bulk of it should be.

    Since that is not going to happen I will add that , assuming the question you pose is not one of saving a buck, then yes it does seem very much like the same content could be delivered through blog style CMSes. I would think that any system they use would need some good approval workflows. Can’t see why that couldn’t be added into any blog software

  46. Collin says:


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  47. Metropolis says:

    […] Links in New Window? – A brief History in Type – Enterprise CMS vs Blog CMS – Moodstream by Getty Images – Paletas de colores de las grandes marcas – Color Tools (other than […]

  48. Alan Houser says:

    Yes please. I’ll take a vanilla-themed license of the Newsvine CMS.
    Make that a baker’s dozen!

  49. Metropolis says:

    […] Design Police (Via) – 6 things every Designer should have – Cheat-sheets for front-end Web Developers – Top 50 Graphic Design Blogs – Ultimate Design Battles – Glosario de términos gráficos – Behance […]

  50. Michel says:

    This extremely interesting discussion somewhat complement this a bit more focused (specialized) dicsussion here:


  51. Apologies for being late to this conversation, but I’d argue that Mike’s original proposition is false: a blog CMS is woefully inadequate for most newsrooms.

    It’s inarguable that the Internet is reinventing the way news is gathered and produced, but it’s important to ponder the full implications of the word “reinvent.” It means that someone has already solved the same problem in a different context. Traditional newsrooms have decades of experience in honing the tools necessary to get a large number of people to quickly assemble a large amount of authoritative content. No CMS built for blogging has all of those tools, and most have a lot of features that newsroom users don’t need.

    While a blog CMS can be well-suited for the online side of news publishing, newsroom workflow is a different matter. As a journalist, I’d expect a newsroom CMS to provide features like these:

    — Robust record locking. When I start editing a particular story element, anyone else who tries to do the same should be blocked and told that I’m already in there. They should be given the option of receiving instant notification when I’m done. If they’re my boss and I went home without logging out, they should be able to pick the lock. And when they pick the lock, my editing session should end immediately, with an explanation for me as to what happened, without my losing any text that I hadn’t yet saved.

    — Granular record locking. At the same time I’m editing the body text, other users should be able to edit the metadata and any other text elements, such as headlines or photo captions.

    — Audit trails. In order to figure out where errors originate, newsrooms need an easily-navigable record of every change to every story — text and metadata.

    — Autosave. If my browser crashes or my computer dies, I need to be able to log back in immediately from any workstation and resume my work exactly where I left off.

    — User-configurable access control. My editors and I sometimes need to hide sensitive stories from the rest of the staff, sharing content with specific other users or among our entire team.

    — Private notes. I want to be able to type my interview notes into the CMS, because it’s easy to use and I can access it from anywhere. But I don’t want any of my colleagues to see those notes.

    — Treatment of stories as a collection of parts. A single multi-tabbed window should show me an assignment’s metadata (name, description, pub dates, status, staff, etc.); body text; related elements like headlines, subheads, captions; and related files (photos, graphics, videos, PDFs). A story is all of that stuff. In addition, I want to be able to further aggregate related stories into content packages, with easy control over which parts of the package go into the paper versus online.

    — Support for multiple, complex workflows. I might want a story workflow that advances through configurable statuses like these: Proposed -> Assigned -> Private (where I can write without anyone looking over my shoulder) -> Ready for Editing -> Edited -> Sent to Web [and/or] Ready to Print. Another newsroom will do it differently. Photos, graphics and videos should have their own workflows.

    — Efficient listing of all content. My newsroom’s CMS should display a scrollable, auto-refreshing list of stories that I can easily filter by originating desk, destination section, author, editor, status, pub date, content type, etc. I want control over the details displayed in those lists — do I want to see two lines of the description, the names of associated files, thumbnails? Once I’ve customized a list, I want to be able to save it with the options to share it with my colleagues and to receive an email or IM notification when a new story gets added to it. If I’m a copy editor or page designer, I want to be able to display several lists at once in separate windows and have the system remember my window layout.

    — A text editor that’s optimized for reporting and editing. The word processor should show me only the features I need. If I’m a writer in a newsroom, I don’t need buttons to change fonts, apply styles, edit HTML source, insert images into my text, etc. The web CMS (Expression Engine, Joomla, homegrown) puts the pieces together using predefined templates. My job is to deliver my pieces as efficiently as possible.

    — Communal spellcheck. Unless I’m a notoriously bad speller, I should be allowed to add to a central spelling dictionary while checking my story. Some of my colleagues should be able to edit that dictionary directly.

    — Integrated instant messaging. I want the ability to IM my colleagues about content-related issues without having to leave the CMS. That gives our newsroom a dedicated IM channel for performing our actual jobs. This editorial IM system needs to let me send messages to users even if they’re not logged on, with the option of sending the message to their cell phones.

    — Integration with Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress. While their profit margins are shrinking, most newspapers are continuing to make money, most of which still comes from the printed version of the product. Exporting tagged text from the CMS for manual import onto a page won’t cut it; this integration requires a UI that lets page designers place content directly from the CMS.

    — Real-time topic categorization. My newsroom’s CMS should support automated categorization and entity scanning, so that my story about nuclear power will automatically get listed in the new “Environment and Energy” section of our web site. And the system should automatically identify the companies I mention in the story and their executives, so that we can deliver the story to readers looking for mentions of them.

    — Versatile automated output. Based on the metadata I enter and the results of automated categorization, my published story should be delivered instantly to multiple digital platforms in the format required by each, whether that be a flavor of XML or a direct insertion into another database.

    Having listed all of those features, now is probably a good time to confess that I own a company, NewsEngin Inc., that builds a newsroom CMS that does all that (http://newsengin.com). But (believe me or not) the long feature list is more for the sake of argument than advertising. If it were true that newsrooms could get by with a good blogging system, we wouldn’t be selling our system to cost-conscious newspaper chains that already have the resources to configure and customize a blog CMS.

  52. Mike D. says:

    George: Normally I’d delete your comment because you’re kind of promoting your product, but it’s relevant to the discussion, I guess. A lot of the things you mention already exist in blogging software, however. Granular record locking, autosave, etc. Additionally, many of the things you mention do *not* exist in many enterprise CMSes.

  53. Thanks for easing your finger off the trigger, Mike.

    I wonder if there’s a third category of CMS, call it a newsroom CMS or editorial CMS, that’s missing from your original question. If it’s a choice between an enterprise CMS and a blog CMS, the latter is probably much closer to what a news organization would need, and is certainly more easily adapted to the task.

    I also wonder, and am curious what others think, about the future of blogging software. Will it evolve to resemble a newsroom CMS like the one I described? Or are there enough inherent differences between the tasks of blogging and of commercial news gathering and publishing to maintain distinctions between the software that powers them both? It seems to me that the former category of software is generally geared at empowering loosely-structured coalitions of independent authors, while the latter is optimized for intense collaboration in which much of the content-creation is shared and even small efficiencies can convey a competitive advantage. But I might be wrong.

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