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Past and Present: The Evolution of Media Company CMS Platforms

Part 1: An Introduction to Media Industry oriented CMS Platforms

It’s part of my job to evangelize Drupal to media entertainment and publishing companies, and identify opportunities where Acquia and Drupal can increase the content management system (CMS) market share in the media industry.

The first step I take to achieve this goal is to better understand the leading competitors. To do that, I can look at Gartner's analysis to examine leaders in the web content management space (Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, Mick MacComascaigh | Jim Murphy, 29 July 2015). Interestingly, if you add a media industry lens, the Gartner data does not necessarily align with the types of CMS platforms media companies actually leverage.

I am certainly not duplicating the work of this analyst research, because there are so many media industry focused CMS platforms it may not cover. Since various segments of the media industry have very specific needs when it comes to presenting and distributing content, many media focused CMS platforms have popped up over the last 10 + years to address them.

Luckily I’m here to fill you in, and I can share my deep knowledge of the CMS platforms media companies commonly use. In a series of upcoming blog posts, I’ll offer my exclusive insights about the media company CMS selections of today and tomorrow, as well as where and why Drupal and Acquia are growing in the industry. After two and a half years at Acquia as media industry director, and a few years at Cisco supporting a proprietary CMS called Eos, I believe I know every (U.S. at least) media company and the CMS choices they have made. I also have my finger on the pulse of the media industry’s burning platforms and how companies will transition away from them.

media cms platforms
The wide world of media-specific CMS platforms

Let’s start with some examples: Worldnow and Lakana. These are CMS platforms that are tailored for TV stations in local markets. Such outlets have a distinct need to present content for both on air TV broadcasts and digitally to apps, mobile, and desktop sites. Meanwhile, NewsCycle Solutions, Methode, Escenic, NewsGate, and Atex Polopoly are CMS solutions tailored for brands that need to manage content for digital properties, but also need the ability to deliver the layout and content of print newspapers. Furthermore, you will find providers Triton Digital and Marketron, both part of a crop of broadcast radio focused CMS platforms that can handle complexities like radio playlists and programming schedules. Marketron started as a custom CMS created by radio giant Emmis Communications, and then was white labeled for other broadcasters. Interestingly, Emmis eventually left Marketron and moved to the Acquia platform.

Media focused CMSs can get even more niche than those examples. Take a look for instance at Rivista (a play on the word Revista, which is the Spanish word for magazine), which is a CMS for independent magazine publishers, or Foundation, a small CMS especially tailored for Alt-weeklies. Every time I think I have found every media industry focused CMS that has ever existed, I uncover another one. Recently, during the course of a single day, I discovered two CMSs that almost have the same exact name, Craft and Crafter!

This is the kind of industry analysis I normally reserve for internal use with Acquia’s marketing and sales teams, but now I am sharing it externally. I believe so strongly in the benefits of Drupal that I don’t worry about sharing this deep market landscape with the competition. Furthermore, maybe you are a media executive reading this and want insight into what your peers are doing with digital platforms. Many of the reports and other resources I reference will be hyperlinked in the copy following if you would like to dig deeper.

There is a benefit in examining the decisions media companies made in the past to demonstrate that there is constant industry change. For instance, I recently came across a must read Adweek report from 2011 detailing the CMS decisions of major media companies at the time. At the end of the report, there is also a cheeky review, “What Your CMS says about you.” This report validates that CMS selections are cyclical and happen about every 5 years, driven by media industry events like mergers and acquisitions and technology evolution.

Adweek points out that Time Inc. was leveraging Vignette (now called OpenText) at the time; today very few, if any, Time Inc. titles use that CMS. What’s even more interesting is that Vignette was a custom CMS created by one of the first media companies to the web, CNET. In 1995, CNET sold its custom CMS technology to Vignette so it could be commercialized and adopted by other media companies.

There was further complexity at Time Inc. in 2011 as Turner Broadcasting, another Time Warner division, managed several of Time Inc.’s digital properties on a custom CMS. Subsequently in 2014, Time Inc. was spun off and is now a separate entity from Time Warner, so they could no longer be dependent on Turner’s platform.

Today, Time Inc. is in process of moving 20+ of their well known publishing brands to Drupal. Meanwhile Time Inc. is also developing new digital properties like TheSnug.com and MIMIChatter.com, leveraging Rebel Mouse’s social media oriented CMS solution.

Time Inc.’s spin off from Time Warner has resulted in more than just CMS platform changes -- it has also initiated wide and positive digital business transformations, as Digiday detailed in this recent report. Regardless, the spin off was the spark that drove Time Inc. to make some important platform changes.

In the next part of this series, I’ll focus on the major platform changes at publishers like Time Inc., and how these changes were driven by another issue beyond corporate mergers and spinoffs: the complex technology integrations that have grown over the past few years.

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