Gannett, another organization with multiple media arms, rolled up it’s television, digital, and newspaper brands onto a custom built CMS platform called Presto. Media watcher Poynter covered the transformation in a case study called “Gannett’s monumental task — A content management system for all.” Ironically, in 2015 Gannett completed the split of its television and digital properties away from its newspaper brands, which were put into a separate company, Gannett Publishing. While Gannett Publishing will retain Presto as it’s CMS of record, it’s unclear what will happen to the TV and digital brands of the new company known as TEGNA. Presto, like Cox Media’s Medley, is also built on Django and Python. It’s important to note that Django is not really a CMS, but simply a framework for coding in Python, a programming language. Gannett is also in the process of trying to acquire tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing), another newspaper giant which too has it's own custom CMS. Obviously one custom CMS will win out over the other in any Gannett - tronc merger.
Instead of building a single custom CMS to address all of the newspaper, TV, radio, and digital properties at a media conglomerate, add-on CMS offerings are starting to pop up in the market to address the syndication of content within an organization across its many subsidiary sites and brands. Acquia’s Content Hub is one solution to address the sharing of content across media brand silos.
Is a Custom CMS a differentiator that can drive media company performance and success?
In this final post of our “Evolution of Media Company CMS series,” we’ve primarily been talking about major media conglomerates and their custom CMS development. But two other “new media” giants, free of traditional media products like radio, TV, or newspapers, are very well known for their custom CMS projects: Buzzfeed and Vox.
Buzzfeed’s custom CMS does not have a name, but it’s analytics system does, and that is known as Pound. Vox Media has dubbed its CMS, Chorus. In 2013, media watcher Felix Salmon argued that Buzzfeed and Vox’s custom CMS projects are competitive differentiators, allowing these brands to excel in the market. Media analyst Jeff Jarvis argued that custom CMS is NOT a differentiating factor for media brands and wrote a reaction piece to Salmon’s titled, “CMS as media salvation. Not.” Fast Company magazine, another media site with a custom CMS, posed the question “What’s So Hard About Building A CMS?”
This debate about whether custom CMS is a market differentiator kicked off across the blogosphere about 2.5 years ago, and since then these custom CMS projects have become more entrenched. It can be argued that a custom CMS is a differentiating factor, but to build a truly world class custom CMS platform requires deep investments. Keep in mind, just as the media conglomerates have a big cache to spend on custom platform development, their new media counterparts do, too, and Buzzfeed and Vox continue to receive venture capital investments they can put towards their platform development. For instance, NBCUniversal invested $200 million in both Buzzfeed and Vox in 2015. Interestingly, even though it’s investing in Buzzfeed and Vox, NBCUniversal does not share it’s own technology, like it’s NBCU Publisher custom Drupal-based platform, with either Buzzfeed or Vox. It seems counterintuitive that NBCUniversal is not collaborating on media platform technology with two of its biggest investment partners, however some argue (including Buzzfeed executives themselves) that Buzzfeed and Vox are technology companies, further complicating the debate on CMS as a market differentiator for media companies.
In this series we’ve covered the transitions that media companies have made in CMS technologies from about 2010 until today. We see that both radio and newspaper brands are trying to break away from proprietary media specific CMSs that once addressed most of their particular feature requirements. These proprietary CMS solutions are not easily able to handle the growing amount of integrations required to deliver a digital experience that engages, grows, and monetizes audiences. This is where we see some of the biggest opportunity for Drupal and Acquia, with their virtually unlimited capability of scaling and growth.
In the publishing industry, especially newspapers, there is the additional challenge in that many brands are leveraging two CMS solutions - one for print, and one for digital. The movement now for publishing brands is towards a model where editorial and layout duties can be executed within a single CMS of record.
Meanwhile, media industry consolidation over the past several years has resulted in quite a bit of CMS replatforming, as companies combine various media brands. This shift has driven the need to integrate disparate platforms, and shrink the number of vendors they utilize. The industry consolidation has also forced some proprietary CMS vendors to close up shop or merge with their peers. As a result, the market for media oriented CMSs is less crowded, and open source platforms are growing market share in the industry.
Media conglomerates are also trying to cut down on technology complexity, addressing the challenge of having multiple brands across media silos (newspaper, radio, TV, magazines) that utilize multiple specialized CMS platforms. The media titans are doing so with big investments in large custom CMS platforms (often built internally with lofty code names) that will address the needs of all of their diverse media brands. History however has shown that such investments don’t always pay off, and there’s a litany of expensive custom CMS projects that are now dead.
New media brands that are free of traditional media products like TV, radio, and publishing titles are also investing heavily in internally built custom CMS development initiatives. Their efforts are being applauded by the technology and media industry communities as innovative and impressive. However, there’s been huge venture capital investments in these new media brands and most of that capital expenditure is going to technology platforms and not content development. These new media leaders may find that continually innovating on technology is not scalable and comes at the expense of creating more content to grow, engage, and monetize audiences.