Digital First and Central CMS Solutions for Newspapers - Custom Development
Other major newspaper titles are trying to make this transformation, where the digital CMS will be the center for producing, editing, and distributing content to all channels. The two major U.S. titles leading here are The New York Times and The Washington Post with their custom solutions -- Scoop and Arc, respectively -- but with very different approaches.
The New York Times also seeks to have a single CMS of record. Moving away from Oracle’s Fatwire CMS starting around 2008, the New York Times has now built a CMS solution called Scoop. The goal of Scoop, according to the Times, is to act as “a system for managing content and publishing data so that other applications can render the content across our platforms.” I would also call such a system a decoupled CMS.
The Washington Post’s approach to having a digital-first CMS is a bit different from the New York Times’ approach. The Post does not call it’s custom CMS, Arc, a CMS, but instead a “suite of tools.”
The Washington Post’s Arc suite integrates with other CMS systems that the Post uses, like Wordpress, which manages 70% of its content production. The newsprint CMS, Methode, is delivering content to the Post site as well. According to technology analysis tool Wappalyzer, The WashingtonPost.com is the fifth largest digital property using Methode today.
The main tools that Arc offers include PageBuilder, which allows editors to easily build digital front end experiences for the content they produce, or WebSked, which is a newsroom collaboration tool. These applications still don’t leverage existing open source CMS solutions, and require custom technology development using Scala programming language at the core. Regardless, it seems like with Arc, The Washington Post will still be wed to the use of other CMS solutions like Methode and Wordpress.
Sharing or Selling CMS Tools for Publishers?
The Washington Post, like other media companies who have built custom CMSs in the past, plans to offer the Arc suite to other publishers. Newspaper Willamette Week recently became the first Washington Post Arc customer.
The Washington Post was bought by Jeff Bezos in 2013 for $250 million, and the technology team there believes it is a benefit to have the leader of technology giant Amazon behind the company. In a Washington Post corporate blog, Shailesh Prakash, VP of Technology for the company, was asked why the publisher is “looking to get into the software-as-as-service business?”
“We have also built a best-in-class product, design and engineering team that is empowered and has the support of every executive in the company, including our owner, himself one of the (if not *the*) leading technologist in the world. Put those factors together, and I think we are uniquely positioned to offer technology that will help other media organizations truly embrace digital and offer their readers, journalists and advertisers state-of-the art tools and experiences.”
German publisher Hubert Burda Media is also building a suite of publishing tools, but unlike the Washington Post, the offering is centered around a CMS, and in this case, Drupal 8. The initiative is called Thunder. While the Washington Post thinks it’s technology leadership is a differentiating factor and that Arc tools should be sold to other media companies, Burda’s Thunder is a collaborative effort - from the Thunder.org page:
“We believe that publishers do not compete with each other through technology, but through content and brands. Technology is rather a limiting factor for publishers as, for example, content management systems are often expensive and launch projects take substantial time and money. The Thunder Coalition is formed to attract as many publishers worldwide as possible – as users of the Thunder distribution and as contributors to the technology. The goal is to spend less money overall by working together- and not to receive money from others.”
To date, two of Hubert Burda Media’s magazine brands, Playboy.de and InStyle.de, have launched on Thunder and Acquia. To manage its print business, Burda is using the Digital Collections asset management system along with K4.
What’s next for the Newspaper Industry?
It seems the push for a single CMS of record at newspapers and other publishers has begun, primarily with the use of Drupal 8, and through collaboration in the publishing industry on the platform. However, as I’ve detailed here, some publishing titans like the New York Times and The Washington Post have decided to create custom in-house solutions to address multi-channel publishing. The Washington Post goes a step further by becoming a provider of SaaS media production and editorial tools for other news media companies. In the next part of our series, we will explore what’s driving the explosion of custom and closed CMS development within larger media companies and conglomerates, and also expose the costly risks associated with these types of initiatives.