A New Direction – Replacing the CMS

There has been quite a backlash from the editors over the Vignette CMS – so much so that it made it up to the co-CEOs who decided that something needed to be done. In the print publication world, there are many companies who can handle important roles as outsourcing – such as circulation, printing, etc. Were there any companies who did the same in the CMS world?

There are quite a few CMS companies, but are there any who claim to know the publishing world? Taking a look at a publication they admire, the CEOs decided to find out who The Robb Report uses for their CMS. They use CrownPeak (CP), which is a hosted CMS solution. CP was brought in to give a demo to the editors so they could consider the product. I was not involved in the demo, but from what I heard, the editors were not overly excited, but they did say that the interface was better than v7.

Suddenly IT had to take a look at the product to determine the impact on the company, our existing systems, and what another migration would mean (plus CP needeed info from us regarding how to put together a bid). We were given the documentation for several roles (editors, developer, admin), plus access to a sandbox version of their product. I am planning on writing up a more complete review of CrownPeak soon, but to summarize, the interface from an editor’s point of view was easier to use than v7 – similar to the web forms we used for v6. However, I was still concerned with how intuitive it would be for them to navigate around the system. Now a content item was closely tied to it’s placement on the website, instead of content and placement being independent (which allows you to reuse your content everywhere). The technology was asp templates with a closely guarded API to their proprietary, hosted database.

What would this mean for our company? Well, for one, the editors might get an interface that was more simplistic than v7, but reusing content across publications would be much more difficult. We would no longer have access to our content except through CP’s API, so developing any time of personalization would be extremely difficult. It would return out company from our goal of a media company back to strictly a publishing company.

From an IT point of view, the system was horrible, forcing us to using 5+ year old technology that limited us strictly to a proprietary API. We would have to throw out all the work we’ve done on registration and redoing directories, plus the special ad functionality which ties ads directly to specific pieces of content. The display of a piece of content was so completely tied to the location in the CMS, that it made content reuse difficult at best and really tied to what was allowed by CP’s API. CP said they would handle the migration, but it would likely be another long, difficult process.

The good news that comes out of all of this? CrownPeak’s bid was extremely high, on top of the concerns we voiced, so we’re going to look at other options. Top on the list currently is outsourcing the development of a custom application – which allows us to develop it in the timeframe the CEOs are looking for, but still have control over what it ends up looking like. I am also going to revisit the CMSs that I looked at before Vignette, but considering the $$ involved with CP, most of the others were close to that before.

More to come…..

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