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M2Media360 finds new CMS boosts efficiencies

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Until late 2008, the websites for Palm Springs, Calif.-based M2Media360 could only be updated by a programmer within the IT department. Two years ago, M2Media360 brought in a software-as-a-service Web content management provider, which converted all the company's sites to run on the new CMS platform. Over time, Cheryl Naughton, Web manager, learned the system well enough to take over designing of the websites. As she gained more confidence, Naughton went on to learn the Joomla open-source CMS platform. Joanne Juda, VP-circulation and audience development at M2Media360, said the company plans to become 100% open-source, although a timeline has not been set.

Juda and Naughton shared with Digital Directions how the CMS has transformed the company, not only for the editorial department and website visitors but also for the business side.

Digital Directions: What are some of the major benefits of the new CMS?

Joanne Juda: We can now update our website content on a daily basis, and we've added interactive features such as blogs and forums. In fact, our overall strategy has changed, in part because the CMS allows us to easily share content. We now have vertical portals rather than individual [magazine companion] websites in the markets where that makes sense.

Greenmediaonline.com is the portal for our horticulture group: SportsTurf, Arbor Age, Outdoor Power Equipment and Landscape & Irrigation. Beveragenet.net is the portal for the beverage information group, which includes our Cheers, Beverage Dynamics and StateWays [media brands], as well as our beverage research database products, our handbooks and directories, and our conferences. The third major portal is specialty retailing, which houses Specialty Coffee Retailer, Natural Food Network, Professional Candy Buyer and Tobacco Retailer. Specialty-retailing.com is a site that did not exist before; but, with the new CMS, we can “surface” stories of common interest for the top-level people on topics such as point-of-sale technology or how to manage a retail business.

Cheryl Naughton: The CMS also enabled us to launch new products, such as mobile versions of our sites and automated e-newsletters.

DD: What benefits have you discovered outside of content creation and posting?

Juda: We've added e-commerce capabilities to sell various items we never would have sold before, such as surveys and white papers. We even have a totally new revenue stream from selling copies of photos that are taken by our people at various trade shows and awards ceremonies. We now have video, which we never had on our sites before. These are not only editorial videos but also from advertisers—a new revenue stream.

Naughton: The open-source CMS is transforming the way we do our specialty coffee sourcebooks. We publish four [annual] print directories: a coffee buyer's guide, a tea buyer's guide, a coffee roaster directory and a product showcase. We're about to launch a new site that incorporates all of them. The listings can be updated by the companies themselves. When the time comes to produce the print issue, it's just a matter of exporting the data.

Juda: We have advertisers that appear in multiple editions, and we used to have to contact them up to four times a year as we got ready to publish each guide. Now they can go in once a year and upload everything, or they can update their listings at any time.

Naughton: We've also automated the billing system for listings as well as offers for upgrades. Two directories have a base listing that's free and an upgrade that costs money. The other two have a base listing that's paid and an upgrade that's a little more expensive. In each case, when the advertisers go to the site to update their listings, we can automatically send a message that encourages them to upgrade.

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