Avoiding CMS discontent

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Mindful selections and installations can carry content, companies a long way For b-to-b media companies, today's content management systems must handle a work flow that includes print, online and mobile. But installing a new CMS can put a massive dent in the budget of a media company—especially if a suboptimal choice is made. Media Business spoke with a handful of media executives who recently installed updated CMS and asked their opinions of the pitfalls. Sam Kim, director of e-media at Bobit Business Media, which built its CMS in-house, emphasized that the system must be scalable. “One size won't fit all,” Kim said. He said that when Bobit, which published Automotive Fleet, selects its next CMS, the company will consider an open-source solution. Since technology is changing rapidly, it's impossible to “know when and what other new things will be introduced. The system needs to be very open and extensible, so additional features can be simply added by in-house developers.” The ability to accept add-ons and embeds is also a plus, Kim said. He said that editors, who aren't generally as skilled technically as IT employees, are the ones who will be using the CMS most. Because of this, the system should be user-friendly: It shouldn't require multiple clicks to get things done; and adding other media to the system should not be difficult. In order to help editors do their jobs more effectively, finding a CMS that provides instant stats on, for example, what stories are attracting the most traffic, can also be helpful, Kim said. “Knowing just [a few basic facts] will help the editors to quickly make decisions on whether to expand, improve, interact or move on,” he said. ALM, which publishes The American Lawyer, currently uses a Fatwire CMS and recently applied for its latest upgrade. “We decided that it was better for us to minimize training efforts, change only "critically broken code' and migrate the rest,” said Gene Bishop, VP-technology at ALM. “It was the easiest path, but it wasn't easy.” Bishop encourages publishers to know what they hope to accomplish when installing a new CMS. “If you don't have this defined well, picking the wrong CMS can lock you into only one part of what you want to be,” he said. “You can fix it, but it will take time and money—two things in very short supply.” Bishop also believes publishers should assess their technology and the teams that use it before beginning the search for a new CMS. “Look at the skills they have that you want to leverage,” he said. “Sometimes bigger is not better. Sometimes smaller ends up costing more if [it] is not aligned well with your existing platforms and skill sets.” Another key step that is often overlooked, Bishop said, is to look at current work flows and determine which need to be upgraded. “A lot of companies rarely take a look at "how' they build publishing products that they sell. “It comes after a long, sometimes meandering, development cycle; and no one wants to add more pain.” UBM Canon, which publishes Packaging Digest, uses a CMS called Doris32 from Finnish company Anygraaf. “The reason is cost; but ultimately, it can do all the things we needed,” said Roger Burg, UBM Canon's VP-operations. “Anygraaf has another product called Planner, which is like Impoze. Planner could tie into our InDesign templates and ad server, ultimately automating ad placement.” Burg said that the CMS not only needs to be flexible to simplify adding future media, but also allow for distribution to all current media available easily. “The content needs to be shared on websites, in magazines and newsletters,” he said. IDEAlliance, an association of content and media creators that publishes Bulletin, uses a CMS based on the Drupal open-source platform. Dianne Kennedy, VP-emerging technologies at IDEAlliance, said publishers should ask themselves several questions before purchasing a new CMS, including: “Do I have significant work to do in order to get my content organized and categorized?” and “Do I have a clear picture of what content I want/need to manage?” The selection of Drupal, Kennedy said, was made because not only does Drupal have a good reputation but it also is open-source. The latter, she said, “is the ideal selection for a nonprofit association that develops technology specifications and strongly supports the open-source community.”
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