Patrick Lynch is in a position in which a lot of young editorial staffers find themselves—playing a big role in selecting and deploying his company's content management system. Lynch, 26, helped with this process at CFE Media, which was formed when Steve Rourke and Jim Langhenry bought Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering in April 2010 from Reed Business Information.
Lynch, who was an associate editor at RBI and is now project manager at CFE, oversaw the two-month process of moving the content from RBI's Nstein content management system to TYP03, an open-source platform. Lynch discussed the process in an interview with Digital Directions.
Digital Directions: Tell us about the content management system used at Reed Business Information.
Patrick Lynch: When I was there, I think I was on three different CMS platforms. The last one was the Nstein system which RBI spent a lot of time and money developing. They rolled it out pretty much across all the titles, which is difficult because every magazine is different. Trying to roll out a CMS platform companywide, I don't think every site was going to be able to maximize its online experience. It was a very segmented system. There were areas where we (as reporters) weren't allowed to go into. Only production people were allowed to go into certain areas. And you couldn't change the feel of the site. You couldn't make wholesale changes. It was an expansive system, because it had to be able to serve the number of publications that RBI had, but it wasn't very customizable.
DD: So what approach did you take when Rourke and Langhenry asked you to oversee the transition from RBI's platform to CFE's?
Lynch: We looked at a few vendors and we really settled on GCN Publishing. The biggest benefit of partnering with GCN and using their TYP03 (CMS) was just that it allows (non-software programmers) like me and some of the other content managers the ability to make immediate changes—not just text, or news items or images—but actually changing the layout and the designs of the sites, so that we're never pigeonholed with a site that says you can only put text in this area and only images in this area.
DD: Describe the process of the migration?
Lynch: I don't have any sort of computer programming background, but the TYP03 system is pretty user-friendly.
So once (GCN) trained me, I was able to get in, and tinker and play with it myself and kind of figure out “OK, that's how I make wholesale changes across the site; that's how I can create areas of the site.” And then I'd go back to the team that I'd worked with for the previous three years on the editorial side and say, “This is what we can do.” We really had to map out our site and think, “If I'm coming into this site as a front-end user, how do I want to absorb my information?” There were definitely some hurdles in the months leading up to it. Our titles are alike but they're very different. They all are engineering titles, but the audiences sometimes couldn't be any more different. Something a plant manager finds important and how they want to absorb it is going to be different from a consulting or control engineer; So we had to develop a “marriage” between all three of the chief editors and the vision that they want to take and marry that to the practicality of “Can we do it with the TYP03 system?” I think there are over 5,000 plug-ins on TYP03, so you can continually grow your site. If you want an event calendar, or you want some sort of file upload system or you want a forum, you could add those things in.