Content management systems in high demand

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One of the most critical issues for Web site managers is the selection of content management systems that will help them distribute and manage digital content across a wide variety of new media platforms.

Whether they're seeking to centralize content management across the organization or build a new system to handle specialized needs, many b-to-b publishers are in the process of seeking new content management systems (CMS) as more of their content moves online.

And they have hundreds of choices—from customizable systems from leading vendors such as EMC Corp., Interwoven Inc. and Open Text Corp., to open source software from organizations including Alfresco Software, Drupal and Plone Foundation.

"Any good, feature-rich content management system should be able to do a pretty good job getting Web content organized, approved and published," said Melissa Webster, program director-content and digital media technologies at International Data Group.

She added that b-to-b publishers have additional content manage-ment needs as they publish across multiple platforms, including print, online and mobile devices. "Now you're getting into publishing capabilities that require multiple renditions, the ability to render content in a format that is good for print, good for download [from a Web site] and that can go to your cell phone as an alert," Webster said.

To handle these needs, Webster said, publishers should consider systems that are based on XML (extensible markup language), which allows for one-to-many distribution. Most of the major content management systems have implemented XML-based technology, she added.

But Allen Fear, director of online content at IDG's InfoWorld, said, "The problem with content management systems is that there is no shrink-wrapped, off-the-shelf solution that is capable of handling all of your individual business needs."

"You have to do so much customization of any prefab content management system that you don't gain a lot by buying in the decision to build or buy," he added.

InfoWorld, which currently uses Percussion Software's Rhythmyx Web content management system, is in the process of evaluating new content management systems following the closure in March of the print version of the publication.

"The [Rhythmyx] content management platform was used in part because of the ability to help us publish the magazine. But we are no longer doing print," Fear said.

He said most of the packaged content management systems are good at taking content and publishing it out to Web pages, but "they are not so good at moving chunks of content around on a page."

Instead, InfoWorld is looking at open source systems, most of which are offered gratis by communities of software developers or software companies, and which allow for greater flexibility in customizing applications.

Other publishers, as they centralize their operations, are looking to move from home-grown content management systems to off-the-shelf software systems that provide more processes and controls.

ALM, for example, currently uses a CMS that is part off-the-shelf software and part custom scripts that were written to manage its content. The system has evolved over time as ALM has grown through acquisitions."We want systems that all speak to each other, and by and large they do; but this is something we want to improve," said Alex Kam, VP-digital strategy and business development at ALM.

ALM is looking at all the major content management systems, although Kam declined to specify vendors. In addition to centralized content management, ALM is seeking more robust e-commerce capabilities and tools to facilitate user- generated content.

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