Considering Open Source Software for Your Website? Ask These 10 Questions First.

May 24, 2013

Over the past decade or so, publishers found lots of good reasons to develop their own software or adopt an open source to manage business websites: control, minimizing costs and fulfillment of unique requirements, to name a few.

At nearly every turn in digital publishing, you must be an expert in some new technology or trend to keep yourself in the race. To stay ahead, all that takes time, money, personnel, etcetera. Chances are, you've felt you need to become a tech company or a developer or something else, but really, what’s most important to your publishing business: understanding technology or understanding your customers?

You can do a lot of things with open source software. You’ve probably heard many success stories. For some people, namely bloggers and developers, it makes sense.  But if you’re running a multi-faceted publishing business and your goals include making money and profiting from your online business, are you really one of those people? 

That’s for you to decide. But consider these first five questions when you are considering open source. We’ve put them together with a specific focus on Drupal -- but many apply to Wordpress and other open source options. 

1. Industry Specificity and Relevancy: Who designed the software and for what purpose?

Drupal is a general-purpose Content Management System (CMS) software made for web developers, by developers.   It is not designed to meet the specific needs of publishers and non-technical users.

As a Software as a Service (SaaS) publishing system, ePublishing’s Enterprise Publishing Platform (EPS) caters specifically to publishers, with tools that fit into your editorial workflow.  An EPS makes it easy to create and deliver multiple types of optimized, contextually related content and products – articles, blog, video, image galleries, events, buyers guide, classifieds and more -- to the web, mobile and tablet, from a single, intuitive dashboard.

2. I don’t have all the answers.  Does Drupal offer expertise: ongoing support, strategy, best practices?

Finding programmers who are expert in both publishing best practices and open source development and implementation can be challenging.

Working with ePublishing is like hiring a team of industry consultants.  ePublishing brings more than a decade of online publishing experience to each client, and we draw from client successes and challenges to provide practical, proven consulting and strategy. 

Will open source keep you abreast of best practices and new opportunities? Will it provide a true, reliable circulation and fulfillment integration? With ePublishing, these things (and more) are a given.

3.  Is the software designed to help me make more money?

Drupal helps its users create software to presentcontent on a website; however, open-source software is NOT designed to builda stable online publishing business focused on monetizing content.

With ePublishing, delivering content is only a starting point.  Our SaaS EPS focuses on leveraging audience data and revenue generating features – events, buyers guides, classifieds, webinars, eLearning – while built-in eCommerce supports subscriptions and pay-per-view, issue and product sales, all without leaving your site.

The result: our EPS supports multiple business models: advertising, lead generation, subscriptions, product sales - to create a single, essential resource for readers and increased value to advertisers and sponsors.

4. I can add an eCommerce module to my open source site, and customers can pay with my Amazon account.  Isn’t that enough?

Keeping buyers on site reduces shopping cart abandonment and allows you to aggregate data for each reader or buyer: demographics, subscriptions, content preferences and site behavior.  With open source, you’ll maintain multiple data silos; ePublishing’s EPS eliminates data silos to enhance reader engagement and increase sales.

Integrated eCommerce, combined with Audience Management and Data Analysis are essential to a successful site.

Not only will you be able to present related products and offers in context, with actionable audience data, you’ll be able to target the needs and preferences of each reader or customer with targeted offers, emails and ads.

5.  My business constantly changes.  Can Open Source support nimble operations to meet customer needs and stay ahead of competitors?

An open-source option may help you get a website up and running, but what then? Drupal requires significant customization to add new features and functionality to your site.

  • If you rely on in-house IT staff, they’ll need ongoing training to manage updates, and you’ll have to make sure your website is a priority among many competing in-house projects.
  • If you outsource development, considerable effort and cost will be required to match and integrate new features and sites to your unique business requirements.

One of the chief advantages of SaaS software is its ongoing development by a dedicated staff of developers, anticipating publishing industry trends and client needs.  Enhancements and additions follow a disciplined industry-driven roadmap to add significant value while reducing total cost of ownership (TCO).  

Now for the next five questions . . . and a little bonus.