Before You Buy: What A Media Company Should Expect from a CMS


Before You Buy: What A Media Company Should Expect from a CMS

March 20, 2023

When publishers decide it is time for a new website, many web development decision makers limit their horizons to websites. They want it to communicate stories and graphics well, to have the ability to display any advertising units they wish to sell, and in general, to have excellent user experience (UX). This makes perfect sense because, as the premise said, they want a new website.

But to start with, they often sell themselves short. Almost everything in your publishing operation touches your website. It is usually the only place different publishing functions, content, and media come together.  

Why shop, install, and be responsible for separate software for each function you want to accomplish? Just because they are frequently termed “plug-ins” doesn’t mean they don’t each have their own potential problems and security vulnerabilities. 

No matter how you approach your new website, whether you are developing it in-house or with an outside vendor, it will take effort. Don’t waste this investment, your team’s time, and the invariable disruption it will cause to merely end up with a prettier website!

While you are making that effort, here are essential improvements and benefits you should look for in addition to a better website. 

Data: If you build a new website without identifying how your first-party audience data will improve, you are wasting your time and money. Make sure to gather every action each visitor takes on your site and what they read. Be sure this data can easily integrate with any other software or vendor you use that can take advantage of that data. Look for the ability to individualize content, where you can deliver different content to each registered user based on demographics and behavior.

Editorial Workflow: You are probably familiar with WordPress, which is called a Content Management System (CMS) but doesn’t actually manage content. This lowers everybody’s expectations since all WP does is place content on your website. Now is the time to create a unified workflow. Demand an actual publishing CMS that manages all your content, including print (InDesign) and newsletters. You want to be able to deliver contextually related content through any channel at any time without ever having to copy and paste something again. 

Digital Asset Management (DAM): Expect the CMS behind your new website to act as a digital asset manager (DAM). It should enable writers and editors (with permission controls) to easily find previous content and capitalize on previous research to make tomorrow's stories even better. Everyone in your organization should be able to use this to access photos, videos, charts and graphs, industry and sponsor logos, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, and any other digital asset. Besides being able to quickly offer them on your website, this DAM creates a valuable central asset repository of real corporate value. 

Advertising and Lead-Generation: In 2023, offering banner ads is merely table stakes when selling advertising. It should provide a wide array of ways to customize targeted ad programs and packages for your sales team. Understand in advance how your new CMS will enable you to create high-value, lead-gen advertising, and sponsorship packages for your advertisers.

Subscriptions, Paywalls & Metering: Make sure you know how your new website build will increase subscription sales. Or will you have an unintegrated vendor offer sub-services on your site? If only outside apps contain your list, you will miss the opportunity to gather and use all-important audience data. Be sure it offers a simple way to meter and gate your content and paywall, anything from individual articles and videos to an entire brand’s worth of content. 

GraphQL API: You must have a highly functional and flexible API to share data with other critical functions, but not all APIs are the same. Unless you can use a powerful API like GraphQL and access every single endpoint in your content, advertising, and user data schemas, you will likely be limited to how well this accomplishes your needs.