Does your CMS dictate your content?

Chuck Fadely left a really good comment on my post about video illustration yesterday. I thought some of the points deserved a broader airing.

He like the concept of clip video but to make it work, he thinks you need the following

You need a CMS that allows you to embed video clips in the story.

You need video hosting that feeds your clips quickly and reliably.

You need producers to link your stories and multimedia components.

And its the first point that most vexes Chuck. For Chuck the CMS is as much a control on the kind of content you can produce as it is a way of distributing it.

In the old days, your press configuration and capacity determined how many sections you had and when press turn was.

Now, your CMS and your server bandwidth put similar constraints on video.

If you made the decision to use a separate video player that can handle your bandwidth, you also decided to commit to making stand-alone video stories that don’t need the context of the story. They go hand-in-hand.

It’s a really, really good point.

News at the speed of the help desk

In the past I’ve picked up on people who have bypassed the restrictions of a CMS by using technology like blogs to get the functionality they need. But when you are a set-up the size of Chuck’s, it ain’t that easy.
There are far too many newsrooms that have to put a request in writing to get new features on a site. ‘Take a ticket and support will be in touch”.  Imagine if everytime you wanted to change a headline you had to put a request in writing to a sub.

Is your CMS fit for purpose.

So maybe I need to add to my things to think about in the coming year. As well as pushing for better metrics perhaps we should all be asking does our CMS do the job? If no, things need to change.

Let’s be realistic. I’m not suggesting that systems are ripped out and started again. I don’t like the idea of channeling video off to dedicated sections of the site. I understand the technical and economic reasons for doing so.

But perhaps the rough and ready approach of ‘daily prophet’ video might suit a micro-site/newsblog style of approach which means you can use an open source cms/blog framework to serve the content.

That said. It’s still worth getting more involved with your cms and how it’s developed. That doesn’t have to be as technical as the way it handles video.
In the first instance it may just be wresting some control back from IT or some central system. Asking if you can change the template in the newsroom? Can you add elements to pages?

If not, why not.

7 Replies to “Does your CMS dictate your content?”

  1. I don’t know much about video specifically, but more generally your question is a good one to ask: is our CMS doing the job? The answer is invariably no for several reasons.

    1. Software developers have lead-in times that feel glacial compared with how quickly we as individuals can evolve online. Most software currently in use in newsrooms was developed with one or at most two platforms in mind. And it was probably conceived several years ago and at best built a year or two ago. A lot’s changed since then.

    Also, they’re getting a lot of their information from IT folk (see point two), not users.

    2. IT empires (oops, I mean departments) still hold the purse strings in media companies and are almost universally conservative, bureaucratic, resistant to change, used to being in control, averse to outsourcing (that control thing again), obsessed with best of breed, scornful of users and not quite with the programme.

    A sea change is required in how IT departments work within organisations of a similar magnitude to that happening eveywhere else – namely they have to open up, engage in dialogue with their users, work with their users on product sourcing and development, accept that they mistakes and accept help in fixing them, learn that being safe is good but locking people out is bad etc.

    That also means users need to get technologically literate enough to be able to engage usefully in that process, and organised enough to demand to be part of it.

  2. Julie. I agree.

    Often it’s less about the CMS – which are invariabley massivley felxible – and more about the implementation in the form of templates. Many large outfuits fall in to that old IT trap of defining a standard user and providing a solution that fits that ‘perfect user’ defintion. I understand why they do that but it often results in a lowest common denominator service.

    No wonder they struggle against the tide of specific support requests.

    There needs to be a lot more consultation between IT and editorial – a difficult enough job in the first place. But you are so right. It’s as much the editorial people knowing what they want to do rather than what to ask for.

  3. Yeah, I understand why they do it too, and I also understand how frustrating it can be for them having to deal with users who don’t know html from handbags (something I was long guilty of myself, and I’m still on what’s turned out to be a sizeable learning curve). But the answer remains to work together and move forwards, not carry on drawing battlelines and getting buried in task lists.

    Anyway, it’s something I think about a lot so always happy to engage in debate:)

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