Exodus of media staff, infrastructure are changing the CMS relationship

By Massimo Barsotti


Milano, Italy


Not long ago, most content management system (CMS) users could visualise their workspace as being physically located in the server stacks behind the newsroom. Nowadays, many of them would find it harder to say where or what it was.

Two developments have driven this disappearance. One is accidental, and the other is part of a wider trend.

Two developments have driven the disappearance of content management systems from the office mentality.
Two developments have driven the disappearance of content management systems from the office mentality.

1. Exodus of the editorial staff

The first development was the rush to remote working that followed the onset of the pandemic early last year. CMS suppliers suddenly found massive demand for their mobile-deployable client apps as newsrooms emptied from Canada to Asia-Pacific.

Many of those news teams are still in working remotely. Indications are that they will remain at least partially so even when the public health emergency is over.

Recreating collaborative space

This experience was an acid test for remote working solutions. In particular, it showed the vital importance of effective planning and collaboration tools.

It turns out there are features of the physical office environment that remote working apps often struggle to reproduce. One of these is the effortless collaboration between teams — the easy sharing of screens and paper documents, and casual chats and shouts across the office.

Deprived of these informal channels, remote working risks becoming an isolating, disjointed process. Chats and e-mails fail to provide the “glue” that efficient teamwork requires.

When whole teams ejected from the newsroom found themselves using remote working apps, the importance of having a shared planning space became apparent. If team members have their tasks and materials at their fingertips — and the progress and state of play of each news item is visible — the experience can replicate that of working in a well-managed newsroom or office.

2. Exodus of the infrastructure

The second development involved the physical hosting of the CMS. That, too, has moved out of the newsroom into an imprecisely located “cloud.”

Many news organisations have taken this step. Behind the migration lies a number of factors from cost savings (estimated at between 20% and 40%) to enhanced security and disaster recovery (major concerns for many users at the moment).

Easing innovation

But moving editorial infrastructure into the cloud has other, less obvious benefits. In a recent survey of news media organisations, nearly half the respondents identified their biggest CMS challenge as “implementation of new features takes too long and impacts our go-to-market.”

In fact, local CMS deployments tend to lag behind new product releases because users are understandably reluctant to face the disruption that a local upgrade may entail. A cloud deployment, on the other hand, can be updated constantly and invisibly in the background, ensuring the operation benefits from the latest features and enhancements without impacting everyday operations.

A test bed for new tools

At the same time, a cloud-based CMS can be used as a platform for risk-free innovation. Many innovative tools (which are also often cloud-based) are becoming available to journalists and editorial staff. A lot of them make use of the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This isn’t to replace the work of authors and editors, but it makes newsrooms more productive by taking care of repetitive and routine tasks.

A cloud-hosted platform provides a risk-free environment where innovative tools can be tried out and quickly integrated or discarded, without interfering with day-to-day operations.

AI-assisted editorial and layout

Examples of such tools currently available for integration into cloud-hosted platforms include automatic tagging of stories and images, auto-generation of summaries, and powerful semantic search functions.

For print editions, AI-guided creation of page layouts is a promising area, while intelligent analysis of reader behaviour and preferences can enhance the important process of content monetisation and subscription management.

By allowing the interactions between readers and content to be analysed and optimised, the AI-enabled CMS can make a decisive contribution to the productivity and sustainability of the whole news operation.

About Massimo Barsotti

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