These 6 steps can help news publishers choose the right CMS

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is a lot like choosing the right spouse: What works for someone else may not work for you, and the wrong choice means either living with a bad decision or spending a lot of money to get what you needed in the first place.

Unlike finding that special someone, however, there’s not an app that lets you swipe left to keep looking for the ideal CMS. But with the introduction of the new CMS Vendor Selection Tool, it’s getting pretty close.

The tool, developed by INMA and the Google News Initiative, was unveiled at yesterday’s INMA CMS Project Town Hall. Jodie Hopperton, INMA’s Product Initiative lead, walked members through the background of the project and explained that choosing the right CMS is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. And, she said she learned, it’s not just about finding a vendor.

“It’s actually about the upfront work that we need to do: We need to understand our business, we need to understand our workflows,” she said. “Choosing a vendor actually happens at the end of the process.”

Many of these workflows and processes are outlined in Hopperton’s report, How News Media Companies Should Choose a CMS, which INMA released on Wednesday.

Starting the CMS search

Because there hasn’t been a standard way to define the criteria and select a CMS, companies have essentially been on their own when it comes to making that choice. The INMA and GNI teams spent the past year talking to publishers and CMS vendors to create a framework that makes selection simpler and more befitting the individual company’s needs.

During the town hall, Hopperton quickly walked through the six steps of choosing a CMS you can live with (and actually be happy with).

Regardless of the size of your company, Hopperton said the framework for choosing a CMS remains the same. And it starts with understanding who will use it: “Who are the internal stakeholders, and then let’s figure out roughly what they need.”

Once that’s determined, critical user journeys can be created to understand how individuals are using it and what could be done differently in the future. 

“Just because they’re doing it now doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to do,” Hopperton pointed out. “Maybe we can make it faster, easier, maybe we can remove some of the friction points. So let’s evaluate what happens now and what should happen.”

It’s also important to identify business objectives and know what you’re trying to accomplish. Some of the questions that might affect this part of the decision-making process include:

  • Are you following a subscription route or a membership route?
  • Are you maximising advertising?
  • Are you going to bring in e-commerce?
  • What are your North Star goals?
  • Have you looked at lifetime value?
  • Are you looking at pageviews?
  • Are you looking at retention engagement?

Hopperton emphasised that publishers need to take time to look at those objectives before moving ahead: “We’ve really got to make sure those are key and built in, because then we’re all working toward the same thing.”

Taking the final steps

When those first four steps have been completed, it is time to create requirements, Hopperton said: “This is not a stack of spreadsheets with 300 requirements, but a core set of requirements.”

This means identifying what is essential and what would be nice to have but aren’t a deal-breaker.

With all those steps completed, Hopperton said publishers can take the final step: “Only then can you go and choose your vendor.”

About Paula Felps

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