Newsrooms of today have to adapt to changing circumstances at a seemingly ever-increasing pace, which also puts pressure on the technology they utilize. Poynter discussed what is required of a modern content management system, noting that many news organisations are currently thinking about how to improve their CMSs. Based on the experience of three interviewees who have had integral roles in CMS development, Poynter presented some of the ways CMSs are evolving.
Although the interviewed people represented different kinds of publications that have different needs from their CMSs, many common aspects arose across the board. One development is that instead of relying on a single CMS, news outlets increasingly use a combination of integrated systems. According to Poynter, news organisations have realised that a bundle of systems often suits their needs better than a single CMS. And as those needs keep evolving in time, using different software for different needs is a more flexible solution and can be developed more easily to meet the changing requirements. NPR's blog network Argo, for example, is based on WordPress but also uses Django, Delicious and Daylife for particular tasks.
While an ecosystem of CMSs allows greater flexibility, there is now a new push to make CMSs also more user-friendly. News organisations have come to understand the value of having a CMS with an intuitive design as it makes it easy and encouraging for editors to use. A lot has happened in a few years, as investing in the design of "back-end interface" was not previously seen as worthwhile.
Another development that has taken place in the last few years is the rise of open-source software. Around the middle of the last decade, open source CMSs started to rival proprietary software, and today an expensive CMS has to offer something considerably better than its open-source counterparts. Such software can also serve as a baseline for a news outlet, which can develop the software into the direction it wants. WordPress and Drupal, for example, are excellent as starting points to build on and modify; for example, American Libraries Magazine recently discussed how WordPress could be used as a library CMS.
Lastly, one of the most essential requirements of a CMS is that it allows further development. From editors' point of view, it is easier to add new features to the old system, either in-house or in collaboration with the vendor, than to transition to an entirely new one every few years.
Examples of how the "background" technology should be given a more central role in the discussion over the future of news come along at a steady pace. Last week, The Onion, an American satirical paper, noted that tech developers should be asked to collaborate with editors for important decisions, instead of editors dictating their needs for the content management system.
One of the issues that have been blamed on outdated CMSs is the absence of links on several news sites. Using links would often be the best way to provide a direct access to the source, but many news organisations avoid linking. This practice can be partly explained, as it may well be that most newspapers still use print-centric content management systems which make linking and other more modern features cumbersome to use.