Legacy Editorial Systems and CMSs Are Killing the News Industry’s Digital Transformation

The news industry’s digital transformation is being thwarted and outright threatened by legacy editorial and content management systems that were not designed to build a bridge from old to new.  Here are seven ways that legacy CMSs are hurting the news industry:

1. Creating content in a print editorial system is NOT digital-first
Many print editorial system vendors have convinced newsrooms that creating content in a front-end system and then “sending” it to the web counts as digital-first. These same newsrooms have used web-native blog software like WordPress to create true-digital first workflows where reporters publish on the web first and continuously update stories.  Excellent workflow tools (e.g. Edit Flow, NYT’s Integrated Content Editor) have been developed for platforms like WordPress that make it truly viable to publish everything digital-first by using a blog or web CMS as the newsroom’s primary CMS.

But this web-first content has no way to make it back into the editorial system for the print workflow… other than copying and pasting, or forcing reporters and editors to recreate these stories. That’s a huge disincentive to being digital-first! It’s telling that most newsrooms still think of this as “reverse publishing” — you can imagine the gears of the legacy editorial system grinding as you try to force it into reverse, but it gets stuck in neutral!

Newsrooms that create content in a print editorial system remain anchored to print-first workflows, and that puts digital products and digital revenue last.

2. No way to efficiently share content or create integrated workflows across newsrooms
Legacy editorial systems, which were designed as siloed desktop software that runs in each newsroom, have hacked an ostensible “content hub” layer on top of their outdated software architecture and sold it to news companies on the promise of internal content sharing.  These print editorial systems masquerading as hub solutions have not only proven notoriously unstable (see 7 below), they have failed to enable any kind of viable workflow for sharing content across newsrooms.

Giving every newsroom access to every other newsroom’s content via a shared database is not a workflow!  Imagine an individual newsroom, or a national desk, rooting through piles of local content to find stories of broader interest.  It’s like stealing from your sibling’s room — it’s a recipe for strife and frustration.

News companies are all focused on transforming from holding companies for local news orgs into fully integrated media companies that can leverage all of their content in new digital products.  Given the strategic importance of integrating newsroom operations, the failure of these print editorial system pseudo-hubs is particularly distressing.

3. Can’t create distinctive apps and mobile products when powered by a web CMS
There is a huge opportunity for news orgs to create apps that are highly differentiated from their websites, to support both a subscription model and premium advertising.  But how is that possible when all that news orgs have to power apps are the feeds from their website?  If content doesn’t go into the web CMS, then it doesn’t go into the app. Forget creating a content package distinct from the website, or curating content from new local and national sources.

For years, news orgs were criticized for “shoveling” print content onto the web. Now legacy CMSs are forcing them to re-shovel content into apps and mobile.

4. Can’t curate new content sources outside the newsroom
Apps like Flipboard and Pulse are seeing huge consumer adoption by aggregating content from top news sources and presenting it in innovative tablet user interfaces. Can news orgs compete? Not if their app is powered by their web CMS!

Outside of commodity wire content, news orgs have no way to aggregate content from new local and national sources because they have no way to get it into their CMS, and so no way to get it into their apps. Local news brands could create compelling new products by combining their original local content with a network of local and national content partners. In fact, they could use new content sources to enhance their print product in parallel.

Unfortunately, their editorial systems assumed that all they would ever use is commodity wire content. FAIL.

5. Downsized newsrooms are drowning in inefficient workflows (copy/paste/email/reformat)
Everyday, we hear about workflows based on copying and pasting from one legacy editorial system or CMS to another, or emailing content from one newsroom to another.  How can you ask newsrooms to do more with less and then ask them to spend hours a day hacking their way around deficiencies in their legacy content management systems? Newsrooms are so beaten down with these hacked workflows that it never even occurs to them that there could be a better way, that content management technology can actually create efficiencies instead of headaches.

6. Can’t integrate with partners and distribution channels
Want to share content with regional partners. Open up that legacy CMS, copy, paste, email. Want to use content from regional partners. Open up your inbox, open the email, copy, paste. Lather, rinse, repeat. Want to distribute content to a new channel or platform? Create an IT project to produce a custom feed — if you’re lucky! With a legacy editorial system, connecting with external partners is as efficient as a game of phone tag.

7. Content hubs built with legacy print editorial systems have been a disaster
Can you imagine in an age of agile cloud software an implementation plan that is slated to take 12-18 months?  That’s how long most news companies have had to budget to roll out print editorial system pseudo-hubs.  It’s desktop software, so if you have 50 newsrooms with thousands of people, that’s a lot of installations!  Hard to imagine in the age of the cloud.  Also hard to imagine that news companies should be in the business of maintaining servers that are more reliable than Amazon Web Services, or maintaining software code that has been hacked to do something it was never designed to do.

So it’s no surprise that these print CMS pseudo-hub implementations have produced notorious failures.  We know of implementations at some of the largest news companies that constantly crash, have horrible 15-year-old Windows desktop user interfaces, and rather than create efficiencies have turned into black hole time sinks.

We Feel Your Pain — There’s a Better Way!
We designed Publish2 for newsrooms to overcome all of these limitations and more, without actually changing any of these legacy editorial systems or spending a dime on upgrading them. When we implement Publish2, we ask the newsroom to imagine their dream digital-first workflows, what would be optimally efficient, and what they never thought possible with their legacy CMS. And then we make it happen, like magic.

Publish2 can:

  1. Deliver digital-first content into print CMS wire queues — the newsroom can go digital-first by turning digital content into an internal wire service for print. Newsrooms are free to adopt any blog or web CMS without worrying about integrating with legacy editorial system.
  2. Enable seamless sharing of content across newsrooms (including newspapers and broadcast TV) by connecting legacy editorial systems.  No need to purchase expensivee upgrades or spend 12-18 months consolidating on a legacy system that won’t deliver any efficiencies.
  3. Power apps and mobile sites that are highly differentiated from desktop websites, with distinct original content and content curated from a network of partners.
  4. Enable local and national content partnerships, to create new local products with curated content that engages consumers better than the best Silicon Valley news aggregator startups.
  5. Eliminate all copy/pasting/emailing/reformatting from newsroom workflows. Enough is enough!
  6. Enable seamless content sharing and distribution. No need to create an API and deploy development resources that you don’t have. With Publish2, you can connect with any partner or platform — it just works.
  7. Provide a reliable, scalable, efficient software-as-a-service to enable news orgs’ digital transformation.  That’s all we do.  And that’s why we’re really good at it.