Magnolia tree in full bloom
Magnolia released its Stories App in part to meet the demand for marketers working in headless or decoupled environments PHOTO: TracyElaine

Magnolia unveiled its new Stories App content editor today, aimed at marketers and publishers working with a headless or decoupled content management model.

The new editor is an “answer to marketers’ calls for a content creation environment that enables content reuse, and which is friendlier and faster to work with than classic forms,” according to lead product manager Rasmus Skjoldan.

Stories App, Built With Content Creators in Mind

Skjoldan shared some of the drivers behind Basel, Switzerland-based Magnolia's decision to upgrade its publishing experience.

Too often, Skjoldan added, marketers using a CMS "have to be creative in a database with long, boring forms to fill out." Or, they have to craft content inside a rich text editor or directly.

“We wanted to give content creators," he said, "an environment that's flexible, creative and fast — and which gives you just the right amount of structure for the content to be reused across the channels you work with today — or the future channels you don’t know of yet.”

A Look at Stories App Features 

The key features of Magnolia’s Stories App seek to strike a balance between the two extremes Skjoldan described above:

  • A full-page editing experience: It’s wider and far less cluttered than before
  • Metadata sections for structured content: Fields can have validation and be required, and sections can be collapsed
  • Block sections for freeform content: Authors can add as many blocks as they like, including text, images, videos and content from other websites. The story content is available via REST (in JSON format, for example) for use in any context
  • Delivery as JSON via REST API: Users can go headless and deliver their content to any device or channel
  • Link unfurling: The "external link" block will "unfurl" any link to display an image, a headline and an abstract to the reader — just like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Content linking and previews: Authors can link to other content within a Magnolia instance with previews.

Taking Inspiration From Medium Interface

Magnolia product manager Christopher Zimmermann gave CMSWire a preview look at the app. 

Zimmermann called the new app perfect for “time-critical publications, like news organizations,” since the interface is built to put articles together quickly. 

He explained how publishers could use the app to construct website pages, blog posts, rich product descriptions, landing pages and any content that needs to be delivered headlessly.

During the demonstration, Zimmermann said Magnolia “took inspiration from Medium,” which was clear from the Stories App interface.  

Content blocks can be added using small "+" icons that expand to give users a small range of options. The icons themselves aren’t as large or pretty as those found on Medium, but they serve the same purpose — to make life easy for the publisher. Those content blocks can be moved, broken in two or joined to help organize stories or articles.

a look at article creation in Magnolia's new Stories App

Easing Content Reuse on Multiple Channels

Breaking content down into block form makes delivering and consuming content easier in a headless environment. Marketers or publishers can mix and match blocks of text or imagery to display in multiple devices and channels, such as a kiosk.

Zimmermann showcased the ease with which content from third-party websites like Twitter could be embedded, as well as content from within the author and public Magnolia instances. The link unfurling happened automatically, and without delay.

The demonstration concluded with a discussion of the keyboard shortcuts supported by Stories App, which Zimmermann insisted would help marketers and publishers push content out faster.

Personalization and Previewing Capabilities

The new publishing app is Magnolia’s attempt to replenish the powers of marketers in light of the emergence of headless and decoupled content management models. Citing our call for headless CMS vendors to remember the marketers, Skjoldan once again noted the needs of marketers working within a headless environment:

“In addition to the Stories App, what we’re seeing more and more is a need for headless setups to include personalization and previewing capabilities,” he said.

“Although the CMS isn’t rendering the final page, [marketers] still need to envision how their content will be experienced by the human beings looking at the screen. That calls for a richer editing environment than a locked-down form.”