Shot outside the IBM Watson IoT Center.
IBM supports headless deployments in its new IBM Watson Content Hub. PHOTO: Dion Hinchcliffe

Back in March, when the hype surrounding headless content delivery was at its peak, we implored headless CMS vendors to consider the marketers during the transition.

Almost none of them were.

That’s when IBM digital offers specialist Manil Allal reached out via Twitter to proclaim that IBM did.

Allal was referring to the IBM Watson Content Hub, a cloud-based headless CMS that, according to Allal, isn’t just a plaything for the IT department. 

To verify his claims, CMSWire spoke to IBM principal offering manager David J. Strachan about the platform and what it means to marketers who feel isolated by the emergence of headless technology.

David J. Strachan on Headless, Marketers

Ismail: Why should marketers care about IBM Watson Content Hub?

Strachan: Put simply, we've built it with them in mind, and are leveraging a set of Watson cognitive services to help them get their arms around their content. So we have lightweight asset management features, combined with simple content publishing features, on top of a headless CMS — it's a "best of all worlds" approach.

Plus, we provide marketers with a tremendous time-saver: IBM Watson Content Hub automatically tags content for you using Watson services, making it faster and easier to organize content and find the right piece of content to deliver the desired message quickly.

We know that development teams want to use headless CMS approaches, and we facilitate that within a content contribution and management experience that's built for the marketer. 

Ismail: Why do you think so many CMS vendors failed to think of marketers when they pivoted into the headless CMS model? And what made IBM anticipate marketers’ needs so strongly?

Strachan: Headless CMS is something that has really come out of development-centric organizations, so those products have primarily addressed the needs of developers. 

One result of this is that the content contribution experience has suffered because [headless CMSs] are often built with the developer in mind. To me it seems like the designers of some systems owe more to code repositories than content management systems in the way they treat their users.

Our perspective is that headless CMS is a really powerful pattern for developers, but that applying it isn't ever going to be successful if the product isn't built with the marketer in mind. 

Screenshot of IBM Watson Content Hub content management system

That means that we need to provide features to help organize content, great search capabilities and a UI that's not built to be technical. We also need to integrate with the tools marketers use regularly like personalization engines and email marketing systems.

The other strand in all this is that there are times when headless isn't the right pattern, so a CMS needs to be able to address both headless and non-headless approaches with the same content repository. 

Headless CMS isn't a separate kind of CMS, it's a pattern we need to apply when it's appropriate to do so. Marketers should be able to control a web experience when they need to do that and hand the same content off to headless APIs for their mobile app — all inside of the same product.

Ismail: Do companies need to migrate from their existing CMSs to make use of IBM Watson Content Hub, or is there a way for marketing teams to test the waters?

Strachan: Watson Content Hub is a bit of a new approach for IBM. We've built something small that works well for just a single project team, so it's pretty easy for people to dip their toes in. 

We have a great set of APIs, so you can integrate content managed by Watson Content Hub in lots of places. For example, we published a WordPress plugin to help people leverage assets on that platform, and there will be more like that to come.

This facilitates a "start small" approach. For instance, we have one client who just went live with a mobile app where the text content comes from a system they already had and the images come from Watson Content Hub. So it's not an all-or-nothing replacement. We can work alongside existing systems in lots of ways.

Addressing the Entire Value Chain

To get an outsider's perspective on IBM Watson Content Hub, and the issues marketers face working in the headless CMS space as a whole, CMSWire spoke to Ajay Khanna, the VP of product marketing at Reltio.

The problem, Khanna said, is that only a very few "content management systems address the complete value chain." That chain starts with topic identification, then moves to collaborative creation, reviews and approvals, he said. 

It also includes, Khanna added, DAM and searching, with omnichannel distribution, closed-loop tracking and even beyond that, omnichannel updates and pulling of expired content.

He continued by identifying IBM Watson Content Hub as one of the few products on the market attempting to “[give] marketers better control over content and distribution, especially in regulated industries.”

'Wrong Message'?

Gartner's Mick MacComascaigh, who co-authored the July Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, spoke with CMSWire about IBM's CMS market direction. When IBM debuted Watson Content Hub last November, it already had another CMS, IBM Content Manager, on the market.

When a company of IBM's size introduces a second product for the same market, it "sends the wrong message," MacComascaigh said. "Just like OpenText kind of fell in 2009 after the acquisition of Vignette and also last year with the acquisition of HP assets. IBM has also been relatively affected by its dual-product strategy."

IBM was still one of Gartner's seven leaders in the WCM quadrant.

Marketing-Centric Trend? 

IBM Watson Content Hub may be highly evolved in its focus on marketers in the headless CMS space, but it’s not the only vendor taking marketing’s concerns to heart. 

We think Kentico Cloud’s rich text editing and form building features also deserve a shout-out for helping keep marketers comfortable when working within a headless content delivery model.

Hopefully, the trend toward headless CMSs becoming more marketing-centric will continue and future CMSWire articles will be praising many more headless CMS vendors very soon.