The Scoop on Content as a Service

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When was the last time you heard of a company using its content management system as a recruiting tool? Never? Well last month the New York Times made a splash providing an overview of its custom-built content management system called Scoop. One of the inspirations of this post was that a prominent editor for competitor Washington Post, Ezra Klein, announced that the reason he was leaving the Post for Vox Media was because -- ready for this -- of how fancy its web content management system was. As Klein said in the article: “at our first meeting, we knew we were going here. They had the technology we thought we were inventing.”

Build It or Buy It? No. Implement It to Change

For those who have worked in the content management space for more than a few years, we know it’s highly unlikely that either The Vox’s web CMS or the NY Times'  web CMS has any one feature that no other commercial or open source system has. In fact, when you read through the overview of Scoop I dare say that you'll not see any feature highlighted that a reasonably featured enterprise-focused web CMS doesn’t already employ.

One thing that is called out at a higher level -- and merits a bit of exploration -- is the flexibility in models. Both Klein, in his accolades of The Vox and Luke Vinenchak, the New York Times writer who provided the overview of Scoop, mentioned the flexible models' ability to support evolving businesses and the separation of management of content from presentation. As Vinenchak wrote of the NYTimes CMS: “Scoop is central to our ambitions to innovate on all platforms.” This includes all things digital AND print.

We all know that managing content is still a big challenge for most enterprise organizations -- and it’s not one that’s getting any simpler. But what change needs to be made so that enterprises -- while maybe not passionately believing that their web CMS is their competitive advantage -- at least feel like it makes them strategically competent with digital content? I believe it’s change. These two writers identified the great value in their systems derive from their ability to flex to an evolving business. I believe that flexibility and the ability to change should be at the heart of every great web CMS implementation.

It ultimately doesn't matter if your web CMS is installed, or cloud-based or some kind of hybrid. And it doesn’t matter if the web CMS simply manages content that is displayed by some other application, or publishes and renders the content as well. What matters is that it should be flexible and changeable enough to do ALL of those things depending on the company’s evolving needs.

This is what content as a service really means.

Content as a Service as a Change Agent

From desktop to tablets, from mobile to social, and all of these in different languages: it's clear why so many CMOs are months and years behind in keeping up with consumer expectations on how to access content.

It’s not enough to “be found” through a Google Search. Audiences today demand engagement at every transaction that they have with a business. And with the explosive growth of different channels of content access -- from mobile smartphones, social media and now devices like your car, refrigerator or literally your window -- today’s business must deliver contextually relevant and personalized content to their audiences.

As Brian Solis, a principal at The Altimeter Group wrote in a blog post:

A key objective for senior executives over the next several years is to use disruptive technology to get closer to customers to improve relationships, and enhance experiences. This is a critical path where businesses must not only commit to new technology and goals, but also invest in the methodologies, systems, processes, and people to bring about change from within before it can effectively engage outside.”

This is a key point. As the noise of content and the ability for consumers to filter it becomes more pronounced -- so must marketers look to ongoing disruptive technologies in order to enable a more relevant conversation with customers. This means that the content model you need today may or may not be the content model you need tomorrow.

Having content available over an API is the new “black.” Almost every social network and content company these days is promoting their API -- and the ability to get content that can be integrated into any interface as a service.

Publishing companies like The New York Times, and VOX -- and others like The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed -- have begun to create fully-formed businesses out of this and create new revenue streams from making their content available as a data service.

And this trend has begun to take form in other industries as well -- but for different reasons. From portals, to websites, mobile devices, social networks, back-office applications -- it’s been a constant struggle for global enterprises to make sure that their Web content is available in the right format, at the right time. And so having the flexibility to use their CMS to separate formatting concerns from content management concerns -- to making it available in a standardized format and/or simply publishing it in a static way -- makes economical sense for these businesses that depend on the efficacy of content for marketing.

In the next few years marketers may be looking at a strategy that has gone beyond the Web enabled interface. Audiences may define their own interfaces -- and preferences for consuming content. The idea of a “website” designed by the organization may feel quaint or even completely unnecessary. In this stage, marketers manage their content as a service -- which feeds any interface that requests it.

By opening up our content repositories and managing our web CMS as the creator of true content-services -- we are ostensibly putting in a wellspring of content. And our enterprise business units, our partners and our customers can drink as much and as often as they like.

The value to the business is that we both conserve resources and provide the right amount of content to the right user at the right time and in the right context. That’s incredibly valuable -- and may one day have us using web CMS as a recruiting tool.

Title image by JOH_2036 (Flickr) via CC BY-SA 2.0 license