The Washington Post May License its CMS Platform

3 minute read
Erika Morphy avatar

The Washington Post's team of developers and engineers have done such a stellar job of building out a new content management system (CMS) that it's now considering licensing it to other news organizations, according to a recent article in The Financial Times.

The FT reported that the paper has been approached by other publications about licensing the software.

The Bezos Connection

How did the Post get to this point? It is safe to assume that its ownership by tech mastermind and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos played a role but as a separate article from The Poytner Organization showed, building a world-class CMS platform to be licensed by other media was not the original goal.

In an article published last month, Poynter described the Post's humble start to its current CMS. It began, the publication wrote, three years ago when the publication determined that it needed a content management system that could better handle articles, video, mobile apps and analytics then its legacy system it was using at the time.

The tech team the Post assembled studied how the reporters and producers worked to make sure the system fit their needs, Gregory Franczyk, chief architect at The Washington Post told Poynter.

"They started with a temporary fix, gradually transitioning sections of the site to WordPress beginning with Wonkblog, which was then run by Ezra Klein," according to the publication.

The turning point came when the engineers were asked to make author pages that didn’t use the CMS because it was still too cumbersome. The tech team developed a new platform to create such page templates that proved to be so popular that other editors and developers at the Post began clamoring to have more content built with this platform, which The Post was tentatively calling Pagebuilder. The Post’s recipes section transitioned to the platform, followed by the paper’s video initiative, then the custom articles for the Posts Olympic coverage.

Learning Opportunities

The platform is still a work in progress but clearly it is ready for prime time, or close to it, as the Financial Times reported.

CMS Equals Competitive Edge

Increasingly news media, such as the Post – and now the publications that wish to avail itself of its technology – has come to realize that back end systems for digital content are almost as important as the content itself to stay competitive.

For example, the Framingham, Mass.-based publisher International Data Group brought its various tech-oriented magazines under one shared content management system about a year ago. The shift allowed the publisher to more easily turn some of the publications into digital-only versions, most famously Macworld, CEO Peter Longo told the Boston Business Journal last year.

These happy endings, however, are more the rule than the exception with CMS, at least in other industries that tend to deploy out-of-the-box software instead of launching customer initiatives. Only one-quarter of digital professionals surveyed by Econsultancy and Adobe feel their CMS helps them improve user engagement and customer engagement. One solution for these companies may be the emergence of open source CMS platforms. But that is another story all together.

About the author

Erika Morphy

New Orleans-based journalist Erika Morphy has been covering technology and its business implications for more than 20 years.

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