headshot of brice dunwoodie ceo of simpler media group, inc., wrapped inside a quote from dunwoodie about the DX Summit conference

The Transformative Power of Digital Experience #DXS15

6 minute read
Dom Nicastro avatar

Brice Dunwoodie started a blog on Web Content Management Systems (Web CMS) about 12 years ago.

It evolved into CMSWire, the flagship product of San Francisco-based Simpler Media Group, Inc. Today, the company includes more than 400 contributing writers, full-time reporters, editors, sales and marketing professionals.

The players and the technologies have changed, but Dunwoodie's goals remain the same as his early days blogging: Offer compelling, relevant content to technical professionals to help them work smarter.

Web CMS to Digital Experience

One of the most interesting and transformative changes has been the evolution of web content management to a more holistic concept of the digital experience (DX). It's the reason Dunwoodie decided to launch the DX Summit conference, which willbe held this year on Nov. 3 and 4 in Chicago.

“There's a critical moment happening between the WCM/DX/CX and MarTech ecosystems,” Dunwoodie said. “It's overwhelming for consumers of technology to put the pieces together with confidence, and for the vendors it's triggered a lot of stress in terms of how to position in the market.”

The DX Summit will help attendees discover the strategies, technologies and thought leadership that deliver game-changing digital experiences. Dunwoodie, as well as CMSWire writers and editors, will be on hand to lead the conversation and provoke discussion.

'Ever-Evolving Story'

Today we offer the first of a two-part interview between Dunwoodie and CMSWire reporter Dom Nicastro. Dunwoodie discusses Simpler Media Group's own path to digital experience and hisexpectations for the CMSWire DX Summit.

Nicastro: How do you make sure the CMSWire publication gets the right content to the right people?

Dunwoodie: This is a constant challenge and an ever-evolving story. Email is a big part of how we touch our community. We try to match email content to our audience's interests, as exhibited through interactions with our content and events. 

Unfortunately, that approach is imperfect and can create self-fulfilling prophecy loops, so we also include some randomization and a fairly constant review process.

screenshot of CMSWire email it sends to readers

We have additionally been developing the concept of channels of content and will be moving our email communications in that direction, too, so people can explicitly opt into topic themes.

Ultimately, we want a mixture of explicit and behavioral indicators that are leveraged to tune the content and digital experiences we provide. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses.

And as a publication that talks about these things from sun up to sun down, it's important to us that we we really dig into the different toolsets and paradigms ourselves, so that we have credibility with our community.

Nicastro: Simpler Media changed to a new Web CMS to provide a better digital experience for its readers. What were the compelling reasons to change, and what are the early returns?

Learning Opportunities

Dunwoodie: We had a few primary motivations for this investment. The simplest answer was that we were on a fairly-dated platform and needed to move to gain modern functionality and to find technical resources for our development team.

Our delivery platform had also evolved over the course of 10-plus years, and we needed to clean house, standardize and consolidate functionality. I still consider us in Phase 1 of this project, and it's been more than nine months since we started in earnest.

The biggest gain on the DX side has been a responsive presentation layer combined with better content integration between content types. We're now sharing a taxonomy across all primary content types, which enables a more effective blend of content in each view.

Much of the CMSWire experience is now driven by the Coveo enterprise search platform, working in conjunction with Sitecore as a core platform.

These two make for a powerful pair. Though in all honesty they also make for a relatively complex pair, and we are still understanding the nuances of how to best extract value here. The good news is that we now have the tools to experiment, iterate and tune, whereas previously we did not. I'm excited about moving from phase 1 to future phases of this project. 

Our company's DX platform is really a blend of Sitecore, Coveo, Marketo and the ad server as pillars, then custom code and a an evolving data layer that provides the glue. Each pillar has a well defined job, but there are gray areas with overlap and functional evolution as well. As a company it's been a priority to shift towards a culture of agile iteration and a perspective that our platform is a living thing that every employee can influence. I really view this as the biggest win of our recent investment in a modern digital experience solution.

Nicastro: What’s the next focus area in your Web CMS strategy?

Dunwoodie: As we move beyond Phase 1, which has really been about house-cleaning, we will be focusing more on deeper search integration, personalization of search results, personalization of contextual elements, like navigation and supporting content and building out personas around our different readership segments and needs.

I see a lot of the DX returns coming in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of this project, and in the long run as our team better understands the tools that we've invested in. I think platforms like the ones we've chosen take at least a few years to mature in an organization.

If you'd like to learn more about digital experience, join Brice and the rest of the Simpler Media Group team at our DX Summit, which will be held Nov. 3 and 4 at the W Hotel City Center in downtown Chicago. It's an opportunity to network with your peers and hear from industry leaders in the DX space including Tami Cannizzaro, senior director, Marketing at eBay; Mike Gilpin, CTO of Siteworx; Bruno Herrmann, director of Globalization at The Nielsen Company; Deb Lavoy, founder and CEO of Narrative Builders; Jamie Hunt, VP, Experience Design and Strategy at Avanade; and Melissa Webster, VP, Content and Digital Media Tech at International Data Corporation (IDC). Find out more here.

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