A train coming to a crossroads on the track.
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More than half of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority, according to HubSpot. The same company found 24% of marketers struggle to identify the right tools and technologies for their needs.

So there is the conundrum: loads of content to produce, choosing the right tools. Two major content technologies include Web Content Management systems (WCM) and Content Marketing Platforms (CMPs). Seasoned marketers know full well about those platforms, but which are the right to leverage for your brand's needs and your particular content campaigns? Not the easiest question to answer.

Distinguishing WCM from CMP

The first step toward identifying which is the right fit for your organization and when? Determine the differences between the two technologies. “The difference between the two is that a content management system, such as WordPress, is more general in use, while a Content Marketing Platform, such as Mintent, is more specialized,” said Carsten Schaefer, founder and CEO at crowdy.ai.

Curata defines a Content Marketing Platform as a software solution that “enables marketers to drive awareness, leads and revenue from content.” It allows for a “data-driven, scalable, and multi-channel approach” across strategy, production, distribution and analytics. Curata officials also said content marketing platforms are different from marketing automation platforms in that unlike CMPs, marketing automation platforms do not focus on content. They help brands generate automated, repetitive marketing actions.

Related Article: Gartner Names Content Marketing Platform Leaders

WCM Produces Content; CMP Distributes Content

WCM is used to produce content, and CMP is used to distribute it, according to Saurabh Jindal, CEO of Talk Travel. "A CMP helps marketers to distribute content and helps raise awareness about the content, get users to read the content, generate leads and thus drive revenues of it,” he added. “A CMS, on the other hand, helps to produce content. Using CMS, the content team can easily produce and manage the website and the content to be productive and displayed over it.”

Scrutinize CMP Definitions

Although much content exists about Content Marketing Platforms, they are newer to the marketing technology scene than WCM. Be sure to gather as much information as possible because some definitions may be skewed, according to Robert Rose, chief strategy advisor for the Content Marketing Institute. “Much like WCM in the early 2000s,” Rose said, “the whole definition of CMP is a bit confused. Even the major analyst firms are comparing solutions that really have no business being in the same consideration set.” 

Rose said his organization finds that those solutions that are being called CMPs are generally being “utilized as lighter, more collaborative, answers to managing content across owned and shared media.”

Related Article: Gartner Names WCM Leaders 

CMPs: Shines Where WCM Can Be ‘Bulky’

Typically, CMPs are deployed where marketing teams are looking for more collaborative editorial calendaring and workflows, light content and digital asset management needs, and some manner of content performance analytics, according to Rose. “These are areas,” Rose said, “where existing enterprise WCM systems are either seen as too bulky, restrictive, or in some way too complex to solve the needs of a content marketing team.”

WCM: Handles the Content Plumbing

Dennis Shiao, an independent marketing consultant, cited Gartner literature from its Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management and Magic Quadrant for Content Marketing Platforms as one way to distinguish the two:

  • WCM: “Web content management is a foundational technology for every digital business.”
  • CMP: “Content marketing platform vendors provide ideation, editorial planning, content sourcing and analysis capabilities.”

“In other words, WCM is a must-have,” Shiao said. “It handles the ‘plumbing’ for a brand’s digital experience. For the website, WCM handles content management, page and template management, permissions, workflow, caching, localization, rendering and more.”

Most WCM systems enable brands to manage content centrally, then publish to multiple channels, Shiao added. “The website is a primary channel today, but more and more, brands are publishing from their WCM to mobile apps, social networks, smart speakers and even Internet of Things (IoT) devices,” he said.

Related Article: How to Prepare for a Sunsetting Web CMS

CMP: Sits Higher in the Martech Stack

According to Shiao, CMPs sit higher in the marketing technology stack. CMPs lie in the application layer, whereas WCM is the platform or systems layer, he added. While a WCM services an entire organization (including marketing), CMP began as a tailor-made solution for content marketers. “For some scenarios, a WCM can satisfy a content marketing team’s needs,” Shiao said. “When I ran content marketing for a medium-sized business, a WCM suited us just fine.” 

When is CMP the Right Choice?

When might you need a CMP? Shiao found marketers can consider these parameters:

  • Size of the content marketing operation, including employees, agencies, freelancers and other third parties
  • The volume of content marketing produced each month or each quarter
  • The ability for your audience to find and consume your content marketing
  • Your ability to measure and analyze your content marketing results

While WCM vendors may tell you they can do all of this, CMP vendors will stress they can provide content marketers with capabilities beyond WCM:

  • Editorial calendars, content marketing workflows and collaboration tools
  • Analytics for content marketing (vs. the more “raw” web analytics)
  • Content assistance: helping you with ideation, topics, titles, SEO opportunities and more
  • Intelligent rendering: content hubs and content libraries that surface just the right content to your visitor

Road Ahead: Hard to Distinguish the Two

Soon enough, it will be hard to distinguish WCM from CMPs, Shiao said. WCM vendors will provide more features to satisfy content marketers, he added, while CMP will provide more “lower level” capabilities that look and feel like conventional web content management. 

“While we’ve seen some M&A in the CMP space (e.g., Oracle and Compendium; Upland and Kapost), my bet is that CMPs are a ripe target for acquisition by WCM vendors,” Shiao said. “It makes too much sense. Hello, Adobe, Sitecore, Episerver, Acquia and others.”

Understanding True Content Needs

Even with big acquisitions possibly in the offing, marketers will still have their challenges with content if they should work with CMPs or WCM on various content initiatives. “If you’re wondering which one is the right for you, the factors to consider is how much content you produce, how big your content marketing team is and what kind of ROI you get from content,” Jindal said. “Content marketing platforms present a turnkey solution for companies that want to produce content at scale and track its performance. However, if you just publish a few blogs here and there, you’re much better off using (something like) WordPress.”

You may use a CMS to produce content, but it is a challenge to make it reach the right audience. “CMP helps by enabling a data driven and scalable way of managing the content supply and distribution,” Jindal added.

According to Rose, the need for which WCM or CMP — and especially the myriad solutions within each category — comes down to first understanding the true needs of the teams that will be utilizing them and then creating a short list of appropriately featured solutions.