When open-source CMS is better

By Steve Outing

Drupal, Joomla, WordPressMany large news companies use expensive content management and web publishing systems. And sometimes, being saddled with such systems is a detriment when it comes to adding new features in a timely manner. I know one major media company that doesn’t even support user comments on its articles, because its web publishing system is too ungainly to easily add it. (Its online editors are incredibly frustrated by this situation.)

Think about that! A major media company is hamstrung from doing stuff that any blogger can do using open-source platforms like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. Indeed, the blogging platforms (which is a misnomer, because these can be full-fledged content management systems; they’re not limited to producing blogs but are flexible enough to host a wide array of website types) are in some ways better than those corporate web publishing systems.

A huge community of programmers and developers are creating add-ons (plug-ins and widgets) that greatly extend the capabilities of platforms like WordPress and Drupal — and often are cheap, if not free. Not even a deep-pocket media company could afford the programming staff to keep up with what the open-source community produces.

That an army of volunteer programmers are producing functionality that major news companies can’t keep up with is an interesting situation, to say the least.

There’s already a steady movement by newspapers to use Drupal. WordPress is less powerful than Drupal, but it’s nevertheless great for many web projects that a news company might do.

Open source CMS should not be something that news companies avoid. Especially for smaller news operations, these platforms allow you to produce a full-featured website in a matter of hours. If you’re holding onto prejudice against using open-source publishing systems, get over it.

You may not be ready to dump your expensive web publishing system, and that’s expected. But please consider open-source platforms for specific projects where using what you’ve got will hold you back.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!