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Newspaper CMS Starts with 7 Key Factors

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Webmaster message boards are filled with emotional debates about the best content management systems to use, but the debates often simplify a decision that isn’t so simple.

A newspaper that is considering a new CMS has to weigh a number of factors in making a final choice. Overlooking key factors can result in a disaster that will cost that site both readers and advertisers. It has happened many times before.

Factor No. 1: Scale

Weekly or small daily newspapers can use certain content management systems that scale well for the amount of content that is uploaded each day or week.

For larger newspapers, load testing should be a standard practice for anyone looking at acquiring a new system. The inability of a CMS to handle a high volume of site visitors during a major breaking news story is a serious problem that has happened before to newspaper sites in a live environment.

Factor No. 2: Implementation

Popular, open-source systems such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal can be implemented by someone with even moderate technical skills. Plugins can be added easily for the most part.

But many larger newspapers that use open-source platforms end up customizing them for more specific uses. Newspaper sites without someone with a strong technical background are better off buying a service agreement from a CMS provider in a hosted environment.

Factor No. 3: Support

Open-source CMS generally comes with no warranty and voluntary community support as a result of being free.

However, smaller newspaper sites that make this choice might consider looking for freelance expertise that can provide support for more customized solutions that the larger newspapers build in-house.

Factor No. 4: Portability

What if a site exists under one CMS and the choice is made to migrate to another? An essential consideration is whether the content from the old site can easily be exported to the new CMS.

A decision not to migrate certain content will be costly in the site losing indexed pages in search engines and therefore search engine traffic.

A related critical factor is the site architecture. Massive changes in the directory structure also will create problems for search engine indexing. To reduce that risk, consider either imitating the old directory structure as much as possible or use 301 redirects.

Factor No. 5: Proprietary Coding

A content management system built in a proprietary environment may have certain advantages with performance and distinct disadvantages with flexibility.

The newspaper that chooses a proprietary CMS is making a commitment to a system that does only what the provider dictates as opposed to the flexibility benefits of open source.

Factor No. 6: Provider Stability

The long-term stability of the provider, whether it is from an open-source community or a commercial vendor, creates a potential risk for the newspaper.

A CMS community that deteriorates because of flawed software upgrades or a vendor that goes into bankruptcy will make it much more difficult for the newspaper site to keep up with current technology.

Factor No. 7: System Evolution

What does the provider have planned for the CMS in the coming months? A lack of vision or planning is a sign of short-term thinking. The next upgrade with a commitment to added or improved features and functionality is an ongoing necessity for both the provider and the newspaper.

Delivering those upgrades within a reasonable period of time, or with delays that aren’t too extensive, signals a level of competence that should be reassuring.

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