Power without pain: a service to let content thrive and publishers succeed

By: Rich Fairbairn, 19 January 2021

Who said CMS are easy

If you work in a business reliant on content to drive revenue or growth, you know how critical Content Management System (CMS) tools are to accelerate your plans – or how they can stop them in their tracks.

It's no exaggeration that a bad CMS can be one of the most damaging parts of your technical estate: a cold dead hand on the prospects of new launches and new ideas seeing the light of day, and a drag on output and on content team morale. Bad content management costs money and squanders opportunity.

This is easy to understand given the wide remit modern CMS have set themselves: to be the core component at the centre of a spider's web of vital tasks and outcomes in industries with wildly differing needs. Consequently the standard implementation model is to acquire a generic base toolset and commence building the ideal toolset to suit the business – with all the consequences that brings. You are now in the world of extremely specialised development.

For content plays, Content Management and Delivery Systems are not optional extras you can opt to take or leave. You need a content creation and storage hub. You need a reliable system of record. And you definitely need an underpinning logic deciding how and where content appears, gets turned into revenue, and drives the other tools used by modern content plays: analytics, paywalls, identity, syndication, affiliates, A/B testing, CRM, marketing, newsletters and much more can all lean on your core content management system to be effective and payback their investment. 

If those complexities are not enough, a CMS for a professional content operation must these days also be the office and workspace for the most important members of the content-revenue equation - the editorial and content teams which use them. In a modern busy newsroom, editorial staff will spend more time in a CMS than any other system. Just like a badly performing CMS can throttle your business outcomes, it can throttle your creative team output too. And for publishers, content is the product.

Analysis, assessment, acquisition 

You can see the pressure then on technical leaders to pick the right base CMS and turn it into the right tool for the job. Often it seems like there is so much expectation for companies to create their own ideal CMS, that the choice of origin system is almost irrelevant. But in choosing to go in that direction, what you are signing up for is less a piece of software, and more a commitment to handcraft and bespoke your key software for years to come. 

When you bear all the above in mind, it's easy to see why even the "simplest" projects can spiral from simple to complex, and from cheap to prohibitively expensive, and become a creator of conflict. 

Here's how it can go: a 'small' front-end request can need a chunk of application development, which then knocks-on to a more substantial chunk of CMS development, which then demands a business analysis, a development and test programme, and a budget conversation.

Additionally, it is certainly possible for those changes to inadvertently introduce unexpected issues for the content team, who may be consulted last or not at all. Unintentionally, that small front-end change has now added a layer of complexity into the content production workflow that impacts turnaround times and user experience.

And it can go the other way: editorial can submit a change request to make their life easier - the innocent-sounding request for a button to do a thing - without insight into how it might impact the CDN or the front-end application until well into the project and it has become an issue elsewhere. Perhaps the button needs to call on information that exists in another platform, that has not been integrated server side - and now you are being asked to integrate another platform directly into your CMS, with whatever risk that brings.

All this will be familiar to large-scale publishing operations: the expectation that your company and staff need to become experts in CMS development, and that your developers greatest task is to second-guess the needs of the differing parts of the business and somehow keep everyone happy. 

Aren't they being setup to fail? If we started from zero, would we do it this way? Imagine building your own CRM, email, revenue processing, HR, or identity platforms. Or your own infrastructure and delivery systems. 

Solving all those problems by building your own in-house systems every time now seems like an absurdity, when there are dedicated marketplace options aplenty. The world has moved on, and publishing has the right to do the same when it comes to CMS. 

We created Glide upon vast experience in publishing, in editorial, in production, and of tailoring and integrating systems to give editors and creators what they need and publishers what they want.

GPP removes problems and gives you back time to create, as a software-as-a-service platform with all the tools modern publishing demands, ready to go, geared towards content makers, from a company that is rooted in publishing and focused on making it easier.

‘Free’ CMS: break-to-fit, or death by customisation?

There are some fantastic free and Open Source CMS tools out there. WordPress democratised content as never before when it arrived in 2003, giving non-tech and non-publishing people the tools to talk and create at their own pace, in blogs and simple sites where their voice was their own. It was inevitable big publishers would come calling and try to make it fit their needs. 

We used it, and loved it, and saw how it helped move the world on from the pain of millennium-era web publishing. But as Web 1.0 and 2.0 became distant memories, the issues became different, caused by the staggering array of plug-ins created to try and fit the whole web into a single platform - more than 54,000 at last count, all needing developer expertise, support, integration, patches, security updates, and the hope they don’t break one another. We know the WordPress fear: “We finally got it to work, now don’t touch a thing…”. And that is not what modern publishing needs.

Drupal’s Open Source platform is another free and well-known option. Where WordPress offered an easy front-door to the web with themes and easy start-up for individuals, Drupal and its enthusiastic community have extended its base in every direction with numerous extensions and major updates every few years to update the toolset which your developers use to build your custom solution.

But are you a publishing company, or a CMS company? Your developers are experts at making your business work better, at making your site’s front-end sing, and at making the cool stuff that changes the world of your users. Now you are asking them to become experts in building a publishing-centric CMS.

Like WordPress, it’s no wonder so many Drupal Open Source users need outside support, or found themselves so far down a path of customisation that the system became the problem, not the solution.

The Glide goal: publishing success

This is why we do what we do. Glide is inspired by good content, built by engineers who have spent their careers working with publishers and solving their problems. Our goal is to let publishing be done better, with minimum hold up from the platform.

The Glide web CMS family has its focus on content creation and publishing rather than extending the base platform is every possible direction. It is designed and configured to be built on, without any need to modify the platform. So you can do the unique things you need, without having to spend additional time and money modifying the base system or introducing risk.

This ethos and focus is driven by decades of best-in-class publishing experience across newspapers, magazines and numerous digital properties, with a firm understanding that digital transformation for content creators is an ongoing, iterative process and not a one off event.

The Glide goal is giving creators a toolset and workspace that does the most for them out of the box and demands the least of their precious time to do basic or complex things. Launch quickly, with workflows and interfaces created specifically for newsrooms and creators, and engineered with publishing business objectives in mind by making websites work better, reaching more people, making more revenue, and costing less overall.

Glide is a CMS for creators and publishers, that makes technology problems go away.

About the Author

Rich Fairbairn

Rich is the Chief Product Officer at Glide Publishing Platform,  building on his editing and publishing experience to shape our vision to make publishing easier for anyone to do well.