If you are marketing a brand whose business model relies on publishing regular content, finding the best content management system for your needs is absolutely crucial. The choice will impact your brand at every level, from creating the content to publishing it effectively and promoting it to your target audience.
So what type of content management system is best for publication sites? The answer may surprise you: a custom CMS. In fact, a system specifically built for your needs will come with a number of significant advantages that are impossible to overlook.
1) User Friendliness
Chances are your content writers and editors are not digital experts. They may have acquired limited HTML and CMS knowledge out of necessity, but will welcome a platform that allows them to focus on what they do best: writing and editing content for publication on your website.
A CMS like WordPress does not always allow them to do just that. Because it is based on templates that have to be usable by no less than 75 million individual websites and their underlying business models, it won't take into account the unique needs of your business and its creative personnel. A custom CMS, on the other hand, will be built specifically with your needs in mind.
2) Managing the Content Publishing Flow
The same concept extends to the content publishing flow, as well. Ultimately, most CMS systems are not built to include a chain of approval. You can set user roles that do not allow your writers to publish or your editors to create content from scratch, but automatic notifications about a piece of content being moved to the next stage of the publication funnel are almost impossible.
Ideally, the process should be as automated as possible. You don't want your writers to have to individually email editors to check out certain types of content every time they write it. A better solution is to set up automatic notifications, or editing dashboards, that notify editors when a piece is ready for their review. You can even include a comment system in which your writers can leave notes for the editors to consider.
3) Setting Individual User Group Permissions
We mentioned user permissions above, and no CMS would be complete without the ability to set specific user roles for individual employees of your company. But in template-based systems like WordPress, these rules are standard and difficult to change.
For many publication websites, that rigidity invites difficulty. Some of your editors may be writers, and need custom security roles designed specifically for their needs. In addition, you need to make sure that dashboards are updated so that individual users can only see actions they're allowed to take, avoiding the dreaded 'you don't have permission to do that' error message. A custom CMS allows you to do just that.
4) Front End Customization
Finally, let's not forget about the most important stakeholder in your website: your audience. They will never see the intricacies of the CMS that powers your website, but can nonetheless take advantage of the benefits of a custom solution.
That's because a custom website, built on a custom CMS, allows you to develop a front end that will be unique to your business needs. Vox Media, for example, used its CMS to create so-called 'Story Streams' that move away from chronological order and instead allow publishers to thematically group specific topics. End users can dive deeply into a topic of interest, rather than have to find past versions of it buried in the website's archive.
A template-based CMS like WordPress may seem like an obvious choice at first, considering its ubiquity in the publishing community. But such a system cannot duplicate the above advantages, which is why many prominent publishers have moved to build their own platform instead.
Media Giants from the New York Times to Vox Media all rely on software solutions that are built not on templates. Instead, their publication-based business models require more custom solutions that can better accommodate their needs.