Don’t expect your CMS to do multichannel publishing

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Multichannel publishing has been around for some time, but many organizations are dreaming of a system that would publish their content to several channels, like their extranets, social media services, email newsletters and mobile sites.

North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.

28 February 2013

Perttu Tolvanen

The idea is good in concept, but even though this dream has existed for over 10 years there still are very few organizations that can honestly say that they are doing this kind of multichannel publishing. The rare ones are mostly media companies who truly have to publish to several channels (including TV, news screens, radio, several websites, or print publications). And for media companies there are specialized content management systems (eg. Escenic, eZ Publish) that are slightly better than others in enabling this kind of multichannel publishing.

In general though CMS systems are not very good at this kind multichannel publishing. There are three major reasons for this:

  1. Web CMS products are ‘systems of record’ by nature. Their main objective is to manage and safeguard the content that is saved to their database. Only some CMS products are starting to grasp the idea of what it means to be a ‘system of engagement’ and enable things like content analytics, content targeting, content personalization. And it isn’t clear if CMS products should even become a different beast – after all most CMS products still have work to do when it comes to enabling their users to manage web content properly.
  2. The Web is developing at a rapid pace, and is not showing any signs of slowing down. New social media services are appearing all the time. Current major social media services (like Facebook and Twitter) are changing their APIs constantly and making major updates to their services. Development of standardized protocols for communication between different services is not making any progress. Even delivering email newsletters reliably is not becoming any easier. In summary: Being able to publish to these different channels and managing the publication process is a hugely complicated task where the target is moving all the time.
  3. Multichannel publishing as a system works well only when all the target channels are fairly static publications. In the era of social media discussions, sharing, commenting and rating adds increasing demands for adapting your content to different channels. And if you have to adapt the message and take part in conversations, the benefits of having multichannel publishing system disappear quickly.

Due to these reasons most CMS products are not focusing on enabling multichannel publishing in a large scale. Some of them might offer the possibility to push your news headlines to Facebook and Twitter, but going beyond that is a big mountain to cross.

If you need multichannel publishing to different channels make sure that you know exactly what you want. Once you have defined your absolute needs, you can send these scenarios to CMS vendors and ask what kind of capabilities they offer. Just be prepared that most vendors (that are not lying) respond by saying how good of an API they have for building these kinds of custom publishing channels and the custom modules for managing them.

In most cases multichannel publishing requirements need heavy customization or custom add-ons to your CMS. So think carefully if you really need to build that multichannel publishing system for your news content (or other content) or if you could survive by using a clever mix of third party tools (eg. email marketing tools and social media management tools like HootSuite).

Perttu Tolvanen

Perttu Tolvanen is a web concept design and content management system expert.

Perttu consults with clients on project planning and defining requirements, and supports customers in selecting content management systems and implementation partners. His areas of specialisation include facilitating concept design workshops and selecting content management systems.

Perttu has ten years of experience with web and intranet projects, including serving as a project manager and consultant. Earlier in his career Perttu has worked in procurement and as a project manager at a large media company, a content management system consultant at a large IT company and an independent, neutral consultant at his own firm. He is also a well-known seminar speaker and blogger. Perttu is also the editor of, a Finnish blog about the Finnish internet and its creators.


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