There are a lot of things that stand the test of time -- but content monetization strategies and online publishing trends are not two of them. What has endured is the promise that online content is growing, shifting, and finding monetization opportunities in new ways faster than we could ever overhaul our systems to address them.
As publishers, you already know how staggering the growth of online content is. Without even seeing this week's PR Daily infographic, you can just about see the 98,000 tweets per minute whizzing above your head. The 13,000 iPhone apps being downloaded in those same 60 seconds doesn't surprise you. Even the 25+ hours of new video on YouTube uploaded while you read this article's first paragraph doesn't give you much pause anymore.
Sure, we've gotten used to it, but if you're a publisher looking for an audience, how do you make that firehose of content work for you? If you're an online publisher, a niche publication, or a magazine trying to stand out, which of these streams do you choose? And do you dip a toe into several streams, or plunge headlong into just one? And how do you manage all of these different services, interfaces, and providers effectively with the content on your site? How do you choose a content management system that has all the "best" integrations included? If this one interfaces with Flickr and that one interfaces with YouTube, which one's going to give you better information, more bang for your content buck?
Honestly, the best CMS is the one that 'interfaces' with the stuff that hasn't been invented yet. Really, any CMS you're buying is "site unseen" -- you barely know which content stream is going to be important to your readers now - you can't possibly know which one(s) are going to be important to your readers in two years. CMSs that are built to interact with a set group of hot third-party services are wonderful, but if they're not flexible, your "hot" will become "not" faster than you can train everyone to use that CMS.
This is where open source makes a lot of sense for publishers seeking a CMS that can stay with them for the long haul. The nature of open source software means that there are always community members building the software. And with the rise of "modules," "plugins," and most recently for Drupal, "apps," open source CMS is making it easy for the community to contribute without requiring a completely new release of the software. With Publishing CMSs like OpenPublish (now being built on Drupal7), integrations with third party services like Google Analytics will be accomplished through an active "app" marketplace. And when the next analytics tool makes its debut, or the next Google tool comes rushing in, we're only a module away from integration. Open source CMS options help keep your site working for you, long after the version you installed is past and the hottest integration you had is cold. Should the monetization opportunity move to tablets, you'll need the integrations with the tablet marketplaces out there. And should a new paradigm for sharing content arise -- or shall we say, when -- you'll want the opportunity to integrate those sharing opportunities in your system too. A few practical considerations, as you're weighing the CMS options:
1. Beware the wall 'o logos: a CMS advertising their integrations with a page chock full of all your favorite services' logos is helping you focus on the wrong thing. Remember, half of those logos could be gone or obsolete in 2 years, and at least that many new services will have sprung up.
2. Look under the hood: Don't worry about who they're integrating with now - look deeper to see what their method is for allowing new integrations. If a single company is in control of all future integrations of the CMS with outside services, run, don't walk.
3. Know what's "out of the box": The words "can integrate with" and "integrates out of the box" are two very different statements. Be sure that you understand what's involved with integrating your CMS with a third-party service you need. Does it require customizations being built just for you? Can the work be done by anyone who knows the software, or only your CMS vendor?
4. Understand the true costs: Ask: what will the integrations you need do for your costs? If you're considering a paid license, know what the additional integrations will do for your licensing fees. And if you're considering open source, you've already heard that open source is free code, not free services. If you're not willing to wait for an open source community to contribute the integration you need (in just the way you need it), you should be prepared to have it custom-built for you, by someone who knows what they're doing.
Even within open source systems, there are more fully-baked integration-heavy models, and lighter, more modular concepts, and one can argue benefits to each. The measure that counts is return on investment. Real return on your CMS investment won't happen because of today's hottest feature sets and integrations. The best ROI you'll see will be in choosing a platform that will be with you for the feature sets and content integrations of 2014 (and beyond).