News UK has rebuilt The Sun’s content management system “from the ground up” after removing its online paywall, Press Gazette’s Future of Media Technology series said.
News UK director of technology platforms Paul Wilson said that after The Sun was removed from the payment wall after two years at the end of 2015, the tabloid used it to take a digital-centric approach.
“We split the newsroom into two halves, a print side and an inline side, and revived The Sun online with a whole new technology” that was modern and “built for scale”.
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The Sun’s online CMS is “headless” which means “content creation and all the planning and curation elements. [are] separate that from how it is rendered to the user, ”explained Wilson.
He said the benefits of using a cloud-based CMS meant that “journalists could work very easily from anywhere” during the pandemic, which saw most working from home.
“On the other hand, it is always highly personalized. So even though it’s for The Sun, it’s WordPress as a core, it’s a heavily personalized WordPress experience, and that comes at a cost in terms of engineering teams, which are getting harder and harder. to find, and we have challenges with upgrades, ”he added.
The Times, however, uses the same CMS platform for print and digital, which means journalists use the same system whether they write for the newspaper or for the Times app and website.
“The downsides are that it’s built with a print mindset, which puts a lot of pressure on us into what we’d like to do to create a richer experience for our online audience, as we start with that print flow and look for then to build the digital side of things on the back of that, ”Wilson said.
He said anyone starting from scratch with a CMS should “consider what your challenges are right now, and ultimately where you are trying to get to, and plan accordingly.”
Wilson was speaking at a panel on content management in an age of digital disruption last week.
The panel, moderated by Dominic Ponsford of Press Gazette, also included:
- Peter Sigfridsson, Head of Production Development at Gota Media
- Henning Johannesson, CPO at United Robots
- Gabe Karp, Managing Director EMEA at 10up
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A survey of virtual participants asked the question, “What new online technologies is your business currently investing in and / or planning to invest in over the next year?” »Of the 40 voters who answered:
- 33% said a new CMS
- 25% said the front end design
- 13% personalization
- 11% content automation
- 8% investment in marketing technology
Divide CMS users into two groups
Karp said web development agency 10up plans to have two separate CMS user groups, the newsroom and the audience, with their own product needs.
“When we think of the editorial team, it’s all about workflow, ease of article editing, collaboration, integration with the tools they use for the rest of their role. Things so simple like integrating with Slack or in other cases integrating with Trello because that’s how they follow print workflows, that stuff makes a really big difference. ”Said Karp.
“We have done usability studies with newsrooms and [found that] If we automate the tagging of stories using natural language processing, we can speed up a story’s publishing time by three minutes, because now no one is sitting there thinking about what tags they’re going to use.
“You end up with the same tags anyway, but you’ve removed some cognitive load there, and often times you get better tags on the stories.
“The other side is that front-end user, we try to think of it as a totally separate user group, as a different product need. This is where we are, again focused on things like user experience and how they’re going to interact with content, but we’re [also] focused on content consumption.
“I think when you’re in a headless environment you can really focus on them as two separate products and that brings you a lot of benefits.”
Importance of metadata
Johannesson, of United Robots, said that in his experience working with media companies, those that use metadata are most successful.
“If you have really good metadata, you can easily create websites where you can locate it, you can create super-local parts of your website and you can structure it according to your interests as well,” he said. he declared to the panel.
“So, for example, if you have a very small interest, you can find everything related to it on a website. I also think a lot of companies struggle with measuring digital success.
“We media companies were really good at measuring the number of printed papers sold each day, but measuring digital success is another thing. Either they don’t have strong KPIs, or they struggle to measure those KPIs.
Sigfridsson of Swedish publisher Gota Media said that publishers should ‘tidy up your metadata, this is very important’, adding: ‘It is fundamental to give every reader what he expects and can do. also be presenting news that he didn’t know he wanted to read. . Metadata is crucial for a good online publication.
Johannesson of United Robots said using automated content requires structure in the back-end. “First of all, you have to be able to structure your website, you have to be able to differ either in geo – which makes it super local – or in areas of interest …
“I think the most important thing for automated stories is that we need really good quality data. If we don’t have that, we can’t do any automation at all… and even with that, we need a machine that looks at the data and says “yes that’s okay we can do that” or ‘something’s wrong here, let’s not write this article’.
Johannesson said he was unaware of Google’s search algorithm punishing publishers for using automated data. “On the contrary, when I Google the articles that we write, they appear pretty high.”
He said it was important that automation means automation – “that shouldn’t have to go through a reporter. I think 95% of the stories we write go straight to websites and the remaining 5% are [held by] publishers wanting to publish it when there are the most people reading it ”.
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