Newsroom CMS wish list

September 18, 2011 § 12 Comments

Old Typewriter

Because publishing with our current CMS sometimes feels like typewriting.

I am currently researching CMS vendors for our newspaper. Here I’ve compiled a wish list of features I would like our future CMS to have.

I’m hoping readers will add to this post via the comment section. And if my any item on my list of features needs more details or clarification, I hope that is brought to my attention too. I will update the post with suggestions, etc.

Our current CMS, which is unofficially called Depot, was built by a web developer at our sister newspaper in Yakima, WA. It is built on the Ruby on Rails open-source framework. We decided to go with them after using TownNews for about 10 years. At the time of our switch in late 2009, one of our biggest needs was a paywall. I won’t go into the decision behind the paywall but I will say that we have been able to grow our traffic despite it. I’ll leave a more in-depth analysis of our paywall including hurdles, successes and failures for a later post.

I recently sat in on a webinar with the folks at EllingtonCMS, which is based on the Django framework, and John Hill has volunteered to offer some feedback as he has had some experience with them (thanks John, going to shoot you an email on Monday.) And I will mostly likely ask for a presentation of TownNews’ Blox CMS.

In my following list I will indicate what features EllingtonCMS (E) has at least based on what I took away from the webinar they presented.

I’m hoping to use whatever comments or feedback this post generates to help me and our newspaper make an informed decision. If you’ve got any experience with any of the aforementioned CMS or frameworks, please, please share your thoughts. I also welcome any recommendation for other solutions like WordPress, Drupal and…..

In no particular order of importance:

  • mapping/geodata
  • tagging
  • robust commenting (threaded, voting, etc.) E
  • video platform E
  • blogging E
  • recommended reading lists E
  • most read/shared/emailed lists E
  • community – registration, avatars, badges, ratings E
  • story highlights
  • read later/favorite queue
  • liveblogging
  • social media API integration
  • flexible/modular templates E
  • data import/data visualization
  • email newsletters and SMS alerts E
  • mobile and tablet optimization E
  • integrated payment system for online/print subscriptions E
 Flickr image by Andrew Taylor.


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§ 12 Responses to Newsroom CMS wish list

  • Alasdair says:

    High quality classified ad interface; native image store (so you can “buy this photo” without a hassle)

  • Seems like a lot for a CMS to do well. I tend to take the Unix-like approach of using several programs, each of which is the best in class (or, the best my employer can afford). What I want from a CMS is to handle specific types of content as efficiently and elegantly as possible, with the most possible flexibility. Things like ratings, comments, video hosting or video ad integration, liveblogging, community, payments and alerts/newsletters are, IMHO, best handled by experts. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t found a CMS that tackles all of those things well.

    For example, my current CMS offers detailed analytics, email newsletters and an ad server but I wouldn’t dream of using any of those since I can get much better services from some of the best providers in the business for almost no added cost.

    To me, each of those features are their own discussion, really.

    I’m supposed to get an Ellington demo in a few weeks so I’d love to compare notes after. I had a Blox demo a few months ago and the TownNews guys give a great demo. It looks like a very slick system for a stand-alone news org, and possibly groups like mine. The print-web connections appear to be impressive – if you buy into that addon. Not sure how that performs in real life, though.

    • Carlos says:

      I think you are probably correct about maybe not expecting a CMS to do all this well. I think the examples you list (video, liveblogging , etc.) in particular are probably handled better by other parties.

      Print-web/web-print connection is also something I should add to my list. Probably near the top, if my list were in any particular order.

      Will definitely compare notes with you on Ellington and Blox one I sit through a TownNews demo.

  • Hey Carlos,
    Much of what you describe can easily be done with WordPress too. If you’d like, I’d be happy to connect you with one of my colleagues in our VIP program who demo and talk you through the ins and outs.



    • Carlos says:

      Hey Daniel, that would be great. As you know, the paywall part is crucial for our paper. I did look around and found some plugins that seem to do the job. Anyhow, a demo would be great:


      • Carlos – I’m launching a WordPress site next month with a paywall. I’ll send over the details as we get closer to launch. This will be our first WP paywall but our 7th full-blown newspaper site on WP (not to mention the 300+ blogs we’ve put up on WP in the last 2 years). In fact, we’re looking into using Daniel’s workflow plugin, EditFlow, for this launch.

      • Great to hear, Seth. I’m happy to take any questions you have about Edit Flow, and would love to hear more about how you’re planning to use it. We’ve been working on a pretty significant rewrite and should have a beta for testing by the end of the week. I’m going to have the ONA student newsroom put it through its paces 🙂

        Hearing what your needs are to guide future feature development would be awesome.

  • Angela Dice says:

    Over at the Sun, I used Ellington for a few years. I really liked it, though the Scripps developer added quite tools of their own. I found it pretty flexible with ability to add whatever we needed via recurring inlines or code our own pages. We never used the blog functions, though, because functionality there was pretty spare. I don’t know if the company is going to keep it though, because towards the time I left, Scripps folks were spending a lot of time trying to develop and integrate new features. We had reporters using it too (so it’s not that hard), but lack of WYSIWYG in story modules (at least in the version we had) was a little tough.

    Your list looks pretty good. What I really found important was having flexibility to add code to an existing story module (via inline or otherwise) through the CMS itself without having to update a template.

    Also, be really careful about how it will interact with your front-end system, such as typographic styles or hyperlinks going seamlessly from one to the other (an efficiency thing) or quirks in the way it reads special characters.

    • Carlos says:

      Thank for the great feedback @Angela. Playing nice with our newsroom editorial system is definitely at the top of our list. Great point.

      And it looks like Ellington now has more of a WYSIWYG interface from what I saw in the demo.

  • Eddie Vega says:

    We too are looking for a CMS with print/web – web/print functionality for eBooks. We thought we found one but the company wanted $25K per year to use it. Cost is a significant part of the discussion.

  • Sam says:

    Have you considered drupal? We built using a drupal framework last year. It’s used for many news sites.

  • […] recently developed a company-wide strategic plan. One part of that plan is the redesign of our website. And I’ve been tasked the job of leading a committee to do […]

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