How Do I Choose the Best Publishing Software for My Newspaper or Magazine?

Media content management systems are fast becoming the tool of tomorrow’s content marketing. Content marketing, in its simplest definition, is creating positive conversations around products and/or services through credible content.

Obviously the highest growth area for this strategy is online. The ability to engage your readers online and measure campaign results truly makes the internet the favourite child of the media family. And with economic forecasts gloomy and advertising spends dropping year on year, advertising customers are looking for more cost effective ways of hitting their own customers between the eyes.

Ironically, it is not so much between the eyes now, but more like sewing seeds that will flower into conversations and references that lead to purchases. The implication for print publishers of this sophisticated and growing trend in advertising is the urgent need to get online and engage. If they do not appease their advertisers the only certain thing is that the competition will.

Not surprisingly then in this media-scape, content management systems (CMS’s) are on fire! Publishers, both professional and novice, are looking for affordable content management solutions that allow them to compete with the major media publishing companies and really bridge that online / print chasm. The good news is that there are plenty of smart options out there. The bad news is that it is time to bite the bullet and look at new ways of doing business. As Rupert says, “it will be the quick and the nimble media players who change the face of media.”

So, where to start? What to look for? How to weigh up the pros and cons of your favourites? CMS software, even narrowed down to newspaper or magazine software, is still an extremely wide and deep pool with a lot on offer. Research strategies that may help you determine the best fit for your needs include:

Online surfing: think of at least 7 different keyword searches you might use for your software search. Remember, the company that has built your ideal match is also doing its best to guess what words you would use, what benefits are important to you.

The wrapping: be careful of ‘pretty’ sites and keep focused on functionality. This space is on fire and filling up with plenty of players, from cowboys to experts. Some of the best publishing software I bought was from fairly average looking sites, while conversely some of the silliest products I trialled have been from flash Web 2.0 sites that appear to have spent all their dollars on marketing.

Play around: get into their demo newspaper or magazine websites. Start to compile of list of the functions, product implementation factors, support etc that really hit the right chord for you. As you build your wish list, give specifics weightings so that you are prepared to add more or knock some off in order to get the right one for you. You will need less and less time in news sites the more you do, because you will see quickly how a company’s product compares to your wish list.

Beginners: be clear about how much computer knowledge is required in order to get full value out of your new software. Thousands of businesses have erupted in recent times as software companies or open source groups pump out excellent products that need professional programmers to really unlock the power of the systems.

Free publishing software: take a good look at what you can get for free. Often there may be advertising or other requirements when you accept the free software, but these are minor points. Be sure the free versus paid software (sometimes even from the same company) stacks up with your wish list and that it is easily implemented. There is a lot of excellent free publishing software on the market and well worth a look.

Blogs and forums: type “blog: (key words)” into Google and this will take you to plenty of sites where others are discussing the good the bad and the ugly of all manner of solutions. Very handy!

Trial it: if on the surface everything looks about right, get in there, sign up, roll up your sleeves, grab a coffee and a sandwich and trial the vendor’s software! A lot of people think that if they sign up and then do not use the software, they will be plagued by newsletters and contact forms. Others are still in the land of ‘download’ and risks associated with that – web based CMS’s, represent 95% of newspaper or magazine content management systems, which mean no downloads, only ‘switch-ons’.

Contact the vendor: got any questions, get them answered! Just because you are buying online does not mean no customer service. If the company is overseas, email them and ask your questions either in writing or have them call you.

Contact one of their customers: most websites selling websites will show a sample of customer websites. Often the vendor will not be responsible for the final look of their customers’ sites, so check out a few and contact one that looks good. Ask why they went with the software you are seriously considering, the level of support they have received, what they would improve etc. You might hear things you had not considered and well worth adding to your wish list. Not only will you get some invaluable feedback on the product, you will make a good industry contact.

Buying the right content management system for your newspaper or magazine is a big decision. There are many web based or ‘software as a service’ products out there that are surprisingly affordable compared to their unwieldy client server counterparts, relics from another era that would have cost $60k only three years ago. So price is unlikely to be as big a purchase hurdle as the fact that you, your staff and your readers will need to learn a new system and once you get rolling with it, you are unlikely change horses for a while. That is a BIG job.

Happy CMS hunting for all you publishers and have some fun. You will be blown away by what is out there and how it will revolutionise your business.