Time for a Backwards Thinking CMS

Ben Brooks recently offered a look at what he would like to see from the next wave of CMS (or content management systems for you non-geeks). He provides a fairly comprehensive list of what he would like to see. Sites like Squarespace seem to be making headway in many of the areas he identifies, especially with their latest offering, Squarespace Commerce, but we’re not yet at a point where it is simple to turn a blog into a business.

Ben points out the very real problem that most of us who create content aren’t necessarily geeky enough to easily monetize the work we create. We either need help from others (which can get costly) or a service robust enough to meet our needs (which doesn’t always exist).

The list he provides would offer a robust tool for a blogger who, like Ben, sells his own advertising, runs a membership and sells their own products. It also touches on his own personal concepts with the need for a paywall. My goals are different, so is my interest for the next wave of content management systems. So what do I really want from a CMS? One place to house my content and multiple mediums with which to leverage it.

The words I create on this site are often meant to be less timely. I hope that what I write is relevant, but I want much of it to be useful a year from now, five years from now or possibly even ten years from now. As I write this article, there are currently 673 posts on this site. Most of them, 480 to be exact, were created after April, 2011, when I finally started to find the “voice” for this site. Of those posts, I’d like to hope that somewhere between 100 and 200 of those posts are still useful, especially with minor updates.

We’ve recently seen bloggers like Patrick Rhone, Mike Vardy and Nick Wynja create books from their blogs. I believe the trend will continue as the “Trade Paperback” approach to packaging content seems to be a great way for writers to highlight their best content while creating a method for new readers to jump on. It’s in this area that I’d like to see our content management systems do more. I can’t help but think that the greatest value a CMS has exists not in finding ways for people to support what I will write, but in offering more efficient ways for readers to enjoy what has already been created.

I’ve created logical options for readers. RSS and email subscriptions provide ways for people to see what will come next. My start page serves as a jumping off point for those who want to look back. It’s not ideal and at the moment, I have no incentive to keep hundreds of posts on my site current. There are certainly ways that I can improve navigation using existing options, but I haven’t found a great solution. It’s in leveraging the content on a site like mine where I believe the largest opportunity lies.

Since Ben did a wonderful job on the forward-thinking side, I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer an equally thorough glance in the opposite direction. Here’s what I’d like from a content management system:

  • Group posts together into collections
  • Leverage existing tags and collections to filter posts
  • Edit the posts within a collection with the option to either:

    • Change only the post within a collection
    • Change both the collection and original post
  • Reorder a collection into a logical reading order

  • Add “posts” into the group to allow for unique intros, outros and section breaks
  • Offer free or paid (either one time or recurring) access to the content in these collections
  • Serve up the content in order, starting at the beginning, through a variety of mediums:

    • RSS
    • Email
    • eBook (for completed collections or as a wrap up for lapsed subscriptions)
  • Provide standard templates for email or eBooks while allowing for customization

  • Offer forms that let users buy or subscribe to a collection
  • Allow the reader to set the frequency at which RSS or Email posts are sent
  • Use tags to automatically add future content to ongoing collections (i.e. Best Of, Geeky Posts, OmniFocus Posts)
  • Allow readers to change how they’re reading (i.e. switching from RSS to Email midway through a collection)

The Thinking

There’s a lot to like in Ben’s list, it just doesn’t offer the one thing I really want: a better way to serve up the useful information I’ve created and financial opportunity that can be created in doing so. This is something I’ve wanted for my own site for some time and something I’d love from others as well. Imagine visiting a site for the first time and having a logical way to catch up rather than what is often a difficult, if not futile, experience.

Like Ben, I want an easy way to sell things via my site, but more than that I want a site that helps me create those products. Products that give regular readers a way to say thanks and offer new readers a way to get caught up in a medium and at a pace of their choosing. This may be less conventional than what Ben is suggesting, but I don’t believe it’s any less viable or any more difficult. There’s no doubt that managing multiple time-shifted feeds is challenging, but it’s already being done.

In the next few years, we’re likely to see lots of innovation in how people monetize their sites. I just hope a few of them do more than look forward, because when you look back, there’s a lot to be excited about and a fair amount worth selling.

Leave a reply