SXSW 2010: Managing Your Content Management System

Monday, March 15, 2010 9:30am
Alex Will, Spoonfed Media
Henry Erskine Crum, Spoonfed Media

Session Description

An effective content management system is a must for any content-based web service. This technical session will discuss elements of designing and building a custom CMS that leverages technology and existing web data from sources such as Flickr and Wikipedia to automate research and increase time spent writing original content.


Key takaways of this panel

  • Most important factors when making a decision about a CMS: contentext of your content business and process of content protection.
  • Tools to evaluate what CMS you need for your business.
  • “A computer based system that allows one or more people to manage the online publication, storage and display of content.”

Content is generated from all different means. It can be from twitter, youtube, flickr, etc. But what they’re going to talk about today is the editorial content of the primary page.

The Production Process (of writing content)

  • Data Collection: The raw event data before you start writing the editorial
  • Work Flow Management: How you assign tasks to divide up the editorial parts into logical chunks
  • Research: Look to sources on the internet for further information or clarify information they may already know
  • Write
  • Review
  • Publish: At this point you also consider SEO or linking into Social Media to maximize what you get as far as viewers

Content Production in Events (from Spoonfed’s view)

  • Events are a moving target with a finite shelf-life
  • Incentive structure for UGC in events is small
  • Opinionated content for target market

Business Objective (from Spoonfed’s view)

  • Develop a way of publishing copyright event listings in an efficient and scalable way

Why Spoonfed choose a Custom CMS

What didn’t matter

  • Amount of data
  • Size of web site
  • Complexity of idea

What did matter

  • Data aggregation from multiple sources
  • Work flow management between editors
  • Reducing research time per event: having all data for the event on the same edit page
  • Search Engine Optimization: the editors need to know how to efficiently do this
  • Lead generation and contact management

Getting the Raw Data

  • Automate and aggregate non-editorial elements
  • Create different processes for different parts of the information
  • Dealing with issues of quality and duplication
  • Example: deciding what news stories to write real-time

Workflow Management

  • Dividing tasks, vertically segmenting, prioritizing and assigning responsibility
  • Incorporate automated steps into the workflow process
  • Reduce or remove the time that is spent by humans prioritizing the information

Reducing Research Time: the golden ratio

  • Give editors research esources without leaving the page: Wikipedia, Flickr, Twitter and Google News
  • Rise of real-time news as part of this process increases relevancy and quality
  • Re-purposing data

Talking about SEO

  • Tools to aid editors in the production of content for SEO; such as Keyword research
  • Suggested Inlinking
  • Major benefits if you’re not using off-the-shelf systems

Contacts, Relationship Building and Lead Generation

  • Linked to prioritization – manage the most important information first
  • Store and prioritize contacts that can be converted into leads
  • Automatically alert contacts when you create content they’d be interested in

Things we are thinking about in the Future

  • Prioritizing content pages for individual editors; such as Leveraging trend data
  • Analytics: value of historical data within CMS; such as what worked on the site and how to leverage in the CMS for the future

Don’t Forget

  • Every circumstance is different – think about tradeoffs
  • Launch and iterate mentality is key
  • Don’t expect to get it 100% first time; Editorial team is essential for further efficiency gains.

Reflect: Why custom CMS was right in this case

  • Solve problem of producing huge amounts of content efficiently
  • Analyze and innovate on improving every step of production process
  • Competitive advantage: size of editorial team, SEO, scalability

Questions and Answers

How many man-hours did it take for you to complete this development?
Their second version took about 7 months to get the main CMS out, and another 4 months of tweaks. It is written in Rails.

Do you have user themed content?
They use “tags” and you can create your own “entity magazine” on which tags you want displayed.

Can you talk about the visual about where does the feed come vs. where you’re actually writing?
One is a calendar and workflow, divided up how the editor wants it. Then you have the area in which you write, with an area where data is pulled in from Wikipedia and Flick allowing you to drag and drop into your own content (all within on the same page).

Do you retain a developer, or more than one? And if so, do you analyze ever where the expense of doing it yourself may financially surpass what it’s worth?
Yes. We’ve found now there is about one developer’s needs half a year for typical maintenance.

How much is your content found typically? Via clicking through articles, or searching on your website?
Articles, social media, and a large amount of traffic through search. They focus on whenever someone searches for sometime they’ve documented then it’s found.

More Information


Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2010.

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