Panel Report: Web CMS and the Expanding E-Marketer’s Toolbox

Well, the dust has just settled from this morning’s MITX event, "Web CMS and the Expanding E-Marketer's Toolbox". Luckily it was a block away from our office so I could scurry back and post a quick report.

First off, my fellow Mythbuster David did a fabulous job of leading and corralling a topic that can be daunting and overwhelming. Talking ‘bout taxonomy at 8 am can be a little rough – luckily this panel was anything but dry. The five panelists provided some real insight into the current industry landscape as well as some interesting disagreements on how CMS technology is evolving to support the marketer.

Here are some highlights that jumped out at me, in no particular order:

The shock and awe moment:  David’s intro featured a 5-slide progression of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of web 2.0 companies and widgets dominating the landscape. I heard a collective gasp from the crowd.

The dilemma: The panel had a lively discussion on the role of traditional CMS in a distributed world of widgets and new technology. Bill Cava of Ektron said there are a few schools of thought. You can have a best-of-breed approach where you knit together many different systems. Or you can have one-stop shopping and have a suite of tools all under one roof. Bill said Ektron believes in having most tools together from a single provider because it minimizes integration pains and makes it easier for the end users.

The contrarian view: HubSpot’s Brian Halligan declared that the approach to traditional CMS is dead and companies need to rethink their overall strategy for building website experiences.  Bold move Brian, while elbow-to-elbow with vendors. But a point well taken in thinking about how a marketer needs more lightweight tools focused more specifically on lead generation and better visibility.

The voice of reason: Seth Miller of Miller Systems preached a balanced approach to strategy, design and integration. The key, says Seth, is to use analytics to make data-driven decisions about your content and strategy. I was also glad to hear him say this is “easier said than done.”  Less talk and more action is needed when it comes to metrics.

A thoughtful nugget: Rusty Williams of Prospero Technologies noted that too many companies are thinking of their websites and CMS from the inside out instead of the outside in. Well put, Rusty.  He’s dealing with the complexity of community and user-generated content on a very enterprise scale.  It’s all happening on the front lines of the website user experience, but with very real implications on content management.

Trend watching: Microformats are coming to a CMS near you, according to Bill. As the web gets more structured, sites that use microformats to structure content like events, people and reviews will find it increasingly easy to operate in a distributed world online. 

Sweep it under the rug: A question about what this means for mobile? The technology will get there when the users get there and the carriers can decide to play nicely (in the US at least). Next question please.

Remind me to Google that one: Tony White of the Gilbane Group sent murmurs through the crowd when he talked about what companies are starting to do with “Sentiment detection.” Meaning technology that can detect positive or negative comments in blogs, forums or e-mails that have automated rules to flag for editorial review or remove.  I don’t know whether to be excited or scared.

The contrarian returns: Brian exclaimed that ‘web CMS has jumped the shark.’  He may want an escort to his car after the event. But it’s hard to disagree that we may have reached a point of diminishing return on the laundry list of features from CMS vendors.

The exasperated audience member: Enough is enough blurted a guy from the back. “I have 30-40 profiles on multiple community sites – I don’t have time for this.” The panelists agreed help is on the way with movements such as Open Social and other emerging standards. All the more reason for flexible content management systems that play nicely with other sites and services.

Content vs. Design: The panelists had a spirited discussion on where businesses put priority. Brian thought way too much money was spent on design and planning and not enough on content development.  We should just be blogging and just putting good content out there, he said.  Seth pulled everyone into a group hug by saying they weren’t mutually exclusive and you could do both well.  He also made the outstanding point that design goes far beyond fonts and colors. It’s about user experience design says Seth – and that is a business-critical component to get right. Amen.

Open Source anyone? Another voice in the back of the room asked about open source versus commercial. Tony weighed in with a simple response – Commercial is better right now. He felt they have more resources aimed at figuring out the business challenges behind site management and the open source innovation was too closely coupled with the developers.  One has to wonder, however, with hundreds of CMS vendors out there, how many are truly charting a meaningful (and sustainable) product road map. The switching costs of a CMS are not insignificant.

Is the Newsletter dead: The web 2.0 Kool-Aid was being passed around the table to the point someone exclaimed that newsletters were a waste of time.  Rusty then asked the audience how many people would have come today if the event was only posted on a blog. Cue the crickets. Point: Rusty. Seth wisely stated that CMS allows you to create once and publish to many mediums. So you can have your blog and newsletter too. Whew.

My only regret: While there were close to 40 people at the event, the back and forth was so interesting that I wish 200 people could have seen it. Great job to David and the panelists. Were you at the event? Post a comment on your experience.

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

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2 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. Great wrap-up.  I’m going to write some comments on the event myself tomorrow…will reference some of your comments here.

  2. bjorn says:

    Great coverage Jeff.  I appreciate the "on the ground" or "in the trenches" recap.  I also appreciate your continued drive to be a thought leader on the subject.  ISITE Design is a great resource for divergent perspectives on CMS.

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