Shifting from Content Management to Content Delivery

Delivering great web experiences has always been the end goal of implementing a web content management system. CMS vendors, however, have historically only gotten you part of the way there.

As vendors look to differentiate and provide more value, they are scurrying to deliver more ‘out of the box’ tools to deliver content and better overall user experiences. It’s important for the savvy web professional implementing content management to separate the features of content management from content delivery when approaching a vendor selection and implementation.  Let’s clearly distinguish the two camps.

  • Content Management features are the meat and potatoes of CMS and what customers have traditionally evaluated vendors upon. This includes features such as content repository, library services, workflow, WYSIWYG editors, meta data, image management, site replication, taxonomy, URL aliasing, user security and overall technical architecture. 
  • Content Delivery includes everything you do with that content on your website to deliver great user experiences.  This typically includes features such as dynamic templates, scheduled content, site search and multilingual controls. 

The Next Generation of Content Delivery

Buckle your seatbelts, because the world of content delivery is moving forward at light speed.  Much of the product innovation and customer demand is driven from the increase in online marketing and the pressure to deliver more results through the web channel.  Here are several types of content delivery features that can now be commonly included with a CMS platform.

  • Multivariate Testing:  Testing tools enable marketers to create dynamic landing pages and automatically test different combinations of content and images. This helps drive toward closed-loop optimization and the ability to rapidly determine the content that will drive the best results.  The level of sophistication among CMS vendors can vary greatly – from simple landing page management to integrated testing suites.
  • Social Media & Community:  It’s no surprise that CMS vendors have jumped into the social media scene with two feet.  Tools like forums, wikis, rss, tagging, blogs and user generated content are finding their way into CMS feature lists.  Some vendors have even shifted gears to position their entire offering as a ‘community platform.’ On the flip side, pure-play community platforms are emerging and backing into traditional CMS.
  • Behavioral and Content Targeting:   We all remember the rise and fall of personalization.  Those expensive portals of the past have been replaced by leaner and meaner technology that profiles users based on attributes such as onsite behavior, search keywords, referring site and geography.  Content can then be targeted and sites can (in theory) get smarter the more they learn about users and their behavior. Still in its infancy, content targeting is a true differentiator for the CMS platform that can get it right (or acquire the right technology).
  • Rich Media & AJAX:  We’ve definitely moved beyond static pages and content management vendors are getting more adept at providing video management and delivery tools and out of the box AJAX-driven widgets. 
  • Packaged Applications:  In some cases, we’re also seeing content management vendors start to package up some common applications such as calendars, membership application, intranet tools and more.  This is more common with vendors that are developing products around verticals.  

Best of Breed vs. Integrated

With CMS feature sets expanding and the lines blurring between different platforms, acquiring content delivery tools bundled with CMS is both an opportunity and a risk for organizations. 

The right tools can greatly reduce development costs and speed up time to market. However, just because a CMS vendor has a specific feature does not mean it is best of breed or right for your organization.  In fact, more often than not, we’ve found these new features are usually far from enterprise class and are quick add-ons to support a new customer demand or market shift.  They can often leave you with an inflexible and inferior tool that can’t scale to meet your needs.

In some cases the benefit of an integrated tool set may trump having the best possible technology.  In other situations, finding an open CMS that can easily integrate with off the shelf tools is a much better fit. The savvy CMS decision maker will look behind the marketing hype and take a holistic look at their web operations and user experience needs to determine how all the pieces need to fit together.

Leave a comment and let us know how are you dealing with content delivery and what you expect from your CMS.


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.

More articles from Jeff Cram


6 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. Christine Mitchell says:

    Good article Jeff. I think the line between portal and CMS continues to blur as folks are asking for more options for content delivery from their CMS. It’s an interesting field to be in.

  2. TJGodel says:

    Very Good article and timely. I’m in the processing of deciding on an enterprise level what is the best solution for content delivery with an existing commercial CMS.  I was leaning toward a best of breed solution versus an integrated approach because I think it offers more flexibility.  This article has validated some of my analysis.  Thanks!

  3. Garito says:


    I’m absolutely agree with you in this case

    But there are a variable you don’t use: simplicity

    The whole industry is worried to add more and more functionallity and add more features but no one seems to be worried about make it simpliest as the last version

    For example: how an CMS like Zope (put here your preferred CMS name) is every time more and more complicated and has more lines of code?

    Shorter code runs fast and has less bugs

    With this idea in mind: what is the shorter CMS?

  4. Dave Q says:

    WordPress is a CMS or rather a content delivery system. Though many still scorn it as an "ugly step-sister" blog software wannabe, it is a full-packed CMS (or CDS) which focuses on design and usabilty from day 1.

  5. Web Designer says:

    i think it’s a great idea because most of the CMS forget totally about the user Experience.

    it’s time to push for some real work…

    Thanks All

  6. Really a well written and interesting post.  But I wonder whether many of these arguments hold up in a SaaS CMS environment vs. a traditional on premise solution?  Innovation is so much faster and responsive to the market when it happens in the cloud.

    Full disclosure: I work for a SaaS-based  Web Content Management company.

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