As a result of newspapers increasingly publishing their content via digital channels first, a number of staid newspaper publishing software companies have invested more heavily in providing digital first apps. While these tools are very good, the challenge of layouts and print publishing remain complex and in need of a solution. But perhaps because of the decline in print, software companies are reluctant to invest in this part of the industry needs. Some newspapers are still using Quark after all. So for now, newspapers will need two CMS’s, one for digital and one for print.
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Here we take a quick look, emphasis on quick, at some of the newspaper publishing tools we’ve had experience with with some notes on their strengths and weaknesses. These are all essentially CMS’s (Content Management Systems) designed with newspapers in mind.
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Top 4 Newspaper Digital Publishing Tools
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CUE by CCI & Escenic – #1
The branding and product convention is a bit confusing, but the product is essentially called CUE. It’s our top pick for CMS’ for newspapers. CUE is, in our opinion, the most powerful of the CMS’ on the market. This is largely because CCI/Escenic understands that we live in an API world, in other words developing a software tool that doesn’t have flexibility to play well with others is old-school.
The client themselves can do a lot of customization of the backend platform. For more complex requirements, CCI offers their developer teams. And CCI also works within the agile methodology, making iterations faster to deploy for the client, especially so if you leverage their hosted (cloud) option versus on-premise installation. Pushing content out via social media channels is simple and well integrated. Editorial teams have very good control of the approval process as well. CUE does well with mobile as well, although it isn’t yet AMP capable. CUE does take great advantage of JSON and GraphQL API’s.
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The downsides are few, mainly that it isn’t cheap. Integration with a CRM and advertising needs a little work, but once they figure this one out, it will be powerful. But then we should point out that no company provides all requirements yet. CUE also needs look ate analytics tools, although it does have some good analytics capability, it needs more.
ARC Publishing – #2
The ARC platform/CMS came out of the Washington Post. And it’s brilliant. The UX/UI is well designed and is constantly being improved. ARC also works within an agile methodology, making it easier to deploy new features. They’ve done a bang-up job of integrating the advertising component, which is smooth and slick. The IT/DevOps teams will find it easy to manage. ARC has incredibly good analytics tools as well via it’s Loxodo offering, but you do pay extra for that, which is logical. We do note though that ARC sees itself as a “suite of tools” as opposed to a singly CMS and this affects pricing.
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While we see ARC Publishing platform as the Cadillac of CMS’s for newspapers, we find two drawbacks; 1) it’s entirely hosted with no on-prem option and 2) it’s the most expensive out there. ARC is really designed for the major newspapers around the world. It’s this second aspect that concerns us the most since ARC really blocks out small to mid-size newspapers, which is a shame really. These are the only two reasons we place ARC as number two.
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Newscycle – #3
Although it can seem a bit confusing as to how the company prices their product, it is quite good. The UI/UX is easy to work with and their editorial suite strives for simplicity over complexity like we see in so many other tools…editors and journalists would like this! Newscycle also has over 8,000 deployments around the world. Their ONSET tool enables analytics collection as well and helps with showing advertisers ROI through engagement. Like CUE, Newscycle offers on-premise and Cloud versions. It’s well powered for mobile, which is vital today, and also has good circulation management software that is PCI compliant. Another strength is metered paywall management, which is nice for a streamlined integration with circulation management.
The key downside we see with Newscycle is that unlike CUE, it’s not overly flexible with regard to API’s and playing with others. That’s a business choice and it seems to work okay with them. Some parts of the software UI are clunky and seem to hail back to the early 2000’s, but they’re working on that from what we hear.
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Superdesk Publisher – #4
The UI/UX is well designed and we’ll point out that this used to be Newscoop, but they’ve changed to Superdesk. It’s an entirely hosted product with no on-prem solution but is hosted on AWS, which is a plus for uptime. It’s also quite flexible in terms of API’s and integration with WordPress if you have additional sites on that platform. They have a strong customization and implementation team as well. A nice feature is a private option for journalists working on projects that can be kept out of the systems search capabilities. Editorial workflow is well thought out and editorial teams can do a lot of customization without the need for IT support.
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The downsides are no circulation management, no metered paywall integrations and while analytics are available, they need some work. We really like where these guys are heading, but in some senses, they’re still new. A good part of their business model is doing customization work. We see potential.
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Summary
These are the tops for CMS’ products for newspapers. Once you go beyond these you’re into the realm of companies that build off of WordPress or Drupal and are really more aimed at community and small regional papers. Asa publisher, you know workflows are complex for digital as well as print operations. Unfortunately, there’s no one silver bullet.
While ARC is a great concept, it’s expensive to play and we think that their approach to a suite of plug-in tools is confusing and complicates the product. It’s also a fairly clique kind of product. CUE on the other hand, has a visionary leadership and is the most forward-looking CMS we’ve encountered. That they offer an on-premise option is good, but moving to the cloud is better for most newspapers.
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We remind our readers that we are solution agnostic. We don’t resell any software tools, nor do we do development. We can help with vendor selection and strategy. This is just a quick summary, contact us if you’d like more information or insights.
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About the Author webconomist

Giles is a globally experience marketing communications practitioner with over 20 years experience in the technology sector. He's brought a number of innovative technology products and services to market around the world. His work as a digital anthropologist is now over a decade of digital research understanding how consumers use technology. Giles is regularly interviewed by news media on digital topics. Currently he is managing partner of Ekspansiv, a consulting firm focusing on MarTech, SalesTech and Marketing Operations (MarOps). He's on the organising committee for the Atlantic Big Data Congress and co-founder/creator of the Ice Awards for creative in advertising. Giles has worked in senior management in both public and private companies and has been involved with 4 startups; three successful and one failed.

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