Itanalyst

Last spring, Forum Communications Company chose a new content creation platform, CUE, to upgrade to its newsroom workflow. Forum Communications technical analyst Adrian Dawson-Becker gave a presentation on the platform selection experience and creating a content engine with CUE at CUE Days 2018, a tech conference for CCI, Escenic, and CUE users held in Aarhus, Denmark.

CUE is a headless CMS and open publishing platform that bundles various content creation, analytics, and planning tools in one place. CUE was developed jointly by Denmark-based CCI and Norway-based Escenic.  

Fargo-based Forum Communications operates in more than 30 locations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It has 36 newspapers, four TV stations, and numerous specialty publications. 

Dawson-Becker believes that maintaining a successful news business in an uncertain digital media landscape is about the people in your organization and about choosing an IT infrastructure that can be adjusted to whatever comes, he said. He uses the term “content engine” to mean a newsroom, the people in it, and the technology supporting it. 

Based on his experience with CUE, Dawson-Becker has three key recommendations for any media company looking to upgrade its technology stack or going through a digital transformation.

1. Involve the editorial staff in technology investment decisions 

When Dawson-Becker and his team began their hunt for a new content management system, they wanted to take a different approach from how it had been done in the past. Previously, tech and CMS decisions were solely made by the development and IT department to keep costs low, Dawson-Becker said.

“But this time we pulled our editors and chief of content in. And we started asking different kinds of questions. We wanted to really understand what it was going to take to move the needle,” he said. 

Before looking for CMS vendors, the IT and development department went through a lot of brainstorming with different editors and deputy editors within Forum Communications. Not only did this provide insight into the newsrooms’ CMS needs, but it also eased up the change to come. “When the editorial staff get buy-in and feel like they’re part of the process of selecting the software they’re  going to use, they’re much happier using it, and you get fewer complaints,” Dawson-Becker said.

But to know what a newsroom’s CMS needs are, first Forum Communications needed to find out what kind of newsrooms they wanted to have, what kind of stories they wanted to tell, and how they wanted to tell these stories. 

The team found that they wanted a next-generation newsroom, as they call it, with a primary focus on content, and a newsroom where journalists can explore new methods of storytelling. To enable this exploration, Dawson-Becker had a vision of removing as many limitations as possible in the company’s IT infrastructure so journalists’ and editors’ creativity could flow freely.

2. Choose a flexible publishing platform that allows for freedom After a lot of brainstorming, the actual CMS hunt began with two overall criteria in mind.

Accessibility

Forum Communications’ new content management system needed to be something everybody could use with minimal training.

For Forum Communications, accessibility also means having control over its newsroom workflow. “We don’t want our experience in our newsroom dictated by the software we use. We want to have the freedom to change how we work.”

Extensibility

As with most media companies, Forum Communications’ websites and apps are a collection of ad technology, content, analytics, and identity management solutions. The company needed a publishing platform that can handle all these functions and the functions still to come. 

“We know which tools we’re using today, but that changes so fast. We need the system to be able to grow with us. We’re not looking for something that works for us now, we want somethings that works for us in the future,” Dawson-Becker said

CUE’s flexible story editor fit well with Dawson-Becker’s vision of giving his editorial colleagues an IT infrastructure where their creativity could flow freely, he said. “CUE has a vision of the future that is not aligned with many other vendors in their space. Just the fact that they’re removing the form fields from their editor, so it frees the user up, maybe for more experimentation. You’re not just filling in fields. You get to decide. And then you become true storytellers.“

3. Make change a natural part of your organization

Technology has changed the way we create and consume media forever. The change has especially accelerated in the past ten years, according to Dawson-Becker, and it isn’t about to slow down. “It’s a never-ending process, so we need to make change and change management a part of our business.”

One thing Dawson-Becker especially wants to communicate to his colleagues is that not everything can or will happen immediately. Change is an important part of a long-term strategy.

CUE Days 2019 is scheduled for June 12–13 in Aarhus, Denmark. 

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