Why is CMS so Confusing?

The concept of a Content Management System may seem simple, but understanding the CMS market can be hard. The underlying problem is that both the range of problems that can be addressed by a CMS and the range of content that can be managed by a CMS are quite large. Consequently, there is often disagreement whether an product is a CMS and there is often disagreement about what content is.

Problem Domain: several factors combined to make the CMS market large, but the internet boom was the trigger. When the boom hit, customers were in a hurry to establish a web presence. The stock market rewarded companies that provided a fast path to the web and existing Document Management companies repositioned their products to include Web Content Management. As a result, there was over population in the CMS market.

One of the lessons from Venture Capital is to look for management teams that can dominate a market and markets that are worth dominating. The search for markets worth dominating has the side effect of combining related markets whenever possible, even when separate markets make more sense to the consumer.

Content Domain: anything that can be stored on a computer can be content, this is a legacy of the Document Management side of the CMS family tree. Numerous examples of Web CMS may be viewed on the web, including this weblog. For an example of a more general CMS, let’s take a look at Corbis Professional. Although this site manages images, the images are meant for more applications than the web.

Corbis is the leading provider of Photography and Fine Art on the Internet (taken from the About Corbis page), managing thousands of digital images. Images may be available in multiple sizes, and keyword information is associated with each image. To get a better idea on this, search on the keyword baby from the home page (select Rights Managed, Royalty Free and all Categories). This should return 1000 or more images. Select “Search Within Results,” “Keywords,” and search on the keyword balloon, this should return 90 or so images. Finally, search within the results again on the keyword clown to get down to a single image: PG002513. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger rendition of the image, then select Information to view the information associated with it or Availability to view the available resolutions.

Consider the process of adding a film image to the Corbis Library. In no particular order, the image is scanned, a low resolution image and a thumbnail are generated, watermarks are added to images, images undergo QA and everything is stored with the appropriate information. Images are retrieved based upon search over keyword, usage restriction, photographer, photograph date and location. These tasks are typical of the non-web side of a CMS.