Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

College media needs CMS options

A few days ago I got an email from Daniel Bachhuber, who is working with the Oregon Daily Emerald.

He wanted to know if I was interested in discussion content management system options for college media. After my time as online managing editor at The Independent Florida Alligator, struggling with a CMS that liked to fight dirty, I’ve daydreamed of building a modular open-source system myself.

The problem:

College Publisher is an inappropriate platform for student newspapers
but most newspapers don’t have the resources to custom roll their own
CMS.

The Alligator uses TownNews, but the idea is the same.

Daniel started a wiki, College News Press, as well as a mailing group to keep track of ideas and coordinate discussion. The wiki includes tasks, benchmarks and platform comparisons.

His vision:

  • To create an easy to deploy, simple to use (open source?) content management system (CMS) with varying levels of sophistication that is specifically geared towards the student newspaper and local news market.
  • To provide abundant knowledge resources to student newspapers interested in switching platforms that have minimal IT manpower.

Daniel is even submitting an application for the Knight News Challenge!

I’m really excited to work on this, even though I’m no longer a member of the college media sector. The two biggest problems with newspaper Web sites are site design and CMS limitations. Hacking a CMS should not be among the things we have to do to be innovative.

  • Daniel is even submitting an application for the Knight News Challenge!

    I don’t mean to discourage him, but UCLA won a knight grant to develop an open-source college CMS last year. It’s supposed to be tested on their site this year.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the issue isn’t really the CMS, it’s the maintenance and hosting. There is a group of people grappling with this issue on the adviser side right now, too.

  • Daniel is even submitting an application for the Knight News Challenge!

    I don’t mean to discourage him, but UCLA won a knight grant to develop an open-source college CMS last year. It’s supposed to be tested on their site this year.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the issue isn’t really the CMS, it’s the maintenance and hosting. There is a group of people grappling with this issue on the adviser side right now, too.

  • I knew about UCLA.

    I think the CMS is a bigger problem than you think. Hosting is cheap and easy, maintenance can be handled with a good plan of action. But if you have to hack the CMS to put video or Flash graphics on the site, there’s a serious problem.

  • I knew about UCLA.

    I think the CMS is a bigger problem than you think. Hosting is cheap and easy, maintenance can be handled with a good plan of action. But if you have to hack the CMS to put video or Flash graphics on the site, there’s a serious problem.

  • Pardon me, I may start rambling here.

    I must agree fully with Megan. Hosting has been simple for us. There are many inexpensive commercial options, not to mention nearly every campus has web servers and staff who run them. Honestly, I don’t understand — what could the big problems with hosting be?

    Of the student journalists I’ve talked to working on the Web, everyone is frustrated by their CMS. Nobody has mentioned hosting as a concern.

    College papers have very little, if any, technical talent. Usually one or two dedicated guys, if you’re lucky. Customizing on top of CP, et al, is an extraordinarily time-consuming headache — even for the simplest of tasks. In my mind the CMS is *the* barrier to college papers doing real work online. I’d love to hear the easy solution to this multifaceted problem.

    I too have heard of the UCLA project. It’s certainly *really* well-funded and sounds incredibly (overly?) ambitious. Yet I’ve heard few details and minimal information about its progress.

    Collaboration among all the tech grunts out there, drawing on all that experience trying to drag college newsrooms into the digital age, could be very beneficial. So far as I know, it hasn’t been done yet.

  • Pardon me, I may start rambling here.

    I must agree fully with Megan. Hosting has been simple for us. There are many inexpensive commercial options, not to mention nearly every campus has web servers and staff who run them. Honestly, I don’t understand — what could the big problems with hosting be?

    Of the student journalists I’ve talked to working on the Web, everyone is frustrated by their CMS. Nobody has mentioned hosting as a concern.

    College papers have very little, if any, technical talent. Usually one or two dedicated guys, if you’re lucky. Customizing on top of CP, et al, is an extraordinarily time-consuming headache — even for the simplest of tasks. In my mind the CMS is *the* barrier to college papers doing real work online. I’d love to hear the easy solution to this multifaceted problem.

    I too have heard of the UCLA project. It’s certainly *really* well-funded and sounds incredibly (overly?) ambitious. Yet I’ve heard few details and minimal information about its progress.

    Collaboration among all the tech grunts out there, drawing on all that experience trying to drag college newsrooms into the digital age, could be very beneficial. So far as I know, it hasn’t been done yet.

  • I think I’m on the same page as Kevin. The largest constraint to innovation at the moment is the platform, not hosting. Bryan, you might be referring to something else, but you can get hosting for under $5/month. Maintenance is another issue, but that’s hopefully where the eco-system would come in.

    I’m very interested to see where the UCLA project is at. They do have a significant amount of money to work with, but building an entire CMS (that works better than the other options) over the summer would be a commendable task.

    Another argument I’ve heard for College Publisher has to do with their advertising network. This can’t be terribly difficult to set up, though, and there are ad networks out there that I’m sure would love to have placements on student newspaper websites.

  • I think I’m on the same page as Kevin. The largest constraint to innovation at the moment is the platform, not hosting. Bryan, you might be referring to something else, but you can get hosting for under $5/month. Maintenance is another issue, but that’s hopefully where the eco-system would come in.

    I’m very interested to see where the UCLA project is at. They do have a significant amount of money to work with, but building an entire CMS (that works better than the other options) over the summer would be a commendable task.

    Another argument I’ve heard for College Publisher has to do with their advertising network. This can’t be terribly difficult to set up, though, and there are ad networks out there that I’m sure would love to have placements on student newspaper websites.

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