Web Content Management is Losing Its Competitive Advantage

By Deane Barker on July 7, 2011

For a side project, I’m finally writing down my time-honored elevator pitch for “The Benefits of Content Management."  This should be simple, right?  I mean, I’ve been droning on and on about this for years.

Weirdly, however, it’s got me thinking about something odd —

What are the benefits of content management...over what alternative?

Well, static HTML sites, of course!  But – and I mean this seriously – how many of you are doing those anymore?  What percentage of Web shops out there still cranking out sites in static HTML?  Is there any business needing more than just brochureware that is seriously considering static HTML?  Do your pitches ever come down to talking someone into a CMS over static HTML?

You used to be able to get a GeoCities or GoDaddy account and upload your FrontPage site.  The equivalent of that today is something like WordPress.com, Drupal Gardens, or Squarespace

Today, the default choice is really content management.  We’re to the point with all the free tools out there, that it would actually be harder to develop something in static HTML than in a CMS.  Can you imagine buying a copy of Dreamweaver and teaching a client how to use it?  Can you imagine managing a new, remotely complex site in static HTML with Expression Web?

If you go get some book about “How to Build Your First Web Site,” I would think page one should just be “Go sign up for a WordPress.com account..."  FTPing HTML files will go the way of the command line.  (Relax, Linux fanboys – I just mean it will be something people don’t do without a good reason and the expertise to match.)

The competitive advantage of content management is disappearing. It only had an advantage while the majority of sites were stuck back in static HTML.  With this in mind, the “what are the benefits of content management” speech loses all its relevance.  You may as well just skip it.  And if this is the crux of your sales pitch, you have a problem.

The question is no longer “what are the benefits of content management?"  The question has become, “what are the benefits of CMS A over CMS B?”

Comments (3)

BryanSD says:


Very timely blog post as I too have been noticed there seems to be a shift taking place in the CMS market. I’m glad you asked the question in the context of “benefits” and not “features” because there is a significant difference. I agree that the question has become “what are the benefits of CMS A over CMS B”? The challenge is deciding what “benefits” are we comparing. I think the competitive advantage of a CMS over another is going to be really decided only on two factors:

  1. Ease of Use 2) Service over Software

Companies no longer feel they have to own the software or the servers...they just want to manage, profit, and own there content. Customers wants to focus on content and anytime they’re delivered a product that reminds him/her that he’s running software is perhaps a failure of the CMS. I see SaaS and PaaS is going to be THE feature and benefit that really sells the customer’s next CMS. I’ve been starting to argue that a CMS that doesn’t have a future in the cloud doesn’t have a future at all.

I’m not saying that every customer wants their CMS via SaaS, but we can no longer ignore the increasing segment of potential clients that do. Perhaps there is a reason GoDaddy Founder Bob Parsons is selling his company now...the future demand for hosting a website on traditional hosting servers may be more limited in this changing market.

Deane says:

I think there’s a trend to increased use of SaaS, but I doubt that transition is going to at all fast or comprehensive. Looking over my enterprise clients, I can’t think of any that would go SaaS. Maybe they’ll change their minds at some point, but I don’t see it happening in the near future.

Remember too that there’s a fine line between “SaaS” and just “hosted.” We do have a client using Episerver’s EverWeb service, but that’s not really SaaS – it’s just a VM with Episerver installed. So it’s more “expert hosting.”

For “SaaS,” I’m thinking about truly multi-tenant systems like Clickability or CrownPeak. There’s not as many of these as you might think.

BryanSD says:

There was a time when companies managed their own telephone switchboards. They eventually realized that there was no advantage of maintaining that type of control. I really see CMS and software in general going that direction. I think this transition will be faster than you think, but agree it won’t be comprehensive. There will be some things that enterprises will likely always maintain on their side of the firewall (especially when it comes to sensitive information).

Besides Clickability and CrownPeak, I was also thinking about Accrisoft and Acquia in terms of SaaS. I recently saw a demo of Acquia’s devCloud that blew my mind...and I’m not even a developer. I’ve talked with web shops that have completely moved all their clients over to Accrisoft and/or CrownPeak and it’s been a game changer for them. No, it doesn’t surprise me that when it comes to “SaaS” that there are fewer than we might think...that’s why it’s a competitive advantage for these companies.