Creating a content engine with CUE

Forum Communications Company is using the implementation of a new publishing platform as an opportunity to upgrade its newsroom workflow and way of telling stories.

August 21, 2018

The title of this article (and Adrian Dawson-Becker’s presentation at CUE Days 2018) might sound like a how-to guide on how to create robot-made content. But that’s not the case. By content engine, Dawson-Becker from Forum Communications means a newsroom, the people in it, and the technology supporting it.

Forum Communications Company is a 100+ year old American media company operating in more than 30 locations across the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It has 36 newspapers with websites and apps, 4 TV stations, and numerous specialty publications. Its current, most prioritized focus is to transition from a print-centric model to a content-focused business with multi-channel distribution.

As a Technical Analyst at Forum Communications, Adrian Dawson-Becker believes that maintaining a successful news business in a new, somewhat uncertain digital media landscape isn’t about keeping up with the latest tech trends. It is about the people in your organization and about choosing an IT infrastructure that can be adjusted to whatever comes ahead. Here are the three main points we took away from Dawson-Becker’s recent presentation.
 

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 than how it had been done in the past. Previously, tech and CMS decisions were solely made by the development and IT department. Basically to keep costs low, Dawson-Becker admitted.

“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. According to Dawson-Becker, the people in the newsroom are still the most vital part of it. They just need good technology to make their stories come to life.

So before going out and looking for CMS vendors, the IT and development department went through a lot of brainstorming with different editors and deputy editors within Forum Communications Company. Not only did this give priceless insights 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 much fewer complaints”, Dawson-Becker explained.

But to know what a newsroom’s CMS needs are, first, they needed to find out what kind of a newsroom they wanted to be, 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 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 the 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 a minimal amount of training, because as Dawson-Becker argued: “Superusers are gonna quit. So if the tools aren’t easy to use, the users are just gonna get lost.”

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. And with CUE, we found that freedom.”

Extensibility
Forum Communications’ websites and apps aren’t just static websites serving up content. They are much more. They are a collection of ad technology, content, analytics, and identity management solutions. And the company needs a publishing platform that can handle all these functions and the new 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. And that’s through software solutions like CUE”, Dawson-Becker said.

CUE is a headless CMS and an open publishing platform that allows you to bundle all your content creation and planning tools in one place -- giving you a consolidated user experience as well as the freedom to replace or add tools according to your evolving newsroom needs.

In the slide deck below from Dawson-Becker’s presentation, he listed the five overall reasons for Forum Communications Company’s choosing of CUE as its publishing platform. The future vision of CUE and the concept of story elements and story lines especially fit well with Dawson-Becker’s own vision of giving his editorial colleagues an IT infrastructure where their creativity could flow freely: “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 for ever. The change has especially accelerated in the past 10 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. Because we don’t know what’s going to happen later.”

A crucial factor in easing the constant state of change is to invest in flexible solutions that continuously can evolve with your organization’s and your environment’s evolvement. But an even more important factor is internal communication and matching of expectations. One point 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.

 

Watch the full Forum Communications presentation
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