What is the Best CMS for Newspapers?

Redefining the word “best” when searching for the best CMS for newspapers

“Best” doesn’t always equal the most popular, especially in technology and when referring to companies who have been in business for over 300 years—many whom are stuck in their ways. Well, I suppose that isn’t so true, considering the first official American newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick was shut down after only it’s first issue in 1690. The true “business” of newspapers began in 1721 with the New England Courant and the presses have been running ever since. Still, almost 300 years.

The difference between a business that has been running since 1721 and one that launched in 2011 are vastly different. New businesses have the luxury of choosing which infrastructure they want to build upon, while newspaper websites were starting to load content back in July of 1980, starting with the Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch. Like most businesses, only the most adaptable will survive and that begins with choosing a content management system that absorbs the storage of millions of articles, thousands of bylines and hundreds of thousands of photos.

In a Quora discussion that inspired this blog post, Adriaan Bloem, Analyst at Real Story Group (CMS Watch) writes, “The two most specialized systems are Escenic (you can recognize a lot of newspapers running it when they use the .ece extension on URLs); and Atex Polopoly. Both are quite focused on the use cases of a newspaper.”

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Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail is run on Escenic, along with the U.K.’s The Independent and Ohio’s The Dayton Daily News.

The first online newspaper—ever—the Columbus Dispatch, runs on Atex Polopoly and is joined by The Chicago Sun Times, The New York Post and tons of other high-profile newspapers.

Additionally, SAXOTECH runs The New York Times and The Washington Times and also offers Circulation and WebCirc solutions. Back in 2008, SAXOTECH was “the media industry’s first integrated solution [to] connect the flow of news and content developed by both the newsroom and readers participating in social media discussions.”

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Still, many newspapers choose to use their own in-house resources to build and manage their website, turning to open-source solutions like Drupal and WordPress.

Drupal is especially popular in the newspaper industry because it was built as a content management system, while WordPress can be modified into a content management system, like the Mequoda WordPress Framework1 CMS we’ve built for our clients.

Drupal runs the sites of newspaper giants like The Economist, New York Observer, Florida Times-Union and lots of other national and local news organizations.

WordPress also has their fair share of news organizations, including the blogs of the Wall Street Journal, Britain’s Express & Star, and Iowa’s The Gazette. Benjamin L. from laGazette in France writes, “we had a fantastic experience with WordPress re-developing content sections of our site dedicated to local authorities (2 millions monthly pageviews).”

There are so many CMS’s to compare (did I mention The Boston Globe runs on Ektron?) but it all comes down to what you need your news website to do and how many resources you have to build and maintain it. While hosted enterprise solutions offer solid frameworks and advanced technology, like circulation platforms, they also have their limits and you need to work within their walls. Open-source software will cost you in terms of development, man-hours and bumps you may not have seen in the road, but you are able to develop exactly the type of website you want, with little limitations.

What’s your experience with content management systems? Have you bounced around? Why are you using the CMS you are?

    Steve W.

    Thanks for the reference to Boston Globe using Ektron – also worthy of note would be C-Span which is a huge news site, The Canadian Press website, CBC but to mention a few.

    The biggest online site in Europe (BBC) developed its own xml based CMS solution – (you will get CMS vendors who have picked off some niche BBC websites) – but they do have a very generous budget to work with – so best can also mean expensive I guess?

    Our experience is that whilst ease of use if of utmost importance to the average CMS customer and the so called WYSIWYG interface, when it comes to newspapers ease of mass data creation is the real capability – so the CMS needs to be able to store data – lots of it – in a way that is usually separate from layout to facilitate re-use and cross ‘sell’ of data from one area into another.

    Busy Journalists have tended to be historically less interested in how pretty a page looks and more about how many articles they can get written in a given day – which lends itself to structured data input such as XML forms – it also means that the data input mechanism is often a subset of the normal CMS process – times are definately changing though – and whilst mass data input is still the key – as ‘engagement’ becomes the flavour of the year we are starting to see more interest in being able to drag and drop page styles together by a different type of content contributor at online publishers who are more focused on visual – but leveraging the raw data added by other content contributors.

    Mobile is also very much more important than it used to be – with responsive design taking a key position in conversations with online news providers. I guess the point is that as more of us consume news on the fly – the apps or online designs that provide the raw data in the most attractive and consumable way will be the ones that win over – so to be ‘best’ your CMS needs to be able to take data and present it on any device so it looks like it was meant for that device (not just scrunched into a smaller screen).

    There are plenty more ‘best’ elements – but hopefully these few from a supplier experience point of view will help



    Does anyone know of any CMS providing good free members to paid subscribers functionalities. That would include free / paid status, good payment gateway and may be even subscription sales support.

      Melissa A.

      Hi Stan,

      I have been using http://www.bulletlink.com for some time and I like their simple newspaper CMS as they continuously upgrade their system. Another plus point is that they have the best, unique and responsive templates which no other CMS software can match from the one’s I have seen so far. To top it off you also get a free mobile app for your website.


    Great post and thread. I’m doing some research into the leading circulation systems for the physical side of the newspaper industry. Anyone know who the leading players are there?



    Hi David,

    Atex offers a multi-channel subscription and circulation system called Atex Audience that is growing in popularity amongst leading newspapers. Atex Audience was recently installed at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in Wisconsin, and there are several other projects in the works.

    Atex Audience is unique in that it streamlines the entire circulation operation from subscription order entry, to distribution, reporting and billing. Its browser-based architecture offers flexibility and mobility.

    On a related topic, the most recent release of the Atex Polopoly Web CMS mentioned above features the industry’s first built-in paywall. This enables newspapers to generate new revenues through subscription-based or metered access to premium content directly from the CMS. Creating and customizing premium digital offers is completely dynamic, and editors can quickly manage and refine the products.

    Addressing the increasing focus and requirements driven by the digital side for multi-device publishing, Atex provides the platform to support multi-media content, advertising and audience management, coupled with multi-channel delivery.

    Since this post was originally published, Atex has added several clients on the Polopoly Web CMS platform: CanalVie, Ztele, CBC, TSN, CTV, RDS, Glacier Media, New York Daily News, Newsday, and Discovery to mention a few.


    Hello. Lions Light’s ROAR newspaper website solution is worth checking out.


    The news business is hard enough. So why would you want to pay for an expensive, one-size-fits-all CMS that you can’t tailor to your needs?

    Wouldn’t you rather have a reliable, free, open source CMS that you can tweak whenever you want to give your audience the coverage they want and give your staff the support they deserve? Full disclosure: we make one, Newscoop.

    As for WordPress, it’s a good choice if you’re a lone-wolf blogger or planning limited microsite. But if you’re an issue-based news publication with multiple contributors, you really need a system built for journalists, by journalists.


    Binary O.

    @Theo, i like your Software, it looks really pretty clean and cool. i like it very much. Interesting would be how is the performance from your system, do you have any numbers about the performance from Newscoop. Any big newspaper who use it already?

    Thank you!


    If anyone is looking for newspaper CMS then try TechCruiser newspaper CMS which is really good for local newspapers and very easy to use, you can customize newspaper website design the way you want no matter whether you are having coding language or not; even novice users can use this CMS easily.

    Bill O.

    Creative Circle Media Solutions is one of the most innovative CMS vendors in the newspaper industry. Once a leading print consulting and redesign firm, the founded a software arm in 2004 after seeing their print clients struggle to manage their digital editions.

    They have a very dynamic, easy-to-use CMS platform called mediasiteQ with lots of additional software to handle pay walls, native content, classifieds, user-contributed content and more. They have lots of pre-built story templates so every story doesn’t look alike. Also important: As a leading design firm, their stuff looks great and readers spend more time on site on their sites than industry averages. A lot more.

    They were the first CMS vendor to offer an integrated pay wall; first to do user-contributed content; first to do hyper-local sites, first to offer reverse publishing, first to provide flexible page and story layouts, first to produce a native content platform. . . you get the idea.

    Great partners.


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