What is the Best CMS for Newspapers?

When looking for a newspaper content management system, look for these features to determine the best CMS for newspapers

best cms for newspapers

Happy 300th anniversary to the newspaper publishing industry! The first official American newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick was shut down after only its first issue in 1690, so the true “business” of newspapers began in 1721 with the New England Courant, and the presses have been running ever since.

The difference between a business running since 1721 and one that launched in 2021 is vastly different. New businesses have the luxury of choosing which infrastructure they want to build upon, but newspaper websites have been loading content since July 1980, starting with 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. But what is the best CMS for newspapers?

We used to defer to specialized systems, many of which are now defunct or sold like Ektron, Saxotech, and Escenic (now StiboDX) or have had business model changes, like Atex. Ten years ago, these systems focused solely on newspapers, and that’s where you’d find the first online newspaper—ever—the Columbus Dispatch, joined by The Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Post, and tons of other high-profile newspapers. Ten years ago, they would have been to newspapers, what Mequoda’s Haven WordPress CXMS is to magazines. They still lacked the support and guidance that comes with a Mequoda System, but they were the status quo for the most part.

But the list we used to maintain for the best CMS for newspapers is pretty much empty now. Many of those companies are gone or have been bought and expanded to focus less on the specifics of periodical publishing. If you’re looking for the best CMS for newspapers, it’s now custom-built.

So 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.

Custom Drupal installations have hosted newspaper giants like The Economist, New York Observer, Florida Times-Union, and lots of other national and local news organizations.

But WordPress has also had its fair share of news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, Britain’s Express & Star, and Iowa’s The Gazette


So What is the Best CMS for Newspapers

We are big advocates of choosing an open-source system. It means that should you ever decide to leave, you can take the reigns yourself, and you don’t need to build an entirely new website, transport all your content, and lose all your hard work in the process. Open-source software will cost you in terms of development, man-hours, and bumps you may not have seen in the road, but you can develop exactly the type of website you want with little limitations.

At Mequoda, we think the best CMS for newspapers should be part of a bigger system, called a CXMS, which stands for Customer Experience Management System. As a newspaper business, you’re managing so much more than content. You’re managing users, products, subscriptions, content, marketing, and everything in between. You’re managing a customer experience, not just content. We have compared a CMS vs. CXMS here to offer some clarity on the differences.

We often talk about how Mequoda’s Haven WordPress CXMS is the best CMS for magazines, but can it be leveraged for newspapers? Absolutely. Let’s look at what the best CMS for newspapers should offer.

The best CMS for newspapers should provide structure.

I get it; sometimes, you want to drive to a location, you get lost, and you don’t ask for directions. Heck, you don’t even pull out your phone and try Google Maps because you’re sure you know what you’re doing. But what ARE you doing? For example, do you have an SEO checklist for every article you publish? Do you have a systemized content marketing system for promoting content? Should your newspaper content management system provide that, or is that something you need to figure out independently? Our stance is that a newspaper content management system should incorporate and be mindful of all of the above. Not just the tools, but also the structure.

The best CMS for newspapers should have a proven track record of success.

How much do you know about the system you are buying into? What are the reviews? How many people have purchased the newspaper content management system, and how many people actually used it? That’s another concern, where a publisher invests money in a CMS and then doesn’t spend the time to train and learn how to maximize its potential. We believe that a CMS should have proven success stories to share, with training on accomplishing the same level of success.

The best CMS for newspapers should include a set of best practices.

How often do you get a gadget that doesn’t come with instructions? Sometimes that happens with cheapo furniture you order on Wayfair, but any product that takes itself seriously comes with instructions on using it. Many CMS’s come with only a basic guide, a few training videos on how to use it, and very little on how to use it to build your digital business. That’s the problem with a turn-key newspaper content management system; you walk out with just about the same as you walked in with. If you’re buying into a newspaper CMS, at the very least, it should come with best practices, guidance, and thorough training. It’s the difference between walking 20 minutes on a treadmill and taking a 60-minute personal training session.

The best CMS for newspapers should help you convert free visitors into paid subscribers.

Metered paywalls aren’t just a feature, they are a way of life for newspaper publishers, and there are ways to do them right and ways to do them drastically wrong. Creating the premium product digitally that subscribers get access to is a huge component. How visitors get there and the offers they’re fed is the difference between a successful newspaper website and one that is… not so successful.

Partnering with a company that not only builds your newspaper content management system but also manages the digital marketing campaigns, offers, and testing, a major bonus.

When building our Haven WordPress CXMS for publishers, we thought of the process using four specific activities related to the customer journey. Each of these activities has its own high-level success metrics that empower publishers to allocate their resources appropriately and optimize performance.

  • Attract
  • Capture
  • Engage
  • Monetize

Your CMS should have the capability to attract new visitors through a search-friendly and optimized platform. It should have the website architecture ready to capture those visitors and convert them into email subscribers. It should also provide marketing automation necessary to engage these visitors, and sponsorship and subscription fulfillment integration to monetize these visitors.

The modern customer experience management system typically includes dozens of components or subsystems. Many of these components already exist for a legacy newspaper business. They must be integrated into a larger system that consolidates all content, customer information, and marketing programs into a single platform where data is shared in real-time.

To benefit the user and your team, the best CMS for newspapers should intend to be the singular portal you use to manage publishing, promotion, and products and payments. Instead of managing dozens of software components with multiple logins, users, and interfaces, a newspaper CMS should provide your team with a singular user experience.

While each customer experience management system is unique, most stop at web, email, and social media as the primary platforms for marketing and communications. These platforms are highly cost-effective and relatively easy to integrate. However, we think a true newspaper CMS should connect other existing system components such as payment processing, customer service, and fulfillment, creating the ultimate CXMS.

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


This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated.

    Manolis Z.

    I would like to also add Superdesk in this list. Superdesk is an open source headless CMS used by some of the biggest news outlets out there such as The Canadian Press, Australia Associated Press, Italian News Agency ANSA, Brasil 247 to name a few. Superdesk and its integrated content-management platform, Superdesk Publisher, are flexible choices for publishers big and small. Superdesk was built alongside journalists in the newsroom and it has a modular, API-centric design that enables news organisations to add and adapt the functionality most relevant to their business. Plans start from 250€ / month. You can find more info about Superdesk and all the options here https://www.superdesk.org/

    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.


    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.

    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!


    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.



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


    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.


    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?




    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.

    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


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