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If you’ve ever been the victim of a content management system (CMS), raise your hand. This week Chappell Ellison, Postlight’s Associate Director of Digital Strategy, joins Gina and Chris to unpack their complicated relationships with CMSs. They talk about knowing when it’s the right time to dump your current system, how you can move on from the trauma of past CMSs, and how to choose your next one. 


Chappell Ellison What a thing. And that means you have an entire graphics department who has to cut down the graphics to that size, making sure that people in their airplane seats know that they can buy the trio fromagi plate using Apple Pay [Gina laughs] and that’s important because we need our cheese plate when we are 30,000 feet in the air. 

[Intro music fades in, plays 10 seconds, ramps up.]

Gina Trapani Hey everybody. Welcome to the Postlight podcast. I’m Gina Trapani, I’m the CEO of Postlight and as always I’m joined by my business partner, president of Postlight Chris LoSacco. Hey Chris.

Chris LoSacco Hey Gina. How’s it going?

GT Going well, going well. I’m excited about our topic and our guest today.

CL Me too. We have a very special guest joining us in the virtual studio and that is Chappell Ellison, one of our associate directors of digital strategy here at Postlight. Hello Chappell. Welcome to the show.


CE Hi everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here in the video conference space. [Gina and Chris laugh.] When I do get to see you in real life, that’s also a treat as well.

GT Chappell, it’s so good to see you here in the virtual space. It’s true. We have a really nice podcast recording studio, like a physical one at the office. We just don’t happen to be there right now because we embrace the hybrid life.

CL Haven’t we all at this point?

GT Exactly.

CE It is good. It is also where I think we keep all the air conditioning in the entire office. [Everyone laughs.]

GT Yes. Only in the podcast studio. You have to be freezing in order to record on site at Postlight.

CE Good for the vocals. Good for the vox.

GT Exactly. Yes. Step into the freezer.

CE Oh my gosh. That’s your morning radio show: The Freezer. [Gina laughs.]

GT Step into the freezer.

CE There you go.

CL Step into the freezer.

GT Let’s do this, at least especially in August.


CL Chappell would you tell our listeners the title that you pitched for this podcast episode?

CE The title I pitched for this episode is Raise Your Hand If You’ve Ever Been Victimized By A CMS.

CL [Laughs.] Gina’s raising her hand.

GT I’m raising my hand. I was like, oh yes. Oh yeah, we’re going to talk about this and I’m going to be on this episode because we’re going to talk. [Chappell laughs.]

CL We should start all the way back at the beginning, which is what is a CMS?

CE You know, I guess there are many ways to define—I’m glad we’re not defining content because oh my gosh.

GT Oh that’s a whole different episode.

CL We don’t have time for that.

CE No. In the content strategy world, that is a tough topic. Well, CMS stands for a content management system and what it does is it’s very much so in the name. And it tends to be a platform that your users can’t see, but your content folks like your editors, your writers, they access it to input any sort of articles, photos, media types, and they can preview articles before they publish. So it’s somewhat of an easier way of letting your own staff, your editorial staff, create and own their content rather than having to call up your like IT folks to hard code pages for new articles. And so for the past decade, it’s become very common for a lot of companies who have online or editorial publications to get a CMS.


GT Yeah. I mean, it’s fair to say almost every business has a website and there are words and pictures and videos on that website. Right? And you don’t really want to spend the money to pay an engineer to put paragraphs of text on that website, right? Like the idea that marketing folks and editorial folks can control their content and publish content without, you know, getting an engineer involved, I think that gets really to the heart of the reason for it.

CE Yes. If I, as your editorial employee have to call another human just to add a period on a page that’s not good. I’m probably not going to be happy on that team for a while. And especially if you have an emergency, so you need to update something on your website that’s a legal issue, things like that. If you have a CMS, your teams can go in, your editorial folks can go in and do it immediately. It gives you a bit of autonomy plus your IT people have way bigger headaches. They don’t need to update websites all the time.


GT Yeah. I mean my earliest experience of the CMS and this is, you know, from 20 years ago, I was part of the sort of cohort of people that started blogging very, very early in time. So, you know, when I think about a CMS, the very early sort of consumer versions of CMS were blogger tools,, blogspot. And I remember because I was a nerd who liked to make webpages by hand—when I was in high school and college, this idea that I could log into and type words into a box, not HTML and not have to FDP files and even maybe upload a picture and then press a publish button. And then that content automatically shows up on the website. Like that was huge, right? Because I also love to write, I want to spend my time writing, even though I like to tinker with HTML. Like I liked the idea of being able to put content out there. So, you know, that was just a huge, I mean, just publishing exploded at that moment in time when blogging tools became mainstream and people who weren’t web developers could start publishing online immediately.

CE It’s revolutionary. I mean, part of why we are in the era of maybe too much content is because we made it so that average folks who don’t know HTML can upload and manage their content. And in a way it’s somewhat democratic and that’s a good thing. And even Gina with a background in engineering, you see the value of having something that makes it easy to publish, because you don’t want to have to put all the ones and zeros together just to tell everyone a blog post about your day. Right? But yes, those early platforms, quite a few people remember blogspot and all that. Those were some people’s first foray into the beautiful world of CMS.


GT [Laughs.] Yes. And I mean, look, even today, I mean, I’ve been at Postlight for six years, like we’ve done a ton of content management work, building custom content management platforms for like sites like Vice or The Player’s Tribune, or implementing open-source consumer grade systems like WordPress for clients and for companies who are trying to publish. I mean, I think content, I think there’s just an expectation because these publishing tools democratized anybody getting content out there that companies and brands are publishing content to their customers, to their users. That they’re showing up, that they’re present, that they’re able to change their messages and update their messages very quickly on their sites using CMS in the background.


CL Yeah. Gina, we should step back for a second because you just touched on, you know, this sort of landscape of what’s out there today, open source that you can stand up and start using or stand up and start customizing and building something that is custom or somewhere in between. And I think it’s more complicated than ever now to think about what you should choose and how you should configure it and actually start publishing stuff live on the internet. I mean, WordPress is nearly 20 years old now, I think. It runs like a huge chunk of the internet and it is as much a platform of its own as it is an open source piece of software that you can stand up and start publishing a blog. You know,there are several platforms like this now, right? It used to be Moveable Type and the like, and now you’ve got things like Contentful and Ghost, Medium, Craft, these newer CMSs. I mean, Medium is interesting because it’s its own ecosystem, but Craft and WordPress and Droople like, these are things you can adopt and then build on top of, and I’m curious to get both of your thoughts on like, how do you make sense of this? If I’m a business owner or a leader, and I’m trying to think about how do I choose something that is going to both be relatively easy and get the right, you know, bang for my buck. But also let me do the things that are unique to my business as I try to plan for the future? Like how do you make sense of it all?


CE That’s a very good question that we can answer by a lot of the things we do here at Postlight, which is a digital agency based in New York. Contractually obligated to say that. 

CL Thank you. 

CE You’re welcome. [Gina laughs.] We have a client currently at Postlight who we had to help them through this process of choosing a CMS and it is not something to take lightly and it is actually surprisingly emotional. And that is, I know, strange, but it’s like buying a really large thing that you are going to use potentially for several years that will affect the lives of everyone at your company. I mean, it’s kind of like choosing to buy a car for your family and you want to make sure it’s right for your kid and their booster seat and there are lots of reasons to make these decisions. And you know, when I came to Postlight one thing I really liked about Postlight—I mean, there were several. But one of the things I really liked was that coming from a content background, we’re pretty agnostic here. When it comes to what CMS you should use. We’re not bought into big CMS or anything. We want our clients to have the right CMS to get the job done for them. And so I really liked that because then I wouldn’t have to be pushing anything that didn’t make sense for them. Right? So we have a current client who we actually went through a long process of doing a whole technical assessment of what they currently have and an editorial and content assessment of their current processes and what’s wrong with their process and what do they wish they could do better and more of? And we listened and we kind of came to all these insights and it helped us basically do a matrix and compare every major CMS and decide, you know, which one is right for this client. And it was tough. It’s not an easy decision. We came to one, we recommended because we felt it edged out the others, but we would’ve been comfortable helping them install any of the others. And we knew that they would be okay with them. But there was one that edged out for a number of reasons. And this is tough. And it’s because the IT teams have very different needs than the editorial teams. So like IT teams might look at like Droople on paper and be like, we love it. We’re going to have fun with this. Whereas the editorial team might just see WordPress on paper and be like, oh my God, this will make our lives easier. So it is tough to come to the middle on that. And with this client, it was a tough decision and we were just kind of there on the sidelines like, well we have your back, whichever one you choose, but here are the implications. And you know, we’ll help you through the entire journey of setting this thing up. But yeah, surprisingly emotional.


GT Very much so. I mean the product market is pretty mature in that most CMS do kind of the same things, but you’re right, Chappell. It comes down to like, what are our particular needs? Who can support this? What’s going to make it easier to hire editorial? What’s going to make it easier to support IT? What is our budget? Is this off the shelf? Are we paying for SaaS product versus installing open source. It’s all these nitty gritty factors. How do we take this forward? Because you’re making a big commitment. This is the way that you are communicating with your customers, with your internal users, and you want to live with it for a long time. So it’s really about the needs.

CE Yeah. And like, if you have say already you have a CMS, but you’re not happy with it. Let’s say it’s something like Droople. And let’s say you have, as an IT leader, augmented your entire staff around Droople. And then here comes little Chappell Ellison walking in to say, I don’t know, have you considered WordPress? Like that is painful to hear. I try to be really, really empathic in that situation to just be like, I understand what you’ve built here, but you are saying it’s not working for you. So let’s talk about why and try to make this so that it’s the least amount of pain on your teams. I’m not looking to upset the balance. Just want to make it easier for you to get some content out in the world.

GT I’ve noticed that there’s certain cultural biases depending on who and where you’re talking to certain CMSs, like you’re going to see DPL at a lot in nonprofits. You’re going to see people who look at content from a blog from a blogging standpoint are going to go WordPress. Right? You’re going to see like ARC, you’re going to see Adobe in marketing teams. Right. You’re going to see ARC in like news publishing, like—


CL ARC is Washington Post’s CMS.

GT Yeah the Washington Post CMS, right? Like you just sort of start to see like, oh, this particular CMS has just made a lot of headway in this particular culture and industry. And it’s well known. And you know, it’s just what people are kind of comfortable with. Right? For whatever reason, whether that’s marketing or just momentum or whatever. And that’s been really, that’s interesting to see kind of happen over the years.

CE Yeah. And a lot of these, you have a lot of media companies who just like go rogue and say, we’re doing our own thing. You know, like I think Vox made Chorus.

GT Vox made their own.

CL Chorus. Correct.

GT Buzzfeed made their own.

CL Conde Nast has their own.

GT Conde Nast has their own, that’s right. Because they just say, you know what? Well, this is the thing. If you’re a media company and you’re looking to innovate with content, right? You want to build the thing that doesn’t exist that no one else is doing right. That doesn’t exist. Right. So you want to build that out custom.

CL It’s a great point. There can be a real strong business reason to make your management system a competitive differentiator. Right? Because there could be unique business propositions like speed of publishing or video. We had a client, this is going back a few years, but this is in the pre-TikTok, pre-Instagram reels days where short-form video was just sort of going mainstream. And we had a client who said, we want to stand up a custom content management system that is specifically about publishing high volume, short-term video. And we worked with them to design what that would look like. And it’s very different, right? You’re not going to use the same paradigms, the same UX language that exists in a WordPress to do that kind of publishing. And so it’s really interesting when you think about why go custom. There are really strong reasons to go off the shelf. I mean, you could take these platforms for free and start to customize them and stand them up and build on them. Like that’s a huge head start. But if there’s a reason that you think you can set your business apart by building a very bespoke custom experience, sometimes it makes sense.


CE Yes. I mean, one of my first jobs in my early foray into just digital content in general was working at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, which is my favorite museum in the city. I’m very biased. Go visit it if you’ve never been. And this was like 2009 and they were in the process of—they have a massive collection that needed to be digitized. And we’re talking like lantern slides from the 1920s, which are glass and have to be handled with gloves or theater programs from the 1930s. So I was scanning all these things into a CMS. And so digitally scanning, goes in the CMS. And then I was essentially, my job was to apply all the tags, the title, make sure they’re numbered properly. And then all this would be the basis of their future website, their digital experience.

GT Thank you for your service.

CE Hey, you’re welcome. Now you can see some like old school slides on their website. If you had told me then like, Hey, how would you redo, rebuild this crappy program you’re using to scan all this in and enter all that? I would be so excited to rebuild something that made more sense to make my process as a digital archivist at the time, faster, better smarter, you know? And a lot of that is it’s not just the way the platform functions. It’s the way it looks. It’s the way it, like, how heavy is it? Does it load quickly? Does it not? These are all things that I would’ve loved. And that is actually what got me from, because I started as a writer and how I transitioned into content strategy work, is because I saw what a CMS could do. And I was like, oh, I want to help build those things that help people publish. Because there’s so many ways to do it. There’s no right or wrong way. Actually there are probably some wrong ways. [Everyone laughs.]

GT There are a lot of wrong ways. They’ve all been done. Or maybe not all. I think there’s probably more wrong ways to do it. [Laughs.]

CE Oh yeah.


GT I had a very deep, intense long-term relationship with a very difficult to use CMS early in my career. So there’s a lot here. So for five years I was the editor-in-chief of a technology news website, which published about a dozen times a day. So every 30 to 60 minutes there was a new article published on the website. So it was an incredibly fast-paced, news-driven, real-time publishing flow. Right? So we wrote directly in the CMS, there was no like write the Google Doc and get comments and then approval. No, no, no, no, no. We typed directly into the fields in the CMS, every extra field that we had to type in slowed down our publishing flow. Right? And it was like me and like, you know, I don’t know, two to three other writers at a given time and we were rewarded by speed. Right? The faster that we published a story, the more sort of play it got. Right? So like stuff that published early in the morning would get a lot of traffic throughout the day. And this is very early on. This is, you know, 2005 to 2009. And so it was very, very early. It was a classic blog, reverse chronological kind of situation and the CMS was—I’ll name names. It was Movable Type. It was a very customized version of movable type. And it was so hard. I lived it—it was open in a tab in my browser, I think this may have even been before browser tabs. It was open in my browser all the time. And it was such a difficult—I used to call it just an arranged marriage where we were really trying to grow the love between us.

Right. But like we’re there. Like we had to make it work together. And you know, the way Mobile Type worked at that time is that you would press publish. And in the background, all these Pearl scripts would rewrite all these HTML files. It would basically regenerate the entire site in the background and you know, over a few years of dozens of posts a day, that was hundreds and hundreds of pages. So every publishing cycle would get incrementally slower to the point where we just wait for things to show up on the website and it was a tough experience and it really created a lot of empathy for me, for editors and writers and their experience. Right? Because the content is going out to a very wide group of people. Right? And it’s a very small group of people that’s authoring the content and editing the content, but that editor experience so informs what the user and the reader experience is. And that’s why when we’ve built, you know, CMSs at Postlight, we’ve really like, how do we increase speed to publish? How do we make this intuitive? How do we make it so that you don’t have an editor filling out 92 fields and uploading six different images in order to put this new piece of information out into the world. And it’s not easy. Like we’re still there. We’re still in that space of great editor experience makes really good content that also gets out in the world, not just on the website, but in a lot of different places.


CL Yeah. I mean that point about the publishing cycle getting incrementally slower, like I felt that in my soul, that is just the worst. And I know I have talked to editorial teams who go through that and they feel like they are like prisoners to the system. And it’s awful. I think another feature, quote unquote, that falls into this bucket is caching and cache invalidation. So typically what engineers will do when they’re writing a very large distributed platform system is they will build caching so that when a page gets published or something gets, you know, pushed out on the internet, it’s stored in a readily available version that doesn’t require a database hit. The problem is that copy can sometimes go stale. And when caching is not implemented properly, it can be really hard for the users of the content management system to actually update the dang website. And so you have editorial teams who see something wrong in an article or on the home page—

GT Bust the cache!


CL Bust the cache! [Laughs.] And they can’t get it fixed. And they’re like, well, you know, what’s going on? And I mean, I have sat in meetings where engineering teams are like, you know, sorry, we gotta wait for five minutes. And it is the absolute worst. It is a non-negotiable that you have to have your caching strategy, right? You have to be able to invalidate your cache. I know it’s one of those hard problems in computer science, right? Naming things, cache invalidation, off by one errors. Like these are the hard problems, but it is a critical feature for a content management system. You have to know how to make it fast, but also know how to always give the editorial team control to update the website.

CE Yeah. I mean, and this I’ll come up with a new Postlight service offering on the spot here for y’all. Oftentimes clients come to us, come to whomever and just think everything is bad. Let’s burn it down. We need a new CMS, either built from scratch or whatever, just, and the fact is actually, you might be able to go pretty far by just bringing someone in to audit your current structure and understand what’s happening. Because I know a lot of people who they develop—again, have you been victimized by CMS? You developed this trauma and all of a sudden you’re like, we can’t stand WordPress anymore. We can’t stand Contentful anymore. And it’s like, it might not actually be the CMS. It might be that after years and years of the kind of debt you’ve accrued through, like you say, caching issues through all these plugins, because sometimes you just need to make a quick fix and you don’t have time. So you use a plugin and it just kind of cruds up the pipes. I mean, I know it’s not glamorous or sexy, but I do often use a lot of plumbing metaphors with content strategy work. And sometimes you need to hire a plumber to come in and just check your pipes and clean them out. And that can go a long way. It’s not always going to answer and solve every problem. But, you know, we found that just like we’ve seen some instances of WordPress set up and we’re like there are so many ways we could configure this to run faster.


GT Better for you. Totally. Yeah, absolutely. If you’re a business owner or you’re thinking about your CMS, I mean, there’s been just a huge shift, I think from this idea that a CMS publishes a webpage on your website, which people may or may not visit. And this idea that you want to publish your content in a format that can go to where your users are, whether that’s in, you know, in Tweets or in your newsletter or in a newsfeed or Apple news, because there’s so much content out there in the world, just publishing content isn’t enough, right? Your content has to be findable and you have to go to where your users are. And I know I’m edging up against what is content and content strategy and content structure. Right? But when you look at it at a modern CMS today, you’re not just writing, you know, in the case of an article, a headline, a dek in the article, right? You’re adding tags for categories, you’re adding categories, you’re adding the SEO optimized version of the headline and dek. You’re uploading the social card image, the Tweet card and Facebook card, you know, text, you’re adding all this kind of metadata, metadata and content around the content so that it can push out, go through the pipes, not only to your own website, but to all the other external places. And that can feel really onerous actually for the editor. 

Like I used to just be like, why do we have to have these fields? Why do I need, you know, can we have fields that are filled in by default, but I can override them? You know, if I need to, because again, filling out 92 fields just slows down the ability to get the content out there. But this idea of content as a structured piece of data that you can put out, in lots of different places, including just like recirculation boxes on your own website and like the most popular articles that people are looking at today. Like just ways for people to see what you have to offer, because you put a piece of content out there and it just drops into the sea of billions of other pieces of content. And if someone doesn’t read a piece of content or see a piece of content, does it really exist? A philosophical question. [Everyone laughs.] Sorry. That was really bad. That was a Dad joke. Or Mom joke, I don’t know.

CE Yeah. I mean, that’s been the dream. That’s been the dream we’ve been chasing for a while. Like in terms of trends in content management is the kind of click, wants published everywhere idea. I can’t imagine—I’m sure someone’s done a study on the average amount of platforms or pieces of software that an editorial professional has to use in a day. It’s probably horrific. And the cognitive load is wild. I also, this is a whole other tangent for probably a whole other episode, but also cognitive load is it’s an accessibility problem. And that’s why a lot of the editorial world also is filled with younger folks who can pick things up fast because their job demands it, their job demands that they have to be able to run or understand sometimes 20 platforms at once and understand what are the ratio aspects of images on each of those, what are the tracking?


CE All this is like great for the young, but as you tend to grow up in life and have other issues and problems and fires to put out, reducing that cognitive load becomes incredibly paramount. So I would love this one click kind of world where you’re just able to put in: here’s my idea and my beautiful thought, and now I’m going to publish it. And it’s automatically translated because we don’t know where some of this stuff is ending up. I recently saw an ad on the back of the TV, in my airplane seat, and I thought, what does that look like? Does someone have a CMS somewhere that says, publish to airplane TV in the headrest? I don’t know.

GT For sure, for sure. Somewhere for sure. That is somewhere. Yes.

CE You have to have a crazy amount of people and processes just to get that done. And that’s for sure. It’s sort of the endless task of content. That both is probably why I’m still here and I’m happy to be here, employed doing that kind of work. But it’s also what makes me have that like, oh my gosh, I work in the post office, mail’s coming in. It’s never going to stop kind of feeling of overwhelm that comes from having to manage all this.

GT Absolutely. For sure. It’s so funny. I’m now visualizing this graphic design team scheduling this content for you—gotta go to where your customers are, give them the right messaging, right?

CE It’s true. You never know where some company’s content has to end up. And even like at the hotels in Disneyworld, I’m a real big fan of their content management. Because I don’t quite understand how it all works, but I can make a lot of educated guesses. And when you walk into their hotels on their TVs, they have all this content about what’s happening in every park. They have images of the park, they have music piped in and somewhere there’s a content management system for sure that someone is entering things in, that is piping in all these TVs. It might even be custom for all I know, but that is what a challenge. And what an interesting one. To me, that is super fun though. I’m sure if you’re the business owner, it’s not fun. You’re probably just like help.


GT I mean, that same content. I was at Disneyland recently, like it’s in the app, it’s in the hotel screens, it’s in the signs like in the park. I mean, hopefully, fingers crossed, somebody’s publishing once and it’s going to all these different places, but it’s a constant flow of information. One of the challenges of content manager systems, which I think is really interesting, particularly when you’re publishing to the web, which is global and you know, you’re reaching people in different countries and different cultures in different languages, localization and translating content across different languages, particularly languages that are right to left languages versus left to right languages. Just, this is a very big challenge for global companies that want to speak to their users and their customers in their language. And, you know, Google Translate just doesn’t cut it.

Like the reality is there need to be humans involved in that kind of translation. This is a solution that we had to put in place for a few of our clients. That localization translation layer is a big one. The other, we touched on this a little bit earlier, but something that I wrestled with during my time as an intense CMS user. And I think people still wrestle with today is writing content in a place. Or pre-seeing how the content is going to look once it goes out into the world, right? Because if you type in these boxes and then maybe if you’re lucky, a preview button, maybe there’s some sort of what you see situation. But for me, you know, I want to edit like kind of in situ, you know, like I want to see what is this going to look like? You know, what is the end product going to look like? But most editors are editing pretty blind and being like, okay, I know I’ve got this character count. I know it can accept these kinds of characters and I’m going to press publish and hope that it shows up. I mean, there are these TVs in our elevators at the office and whenever I ride up to the 10th floor, I love—

CL Nobody’s previewing that content.

GT No one’s previewing that content. I mean, I just, the mistakes that you see and the ticker, like words getting cut off and like, you could just see that no one was previewing that content. Exactly. [Laughs.]

CE I think as like one of the few resident content strategists who hangs around the Postlight offices, I’ve had people mention that elevator TV to me more than any other topic at Postlight. Because they’re like, how does this happen? How are headlines so bad on TVs?


GT It’s so bad.

CE Wild to me, the amount of clients who come to us and they’re just like, well, we don’t know where to start. Our CMS is horrible and I start interviewing their editorial folks and they’re just like, yeah. So we can’t preview our articles before you publish them. [Laughs.] And I’m like, cool. I think we found where to start making lives better. Because it’s like again, using like house and infrastructure metaphors, like I would love to see a preview of the way you’re about to redesign the interior of my home. You know, please show me a preview before you start putting a hammer into the wall. It is, to me, a must have, there’s just not really an option because there’s so much room for error. And again, like you said, if you need to translate and we know like Mandarin characters are going to be much wider than English characters. And so we need to preview that. We have to see how poorly the headlines might break.

GT This is why the editor experience is so key, even though it is, you know, a small number of people, right? Having this experience, it affects the product for sure. You know what comes out.

CL This is maybe the single biggest piece of advice and Chappell, you said it so well before, which is you need to think about what your use case is. Right? If you’re listening to this and you’re like, I think my company has a content management system somewhere or, you know, I’ve heard my editorial team get frustrated or whatever. I mean, content management systems, I think you could make an argument that in every business, there is some flavor of CMS and sometimes it’s SharePoint or Intranet or something like that. And you wouldn’t initially think, oh, it’s a CMS, but it is. And you have to take an honest look at what you’re using it for and what you want to get out of it. And then how do you optimize what you have in place or put a new thing in place that maps to what your use case is?

CL I mean, this is kind of like product 1 0 1, but so many people overlook it. And we know because we’ve gone into these companies and we’ve had clients who just have something that is totally unfit for what their actual needs are. And so doing that audit upfront, thinking about the strategy and making good choices. And the beautiful thing about this is you may end up saving a lot of money, reducing the total cost of ownership that you have for the system you have in place, making it a lot easier to add new features or to evolve what you need to evolve for your team. Once you get the underlying architecture, right? The underlying platform, right? So hopefully people think about this, listen to this and say, you know, I need to take a second look and really understand what my landscape looks like so that I can make sure that my platform and the tools and the process fit. What is actually in front of me from a business perspective,


CE Right. I look at it as relationships. A CMS is it is an entity. You have a relationship with—and like any good relationship, there’s always compromise, but you have to determine what you can live with. And when you’re giving too much compromise, an example, one of my worst, of course, working content, I have so many stories in the trenches, but one of the worst was one where it was 4:00 AM. And my entire team is in like the 20th floor of a Telco building here in Manhattan, a major Telco company. And we had to stand up four web pages that—we’re not talking sites—webpages. We were on speakerphone with an entire IT team based in India. And the reason is because the publishing process there is loathed, the CMS was so slow that we created the pages in the CMS and the IT people use that as a blueprint. And then they go and hand code the pages and push them. So they don’t actually publish the CMS. They’re only using it as say, a sandbox for their editors to create pages, to show what they need.

GT Unbelievable.

CE And this is the thing that happens after years and years of trying your best to make it work, duct taping, you know, whatever. But honestly, if you get to this point where it is 4:00 AM and you have an international teams talking to each other to publish four webpages. It is time to take a hard look in the mirror and say, maybe we have to rebuild this thing. I know that’s scary. And it’s going to be emotional. I’m going to hold your hand. We’re going to do it together. 

CL But there’s a better way. 

CE There’s a better way.

GT For sure. Chappell. I want to thank you so much for suggesting this topic. This was so cathartic for me personally. [Everyone laughs.]

CE I know.


GT So I really appreciate that. I feel better. I feel—

CL Lighter? Yeah.

GT I do. I feel like I’ve been carrying this around for 20 years under my skin, this experience, and just saying all this out loud was very helpful. We’re going to have to have you back on, because I want to talk a little bit more about content strategy and content structure, but we’ll get you back.

CE Well, I’m always here for it. I have plenty of spicy opinions. There’s a scale of spiciness. I’m always happy to talk about content and love spice. It is cathartic. You gotta let it go, as they say. 

[Outro music fades in, ramps up.]

GT You gotta let it go. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Chappell. If you would like to talk about your content management system, actually, we would just love to hear about your content management system. Even the bad stories. Please send us a note: Coincidentally, all those messages go into a content management system. We all see them. Well kind of. Something close to a content management system. 

CL Sure. 

GT Send us a note. We want to hear about what’s working and what’s not working for you.

CL And if you listen to this and you feel like you have a, you know, it’s your boss, or you have a friend, or you have a colleague who has complained about how they’re working day-to-day. And they have just felt like, man, I am banging in my head against this dang computer day after day, and will someone please help? Send this episode to them and have them listen to it. And we’d love for them to reach out at and talk about how to make their lives better.

GT All right. Thanks everybody. I’m excited to press Stop Recording here and have this episode go into 

our content management system. [Everyone laughs.] Have a rest of the day.

CL We’ll talk to y’all soon.

GT Bye. 

CE Bye.