Composing Web Content

Journalists increasingly curate already existent content rather than creating it. Content Management Systems have barely addressed according needs.

Journalisms economic drivers

Do what you do best, link the rest. What capabilities do journalists have, that others don't? One of them is the ability to filter. "A journalist's knowledge is as wide as the ocean, as shallow as a puddle." That's how a senior journalist once described the property of its kind.

Since the internet is more about pull than push, and since the increase of information, filtering becomes a core asset, a real value. In fact, it becomes so much of a value than active research and writing rarely pays off anymore. The least amount of time for generating the biggest canvas of attention for ads – that's how you maximise profit.

Once the economic system is set, it drives journalists to search, sort, filter, remix and compose already generated content. How does a CMS facilitate that?


One core aspect of curation is the composition of collected assets. In order to put content into context, you may want to put content into a certain order, comment on it, give priority. You deal with different media types like text, pictures, video, audio. Within text, you deal with short messages, quotes, statements, long reads. How does your CMS help you to get a compilation out of it?

Current CMS provide you with the ability to create and publish content. They also automate the display and search of genuine content with feeds and lists or filters. This is what Wordpress is good at on a small scale, and Drupal is good at on a bigger scale.

But you can't compose and recompose content chunks within Wordpress without building new page types each time. In Drupal, it is theoretically possible with panels, but practically you won't handle it.

Friends of mine are building plugins for Drupal and Wordpress for composition. These plugins offer editorial user interfaces for exactly these use cases. Still, these CMS do not treat composition at their core.

It might be worth to explore the implications of composition, if you think of it on a broader scale. You could, once the systems allow it, compose content from different sources, from different domains – federated composition, if you like.

So the question is: With this new paradigm of treating content, is it worth building a new CMS?


(cc-by-sa) since 2005 by Konstantin Weiss.