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Web content management systems try to do it all

Web content management systems have many roles to fill, from being the hub for company communications to personalizing information for users.

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What happens at Mohegan Sun stays at Mohegan Sun -- or at least on the casino company's website.

Internet marketing manager Ryan Lee understands the importance of digital content to business all too well. He manages the websites for the Uncasville, Connecticut, and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, casinos. The Connecticut property is the second largest in the U.S. and home to some 40 restaurants, three casinos and several entertainment venues for acts like John Legend and Panic! At the Disco.

But managing the volume of content associated with so much entertainment is a big job. The website has to be updated regularly with concert schedules, restaurant menus and casino information. The site has to aggregate resources from various places and distribute it to the general public, but also personalize information for loyalty program members, who can get wind of special offers or book a hotel directly from the site. And MoheganSun.com has to deliver information to PCs, mobile devices and way-finding kiosks on the floor of the Connecticut property. The Mohegan Sun sites try to do it all for their users.

It's a paradox of sorts, where company websites are becoming the place to centralize communications through disparate channels such as Facebook and Twitter, blogs and YouTube, and mobile devices. Web content management systems (WCMs) are the principal weapon in this ground war to engage audiences, but they face new challenges as channels of communication -- and content itself -- grow more sophisticated and varied. WCM software enables nondevelopers to manage and self-publish digital content. With WCM software, content managers can reach audiences wherever they choose to communicate and wrangle these channels and audiences into one location on a company's website.

A lot of users have catching up to do -- in terms of operations, marketing and editorial maturity -- to leverage what these tools can do.
Tony Byrnepresident of Real Story Group

At Mohegan Sun, the company needed to corral all its disparate content and centralize it in a WCM, all while enabling rapid edits and ways to reach customers through new communication channels. "We needed a hub," Lee recalled. "With the quantity of content we're managing, it's imperative that it's all in one place." So in 2013, Mohegan Sun brought on Adobe Experience Manager to replace custom systems.

Now, Lee said, the company can create better brand consistency between the sites for the Pennsylvania and Connecticut properties and improve customer service through the site. "The customer experience is more fluid, rather than being bounced around," Lee said.

The channel paradox

The market for WCM technology is gathering steam. According to the Research and Markets report, "Global Web Content Management Systems Market 2014-2018," the WCM software market is due to grow 12.7% between 2013 and 2018. Web content management software has earned a reputation for flexibility and ease of use for nondeveloper types, such as editors and marketers.

But the power of these systems -- their ability to democratize the process -- can also be their downfall. "The major vendors are ahead of the vast majority of their customer bases," said Tony Byrne, president of Real Story Group, a technology research and analyst firm. "A lot of users have catching up to do -- in terms of operations, marketing and editorial maturity -- to leverage what these tools can do."

At Mohegan Sun, for example, the company is still shoehorning its legacy mobile content management system (CMS) into its larger WCM strategy. The company houses mobile versions of its website outside of Adobe. So, the regular version of the website doesn't automatically populate to the mobile version, because the mobile sites don't reside in Adobe Experience Manager.

"If a concert is canceled, you have to remember to cancel it in multiple places -- and all the different parts and pieces that you have to fill out," Lee noted. Having to make changes in multiple locations is time-consuming and introduces the risk of errors or inconsistencies. Lee said that as the company considers applying for additional gaming licenses in new territories, he would like to make a single environment the governing standard.

"It's all an effort we are moving toward," he said. "Having Adobe be the hub for everything digital -- mobile apps, way-finders, websites, mobile websites and whatever other channels come along -- hopefully we will be able to manage out of one environment."

Adobe Experience Manager offers analytics tools and social media monitoring tools as well, but Mohegan Sun isn't using those today. While these WCM systems offer lots of functionality, companies are often still laying the groundwork for more basic initiatives, such as bringing mobile content into their WCMs.

Content that drives users

New England Biolabs (NEB) in Ipswich, Massachusetts, has a range of content on its site, from research to reagents to other tools for the life sciences. Because NEB offers information as well as commercial products on its site, it needed a flexible Web content management system that can educate and inform its site users with articles, white papers and video but also function as an e-commerce site and sell products.

"People come to the website to learn something, and then buy the product," said Tanya Osterfield, digital marketing manager at the company. So the company needed a WCM that could take its research data and populate it on the site in different ways and in different formats.

"Our site features information like the temperature you would want to use one of our products at [during an experiment]." Osterfield said. "So that information appears on the product page but also in 42 tables and charts across the site." The company can use its WCM to publish information for a variety of different site purposes -- and different sites -- without having to publish the information in each location or to make changes in each location when they are necessary.

That is a major boon for NEB, because it helps ensure better data integrity and consistency. "We can be more trusted and accurate with our data because it's changed everywhere at one time," she said.

New England Biolabs uses various channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, to promote its content, but always with the intent of driving people back to the site. "In every Facebook post, every tweet, there is a call to action," Osterfield said. "That is the funnel. You find something interesting on Twitter, you go to our site to learn more about it, and 'Here are some products that relate to it and that you can buy.'"

Osterfield said that NEB is also quite conscious of tailoring content and message to the channel it is operating in. So, for example, they do not promote products on Twitter but provide information on research and provide calls to action. "We don't get salesy on Twitter or Facebook. We want to give people a way to learn more."

When is doing it all doing too much?

Osterfield's instinct to tailor NEB's content for the audience and the environment is a best practice for Web content management systems.

But WCM systems can pose the risk of trying to be all things for all purposes, and that places responsibility at the feet of human beings to provide quality control. Content managers can't just sit back and let the software drive everything.

According to Real Story Group's Byrne, tailoring content for multiple environments is the name of the game, but it's also quite difficult. "The enterprise wants a single source of content that can be reused across different platforms," Byrne said. "But if you're going to republish things to Facebook, you're going to want to modify it for the context of the environment that you're in."

Byrne presented a hypothetical in which users may change a headline to make it more compelling but forget to preview its display for the mobile website. Headlines can get cut off or be difficult to read in that small real estate, and content managers need to think about an increasing number of details as the channels proliferate and WCM capabilities grow to mirror the environment.

Byrne notes that the goals of WCM can be at odds with one another and create conflicts.

"There is this classic tension between having a single source of content but then also doing things that are more customer-specific and more contextual," he said. "Those two are always fighting against each other. It's not a vendor problem, but vendors tend to gloss over it."

Next Steps

WCM design is key to multichannel success

guide to WCM design

Measure the success of a Web content strategy

This was first published in August 2014

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