I have to say that I’m a bit baffled by a $975,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to the Bay Citizen and the Texas Tribune, two very well funded non-profit news organisations in the US. The goal is to create a nimble open-source content management system. I guess WordPress or Drupal, just to name two open-source content management systems, didn’t fit the bill. PaidContent is reporting that news start-ups expressed this need during meetings last year at SXSW Interactive. PaidContent said:
- Manage an integrated library of text, video and audio files;
- Maximize search engine optimization by improving the way articles are linked, aggregated and tagged;
- Integrate sites with social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well as bloggers;
- Provide membership tools and integration with ad networks to help with new revenue streams.
I wonder if those news start-ups have heard of OpenPublish. The platform is a distribution of Drupal with Thomson-Reuters’ Calais semantic technology added to help deliver better related content to users. It’s got some nice monetisation features. The Nation and PBS Newshour use it. That’s just one open-source option. How does this not tick the boxes above?
I also know from my own work with news organisations, it’s highly likely that these non-profits will create a platform that is optimised for their own needs but not generally applicable. This is a larger problem with news organisations. All but the largest news orgs could use open-source CMSes and get 90% of what they need with little modification. However, a lot of news editors are obsessed with differentiating on aspects of the CMS that deliver little efficiency to their journalists and little or no benefit to their audiences. IT managers are more than happy to deliver these vanity features because it can justify a bit of empire building.
I do worry that this money will go into reinventing the wheel and deliver little marginal benefit to these start-ups and to the larger news eco-system. Wouldn’t this money be better spent supporting existing open-source projects and adapting them to journalism rather than creating another platform?