Are News Organizations Trying to Reinvent the Wheel?

A new article by Kevin Anderson asks the question, does journalism really need another open-source CMS? Anderson writes in response to the Knight Foundation’s choice of giving a $975,000 grant to the Texas Tribune and Bay Citizen: “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.”

With their grant money, the Texas Tribune and Bay Citizen hope to create an open-source CMS that can “manage an integrate 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; [and] provide membership tools and integration with ad networks to help with new revenue streams.” Anderson comments, “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... How does this not tick the boxes above?”

Anderson continues, “It’s highly likely that these non-profits will create a platform that is optimized for their own needs but not generally applicable. This is a larger problem with news organizations. All but the largest news orgs could use open-source CMSes and get 90% of what they need with little modification… 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?”

Image: Courtesy Flickr/ Balaji.B