Blogs as disruptive technology in the CMS industry

Was looking at News Blogging Software Roundup on the Microcontent News site. The article breaks weblogging applications into categories based on the type of publishing environment (weblog publishing or weblog community) and based on installation requirements. The page led to the Web Crimson white paper, Blogs as Disruptive Tech, which is an interesting piece that calls weblog publishing systems as disruptive to commercial content management systems as the PC was disruptive to the mainframe computer. Makes some interesting insights based on the ideas in Clayton Christensen book, "The Innovator's Dilemma".

The dilemma is this. Should CMS companies look at the current state of weblogging applications as a threat? It appears that the feedback from consumers is that weblogging applications are viable for many smaller publishing needs and are getting better at also meeting middle-range publishing and community communication needs. So much better that they may someday nip at the heels of mid-level CMS vendors and drive them out of business because of the free (or GPL) to really cheap pricing model that most follow. The improvement of simple web publishing CMSes and community tools such as the one used here has been very impressive considering the short life-time for this breed of software. I would think that CMS vendors make the same kind of calculations in their heads that mainframe salespersons made when they hear that there is a seemingly trivial application that customers are considering as alternatives to their large and very expensive systems. But is there an opportunity to generate revenue, however small, by offering lighter and much cheaper sytems as a reaction to the use of blogging tools in place of CMSes? I guess that's the innovators dilemma, do you heed or ignore the warning foretold in some consumer behavior.

Thanks Tom for the link to the Roundup article.

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MT as a tool

Movable Type has been my CMS of choice for my (usually low budget) clients. With a bit of tweaking, and some PHP I can cover most basic needs.

nipping, not biting, at the heels

A disruptive technology as Christensen defined it forces you to cannabalize your existing technology. But couldn't blogs be complementary to a current CMS? I imagine it's just another module that add in to do rapid fire posting instead of the slower, bigger forms they use now. It would take them what, a month maybe, to add blogging functionality? I bet it's just around the corner.

The rest of the 'nipping at the heels' argument will probably be true. But the CMS vendors won't stand still, they'll move upstream to more sophisticated systems (see my artcle at http://www.digital-web.com/features/feature_2002-08.shtml).

As far as free software goes, there are plenty of companies that simply don't trust it, or don't want to do business without a support contract. Applications like Movable Type and OpenCMS will surely make inroads, but I think they'll be a place for bigger, commercial CMS software for the foreseeable future.

It's not about weblogs

What's important here is the advent of lightweight, flexible, easy-to-use CMSs -- the weblog aspect is incidental. You'd never know it on the surface, but the Adaptive Path site runs on Movable Type.

There may indeed be an opportunity for the big commercial players to move into more sophisticated offerings. But right now, most of their customers aren't even making use of much of the power they already have with the current generation of systems. Trying to get them to adopt anything along the lines of an Ontology Management System sounds like a tough sell.

The free CMSs may not lead in market share, but I expect them to continue to lead in innovation. Can you imagine a feature as fiendishly clever as TrackBack coming out of Vignette or Interwoven?

Size matters

It's important to make a size distinction here..."enterprise" content management systems will continue to play a role in large organizations especially as the price points continue to come down (and IT spending picks up). Reason: the software selection process for many large companies emphasizes COTS software supplied by a company with good financials and a history of installs at similarly
large companies. Add to this the fact that selection processes are often led by consultants that have alliances with major vendors, and the process will naturally favor Vignette, Interwoven, Documentum, and Microsoft (all identified as leaders/challengers in Gartners most recent CMS magic quadrant).

Outside of the "enterprise" many approaches to CMS (including blogging software) will be popular. Some solutions will be general purpose, others might fill a specific niche (e.g. I know of a company that developed a CMS system specifically for foundations).

As always the place to start is with a thorough requirements definition.

blogging as a must-have feature

1992: Every program grows until it can send e-mail.
2002: Every program grows until it can blog.

dc@omor.com