The CMSs powering American news websites

It might surprise you that WordPress is not the most used CMS amongst traditional news outlets in the United States. Barrett Golding, of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, surveyed over 1,500 news outlets in the US, and attempted to identify their primary content management systems.

WordPress came in second — by a wide margin– amongst daily newspapers with its 25.9% marketshare; and though it had a more traditional share of the alternative papers (65.6% of those where a CMS was detected), it didn't make up for the total.

What unseated it?

A proprietary CMS! That's right, a niche proprietary CMS called Blox — that looks terrible, but apparently does the job for a lot of papers — is more used than WordPress by a significant margin.


Alt-weeklies favor WordPress but more than half the dailies prefer the BLOX CMS (which runs on less than 0.1 percent of all sites worldwide but on 59 percent of U.S. daily newspaper sites). BLOX is made for newspapers and owned by a newspaper company, Lee Enterprise's It's filled with news-specific features such as classifieds, an editorial section and a pay model option. BLOX CMS is plug-and-play, but you have to pay.

The WordPress and Drupal CMSs are free, though you may need developers to code your newspaper features.

One workflow issue all papers must solve is getting content from the CMS to the printing press. Many manually copy and paste text and images into Adobe InDesign — the software most newspapers use to layout print editions. If you buy TownNews' premium BLOX Total product, your articles automatically move into InDesign. Drupal papers can use Adobe's DPS Bridge. And a few WordPress papers, including the Bangor Daily News and Davis Enterprise, are pioneering a suite of plugins that, among other features, exports files from the CMS, ready for InDesign import (in Adobe Tagged Text format).

If you're tempted to try out a new CMS or plugin, it's easy to set up a test environment and import a sampling of articles. However, switching CMSs — migrating all of your content and categories, training your staff — can take anywhere from two weeks to two years.

I've been thinking a ton about news organizations lately, and specifically about local news. I feel a disconnect between the awfully grim state of local news and the much lower-than-historical technology bar between micro-publishers and mega-publishers. The technology is possible (and one could argue even that it's cheap), but it's obvious other elements necessary for publications to thrive aren't in sync yet.

It's funny to me that what looks like a really old-school proprietary CMS has such a dominant share of the market. WordPress should be a no-brainer for newspapers with the proper plugins and custom add-ons, but there are obviously many roadblocks — including the fear of huge migrations, I'm sure.

I'll have more on local news later, but in the meantime I thought it was fascinating to see how much penetration a niche proprietary CMS can get when they offer even a marginally focused product.

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