Tips for Finding the Best CMS for Single Sourcing

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Suzanne Mescan, Vasont
Reprinted with permission from Suzanne Mescan, Vasont Systems

When thinking about moving your content into a content management system (CMS), there are a few key principles to consider. The first principle is single sourcing. A CMS is a great place to store one copy of your content so that it can be shared with many users. By single sourcing your content, you eliminate all duplicate copies of the content and consolidate your content base down to one trusted source of content. Now, all users who access the content will always get the most current version, and older copies won’t be floating around anymore. In addition, single sourcing your content leads to higher quality documents since the content that is being reused across your publications is current and consistent.

Different CMSs have different ways of single sourcing content. Some CMSs single source the entire document and repurpose it for publishing. Other CMSs single source the content components at a more granular level in order to gain maximum content reuse within and across documents. It’s important to do your homework and ask the right questions to be sure that the CMS you choose will give you the most effective single sourcing solution for your content. Here are some things to look for to find the best single sourcing CMS:

Compare the new to the old.
When new content is added or changed in the CMS, is existing content checked for its prior existence and reused if appropriate? If not, you will end up right back where you started—with a whole lot of duplicate content in your CMS. Then, your “trusted source of content” can no longer be trusted.

Track its use.
Can the system immediately tell you and act upon all the current uses of a given content component? It should. Isn’t that one of the main reasons you are buying a CMS in the first place—to better organize and track your content?

Store pure content.
Can the system show the content components independently of any specific use of that content? Content should be stored in its purest form—with no context tying it down—to get the most effective single sourcing and reuse. Consider the following: Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, and Johnny Depp might be stored three times in a CMS that stores content with its tags, hence duplicating the actual content in the CMS multiple times. Other CMSs that store pure content would only store “Johnny Depp” once and reuse it in its different contexts. If his name changes to “Jonathan Depp,” CMSs that store the pure content only require one change, whereas the other CMSs require multiple changes. Pure content storage is the ultimate single sourcing of content.

Never duplicate content … ever.
Can the system easily allow the same content to be used in many different views, hierarchies, and configurations without ever duplicating the content? As your CMS usage grows in your organization, you may find that different groups use the same content with different configurations. Make sure the CMS you choose can handle this scenario without duplicating the content to accommodate the differences.

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