Social (Web) content management

In the craziness of this week, I missed a good post from Jeremiah Owyang over at Forrester about the coming collision between social software vendors and CMS vendors.  This is something I have written about several times before.

As is evident particularly in some of the comments on this post, there’s still a lot of confusion out there about all these terms we use — CMS, content management, social networking, social software etc.  Jeremiah gets it, as he covers “white-label” social software vendors that sell software or software-as-a-service for external, community sites.  So he’s not talking about social software for internal deployments or collaboration at all, or at least not as a primary function (some communities cross boundaries so things aren’t always so clear).

In this context, we’re talking about a particular set of “CMS” vendors, what I would generally refer to as Web content management (WCM) vendors.  Poster children here are the likes of Interwoven, Vignette, FatWire Software, Percussion Software, Clickability, Day Software and SDL Tridion, along with open source efforts like Drupal and Alfresco.   These vendors primarily sell software to develop, publish and maintain high-end, customer-facing web sites.  Again, this generally isn’t about internal collaboration or document management or enterprise content management (ECM) at all.

So there are vendors focused on building customer community sites and vendors focused on building customer Web sites — seems like a natural meeting point, doesn’t it?  The WCM vendors that I track (those listed above) are well aware of this and some are further along in developing these technologies I think than Jeremiah’s giving them credit for in this post.

But the social software vendors seem much less aware of what the WCM vendors are doing.  This is something I ask about regularly when I meet with social software providers and few seem to think of (or at least admit to) WCM vendors as potential competitors or to be aware of what they’re up to.  It’s not surprising really as these are smaller vendors doing their best in a competitive segment that is still just emerging.

More partnerships are definitely imminent and are a good idea, though I think most WCM vendors will get to a point of proficiency pretty quickly, through both organic and inorganic means, making partnerships less necessary.  I think we’ll see WCM vendors with fairly complete offerings that can cover company-generated, controlled and targeted content alongside user-generated, community-managed content.  There will still be room for a few best-of-breed, SaaS providers and no need in this day and age for every customer to purchase all its content infrastructure from the same vendor.

But for many customers that simply want to make their existing sites a bit more interactive, gather some customer feedback, enable customers to communicate with each other for particular needs like product support, there may be fewer and fewer reasons to stray from a WCM incumbent already running the rest of a site, provided that encumbent has social software capabilities that make sense for the environment.

Jeremiah asks a question towards the end of his post that I wonder about often when speaking with social software vendors:  “How will these commodity social features be monetized, with everyone having them, how will you differentiate?”

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#1 Jeremiah Owyang on 07.02.08 at 5:15 pm

Excellent, thanks for extending the conversation. The question about monetization is going to be a challenge. I’m noticing that services, support, monitoring, and reporting tend to be some additional buckets for some smart vendors that offer a solution sell beyond just the raw technology. What are you seeing?

#2 Drupal-Dev on 07.03.08 at 2:41 am

I don´t think that the article meets the point. You are comparing completely different markets here. First Open Source is set to grow either way, meaning eve if proprietary systems grow the same pace as the market they loose relative to open source. Secondly the market is so ridiculously fragmented, that means that once the big play start pushing one way or the other and standardize procedures and many solutions will disappear into obscurity.

Re Social software, CMS, EMC – to name like that mabye makes sense as a classification at the first glance. But many CMS [e.g. Drupal] are perfectly fine to be deployed on enterprise level [Sony, BMW, SUN, FastCompany], but also for a simple website or blog. The question is rather how will each and one them position itself to generate synergies in the future. That has not so much to do with technology as such but applies to ROI, Total-Cost-of-Ownership, time to market and other non-technical factors. And that is where what you refer to as social software has a total lack of one important ingredient – a business model. Where proprietary solutions lack transparency.

So in my opinion, you guessed it, Open Source systems like Drupal and Silverstripe will be the winner in this consolidation process.

#3 Kathleen Reidy on 07.03.08 at 5:55 am


Yes, I agree that analytics and services like moderation seem to be how social software vendors are differentiating now. Another post could be on ways WCM vendors will need to change to be successful in social software – moving more to SaaS, offering additional services, getting serious about analytics (something most all of have to web analytics vendors so far) all are relevant here.

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[…] think highly of the 451Group, (read comments) and their post confirms it “Social (Web) content management” they’ve been watching this from the CMS perspective for some time (and I’ve been […]

#5 Siddey on 07.07.08 at 7:18 am

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Which came first, the content management system or the content?

Simple questions with not so simple answers.

It will be very interesting to see if a top-down approach, i.e. to build a new style of content management solution that suits social models for generating and transporting content is more successful than the alternative bottom-up approach which would encapsulate the outputs of social tools within traditional content management system models.

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