May 9, 2019
In the publishing and digital media space, traditional CMSs such as Wordpress or Drupal provide a lot of functionality out of the box. These CMSs allow a business to easily build a content repository, along with the presentational aspects that are necessary to display and interact with that content.
Traditional CMSs house all of the logic to create, edit, store, and display content. Support for features such as pages, templates, themes, custom data types, and more can make traditional CMS platforms very appealing when getting content distribution off the ground. Additionally, plugin and extension marketplaces can add rich new features with little to no development effort.
So what’s a headless CMS and how is it different? A headless CMS is one where the CMS only deals with content creation, leaving the presentation of that content to other components in the system. The CMS only exposes its data through an API, effectively decoupling presentational aspects from content creation.
Transitioning from a traditional CMS architecture to a headless one requires some effort. However, there can be several benefits:
Allows easily adding new systems to handle distribution to different channels. These can be traditional web channels for desktop or mobile, or even more exotic platforms such as social destinations (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram), apps, wearables, voice assistants, OTT, etc.
By decoupling distribution channels from one another, it allows them to evolve independently. This means development teams can focus on delivering a vision without the distractions and synchronizations needed in a centralized app.
Because each distribution channel is isolated from the CMS, they become simpler, needing to handle fewer edge cases. This also allows newer developers to jump into a distribution channel component easily and make less mistakes as data dependencies are more apparent. This makes the overall architecture easier to evolve and maintain.
With each distribution channel being highly focused and specialized, it allows more fine-tuning, potentially leveraging channel-specific APIs and frameworks. In addition, because components are explicitly separated from one another, it makes measuring API calls for performance bottlenecks easier.
In a headless CMS setup, it becomes fairly simple to integrate the CMS content API with other APIs, combining them to provide a richer data set. For example, geodata, weather data, or even other third-party services could be combined with content to provide a more compelling experience.
Traditional CMS platforms are a fantastic way to get started in the publishing and digital media space. However, they may hamper the evolution of a digital media brand. Embracing a headless CMS or decoupled architecture is a good step towards removing the ceiling on the possibilities for content creation and distribution.
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Senior Director, Commercial
Senior Engineering Manager
Christoph Khouri is a pioneer in the digital media industry with deep knowledge of both the product and technical sides of digital entertainment. He currently leads Levvel’s Publishing and Digital Media Practice, a space he has been in for over 15 years. Prior to joining Levvel, Christoph served as Chief Architect and Head of Strategy and Architecture at AOL, managing the publishing platform for all of their digital media brands including Huffington Post, Engadget, TMZ, and AOL.com. Christoph also held leadership roles at several successful startups including ThreeDeep, a Diageo new business venture; and Blogsmith, an innovator of web publishing acquired by AOL. Christoph founded and served as the CTO of Castfire, (now part of WideOrbit) a cutting edge digital streaming media platform.
Ralph Khattar is a Senior Engineering Manager in the Digital Media vertical. Before joining Levvel, Ralph worked at AOL as a technology leader and oversaw the architecture of the content platform for multiple large media brands, delivering billions of page views per month. He has also overseen the merging of several systems when Verizon acquired AOL and merged with Yahoo. Ralph brings experience in building large, sophisticated systems that can scale to handle the demands of businesses of any size.
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