Steve Yelvington says “it’s not about the technology.”
He’s right, of course.
One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is that to some extent, technology is a commodity.
What I mean by that if you laid out a web site strategy, chances are every piece of technology you would need — a CMS, participation tools, multimedia — already exists, and it’s available for free.
Why write code from scratch when you can download everything you need all ready to install?
At GateHouse Media, we have two online businesses to run. We have our core, enterprise business (meaning the primary newspaper.com) and we have lots of side projects that we want to pursue.
For the core, we use Zope4Media from Zope Corp. For a company the size of GHS, we simply must have enterprise level software that scales to our scope, and the world class development team that Zope Corp delivers. Zope is building great products for us and it’s a great relationship.
We keep Zope very busy developing new tools for Z4M.
That means, of course, that their developers aren’t available to chase down every wild idea we might want to let loose on the web. And for some site ideas, it just makes more sense to run those projects as an independent skunk works.
Recently, we told the handful of developers working for GateHouse that we want them to learn Drupal. This was a significant policy change for us. Our original development policy put the emphasis on developers working in whatever environment they knew best.
After further thought, that simply didn’t make sense. It would be unwieldy to support over the long term multiple and diverse projects written in an alphabet soup of languages.
And what if some project, written by one lone coder, became a big hit, and then that coder left, and nobody else in the company knew either his language or his methodology?
By centralizing on Drupal, we solve that problem. We also tap into a robust open source community, with a lot of newspaper industry support already, and our own developers can more easily share code.
In time, I believe Drupal will give us the ability to more rapidly deploy web sites. My dream is that on a Monday morning, a publisher will call us and say he’s launching a new woman’s magazine in his market and he needs a web site ASAP. And he wants all the bells and whistles, such as user blogs, video and comments. Instead of saying, “We’ll get to that in three or four months,” we’ll be able to say, “Great. We’ll have that up for your launch.” How will we do that? Because we’ll have established a standard Drupal installation for that scope of project, so we’ll make a couple of localized changes and deploy it.
Drupal, with all it’s modules, will allow us to adjust the content strategy for such sites as needed.
The other advantage is that we make better use of the development talent in the company. Only our larger newspapers — and not all of them — have local developers. Our smaller newspapers will never have developers. With everyone working on Drupal projects, we can more readily deploy and support one-off sites for the smaller publications.
If we get to where we need to be (with both Zope and Drupal), we’ll be in a place were we’re innovating around content and advertising ideas instead of trying to invent new technological solutions. We can iterate off of what already exists and move quickly to solve problems and create opportunities.
We’re then treating technology as a commodity and concentrating on what we do best — delivering content to users and results to advertisers.