The Content Management System (CMS) market is crowded. It’s easier to stand out from the niche of news CMSes, but in the age of guerrilla journalism and WordPress, the market for CMSes tailored for newsrooms is small. Even major news organisations like CNN, The New York Times, Reuters and Forbes deliver news through WordPress. So, how do you make a name for yourself if you’re trying to sell a CMS for newsrooms?
For a start, you’d better make sure your product is battle tested. To develop a new version of its newspaper and magazine CMS called Newscoop, Czech non-profit organisation, Sourcefabric, looked to Georgia.
Why Georgia? Being a reporter in Georgia isn’t exactly easy, and neither is running an independent media organisation. The trouble is, while the Georgian government allows for independent news organisations to exist, the media do not have a high degree of financial independence.
Nationwide television stations are owned and subsidised by large businesses that typically have close links to the state. According to Freedom House the advertising market in Georgia continues to be highly politicised.
Advertisers favor pro-government media, with critical outlets struggling to sell advertising space and airtime. Print media are especially challenged by a lack of advertising income and financial resources—problems that particularly affect their distribution capacity.
This means that Georgia is ranked 104th of 179 countries listed in the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, while Freedom House scores the country as “Partly Free” with a Press Freedom Score that places it 111th in the world — the score is at least an improvement on the year before.
So the type of CMS that is to flourish in these conditions need to be one with bite. Developed in close partnership with a number of Georgian news organisations, Newscoop now powers a substantial subset of the under-financed independent news community in the country. Netgazeti, Newscafe.ge, TSPress and ICMM.ge all run on Newscoop installations.
Newscoop includes functionality that is part and parcel for a newsroom CMS, but has some really interesting additional features that are particularly useful in regions sensitive to censorship. Subscription management provides control over what content readers have access to, and when — time-based subscriptions or IP-restricted subscriptions can be set up. Geolocation features put stories into geographical context, potentially allowing readers to steer clear of or rally around areas of protest, and community tools that allow readers to submit private feedback to an author.
Newscoop has enterprise-grade search functionality built in thanks to Solr, an open source search platform from the Apache Lucene project. Solr is used by AOL, Netflix, Instagram, SourceForge, Internet Archive, CISCO, MTV, NASA, WhiteHouse.gov, Apple and many more.
Sourcefabric started life as CAMP in 1998, the new-media arm of the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) — the MDLF is an investment fund for independent news outlets in countries with a history of media oppression.
In 2010 Sourcefabric launched as a wholly autonomous organisation securing private funding that propelled Sourcefabric into the ranks of one of the largest European open source projects for news and media.
Today, Sourcefabric is headquartered in Prague, with branches in Berlin and Toronto, and representatives in Minsk, Guatemala, Warsaw, Belgrade and Cluj.
Sourcefabric’s relationship with Georgia seems symbiotic. It’s a strong argument for not shying away from entering regions with less than perfect socio-economic environments. The payoff in terms of innovation that can occur organically in unique environments can be huge.