This article was originally published by INMA in the “How News Media Companies Should Choose a CMS” report released in October 2023. The Mediahuis case is based on the choice of CUE as the media enterprise platform for Mediahuis.
Rolling out a new CMS in a media company is more than just a tech challenge ,according to Ezra Eeman, former change director at Mediahuis in Belgium.
“It’s about changing everything from the way journalists write, the work processes, and especially about changing the way everyone understands how consumer habits have changed,” he said at INMA’s Media Innovation Week in Copenhagen in September 2022.
“When our customers change, we also have had to rethink how we operate, organize, and especially share tools and knowledge between departments.”
Mediahuis has grown to four times its original size in just eight years. What used to be a Belgian media company now scales 32 brands, reaching 10 million daily users in five countries. Such growth has given the company the scale to improve its technological platforms across all brands. The aim is to change, upgrade, and simplify CMS platforms across the entire company.
“It may be that we focus on technology, but the job really is much more about changing workflow,” Eeman explained.
“It’s about writing for the mobile reader first — and then later find out how we export that content in an efficient workflow for the newspaper.”
In most cases, articles are written in the CMS and then exported to a newspaper system afterward — something that was unthinkable in many media houses just a few years ago. For the same reasons, the organisational changes are rather comprehensive.
“Whatever change you have in mind, you must remember that people only look at i tfrom their own level,” Eeman said. “But we’re not just rolling out a CMS. We need a much more holistic approach.”
The most important lesson is the change in user needs and user behavior, Eeman emphasized: “More than half of all readers use their mobile as their primary device to consume news, and naturally, we need to have that in mind when we produce our content. We shouldn’t think of a story as one big item but as a number of elements that can be kicked around.”
For example, “An infographic designed for broadsheet pages doesn’t make sense at all when viewed on a small screen,” he said. “It needs to be produced and presented in a completely different way. Also, when most of our subscribers consume news during the day on their mobile phone, it doesn’t make sense to have a production set-up which was aimed at a deadline for the printing press.”
Preparing for the rollout took a long time and initially had little to do with technology, Eeman said: “There’s a tendency with projects like this to try to recreate the workflow people already have. But we started with an important and fundamental question: What do we really want to achieve?”
Eeman stressed it is imperative to allow for feedback and change things as they are being developed. Modern IT systems are usually developed using an “agile” development method, which allows for change along the way.
“We really work closely with people from all parts of the organization and allow time for feedback and changes,” Eeman said. “It’s important to give enough people the keys for the new car (CMS) so they can test drive it ahead of time.”
As change director, Eeman focuses heavily on the impact technology has on all the different processes.
“It’s important to install a common narrative and understanding across all of the company,” he said. “When people understand how customers connect with our products, they will understand we need to work in new ways and even write articles in a new format.”