Content Repositories: why and when to use them?

When it comes to storing, managing and distributing content, there's a platitude of solutions and approaches to dealing with this challenge. In this blog post we present why and when Content Repository is an appropriate technology choice. 

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Content Repository Overview

A web content management (WCM) systems offer many advanced features for managing and publishing digital content (text, images, documents, multi-media, etc.) to websites, including multi-lingual and multi-site capabilities, and for many scenarios a WCM product or system will meet the needs of content publishers.

However, if a digital content needs to be shared between disparate websites, different kinds of devices or channels (mobile phones, tablets, kiosks, Facebook, Google+, etc.), or syndicated via an API, a WCM system focused on serving HTML pages is often not sufficient and a different approach is needed.

This approach requires a Content Repository for storing, managing and serving the digital content; a content repository is a store of digital content with an associated set of data management, search and access methods allowing application-independent access to the content, rather like a library, but with the ability to store and modify content in addition to searching and retrieving.

CMS as content repository solution

CMS platforms which store content alongside page templates or page data (known as “page-oriented” systems, and including SharePoint, EPiServer, WordPress and Drupal) are not very suitable for using as a content repository, due to the too-tight coupling between the digital content and the expected presentation of the content as part of an HTML page.

The Content Repository and the Content Platform

Organisations delivering digital content is no longer simply about HTML pages; a whole range of devices, contexts and channels must be considered, including:

  • Browser: Desktop, Mobile, Tablet
  • Mobile apps
  • Kiosk devices – in-store, trade stands, etc.
  • Content management: WCM, DAM
  • Content Mashups
  • Content Syndication
  • Application Programming Interface (API)

The content repository is crucial in this multi-device and multi-channel context, acting as the “intelligent library” or “hub” of content.

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Business use cases

We’ll now apply this logic to four common business scenarios, and determine the appropriate technology in each case:

  • A company has a single website selling widgets in 3 languages with no need for mobile apps or multi-site capabilities
    • Solution: Basic Content Management System with multi-lingual support
  • A company. has several websites around the world in different languages, sharing content between them.
    • Solution: A more advanced Content Management System with multi-site publishing capabilities.
  • A Company. is a large group of companies with many distinct websites and content sources which need access to the same content.
    • Solution: Content Repository with private API (a Content Platform).
  • A Company is an international news publisher with a need to syndicate/sell access to content to application developers and content aggregation portals.
    • Solution: Content Repository with custom, public API (a Content Platform). 

Therefore, for simpler, self-contained and browser-focused content scenarios, a Content Management System is an appropriate technology choice. However, for more complex scenarios involving disparate systems, content syndication or API requirements, a Content Repository or even Content Platform is the right model.

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