I had an interesting conversation today with an analyst that was trying to understand how tools like Movable Type and blogging fit into the general category of content management. When I was at Vignette, we had seen the content management space splitting into web content management (WCM), document management and enterprise content management (ECM), and collaborative intranet portals. Although Vignette, through various acquisitions, had strong products in each of those categories, it was hard to see the relationship between how content managed in the WCM and ECM worlds related to the more ad-hoc collaborative content that was created and interacted with on a daily basis within the increasingly-popular intranets and corporate portals. Companies were increasingly choosing corporate portals such as Epicentric, Plumtree, and Microsoft’s incredibly successful SharePoint product, which offered “lightweight” content management in conjunction with strong collaboration capabilities over the more powerful, large-scale content management systems. For Internet publishing, the same thing was occurring in the web content management space as well, but it was happening under the radar screen of most of the WCM vendors in the form of the emergence of blogging. The reason why it wasn’t immediately understood was because WCM vendors have historically been driven by the needs of the large media publishers, and as we all know, those publishers had no idea just how much the principals of blogging would transform their businesses at the time.
What was occurring on the Internet in the form of blogging and in the intranets in the form of corporate portals and intranet collaboration tools was the result of a sea change that had occurred in terms of how people thought about web content creation. The original content management systems, whether for internal or external content, were designed to address what was perceived as the overriding need to impose control over the process of how content was published. This was because web technology was still relatively new in the overall scheme of things, and the fear of the wrong content going live was the number one concern of anyone involved in professional web publishing. Fast forward five or so years, and the web is taken for granted, there isn’t the same fear of disaster every time someone hits the “publish” button, spelling errors can be corrected later, broken links fixed, etc. The concern now isn’t about enforcing process, it’s about making it faster and easier to get your ideas out there. And most importantly, it’s about getting a conversation going. This is the social factor that essentially took a market that was previous bifurcated by internal versus external usage and split it again along process-driven and social-oriented applications. Needless to say, the products that have focused on the social side of the equation have seen rapid growth.
This is a cleaned-up version of what I drew on the whiteboard to illustrate this concept in a recent meeting:
The goal here isn’t to catalog and categorize every vendor in the space, there are literally hundreds of vendors providing content management solutions, and even the products listed here have functionality that straddles these categories. It is, however, a good way to understand how and why a new category has emerged which is led by smaller vendors as well as open source projects, in reaction to the needs of users who are more interested in ad-hoc collaboration rather than formal processes as they create and interact around the content and ideas they want to communicate. Movable Type Pro, which Six Apart made available today, and which I’m excited to have been part of the launch of, is very much part of that trend, designed from the ground up to serve large scale Internet communities with content at the core. I think it’s going to be an interesting and exciting time as the lessons that have been learned in the blogging world start to permeate and transform the rest of the content management market.