What is a Content Management System?

The internet is built on and runs on content. Content is the life-blood of just about everything we do online.

As content marketers, content vital for our jobs. We spend the majority of our workday planning, creating, publishing, curating, linking to, networking, and sharing content.

Because content is so important, we find ourselves often working with content management systems or CMSes.

What exactly is a CMS? What are the different kinds of content management systems out there? And what is the future of content and CMSes for 2020?

What is a CMS?

Very few marketers write web pages from scratch these days using HTML, CSS, Javascript, or some other particular language. Instead, we use pre-packaged systems that organize text and media in visually pleasing ways, so we can focus on the content itself instead of the code behind that content.

And that is a content management system.

Put simply, a CMS is a system that allows you to upload, organize, publish, and share content easily.

As an example, think of YouTube as a massive multi-user CMS. People create and upload videos through their YouTube dashboard. They don’t know how the website organizes that content to make it searchable and linkable. They don’t have to worry about that part. YouTube takes care of it. YouTubers just keep uploading and consumers just keep watching new videos.

The most common example of a content management system–and probably the software that comes to most people’s minds when they think of a CMS–is WordPress. According to their website, the WordPress.org open-source software has been around since 2003 and is still the platform of choice for over 35% of all sites across the web.

If you work as a content marketer for an agency or freelance team, chances are you’ve worked with WordPress before.

So why are CMSes important? They organize content in ways that are convenient and practical and intuitive for both search engines and people. A blog, for example, usually shows posts in reverse chronological order showing the latest article first, but through tags and categories and archive pages and textual links, that content can be displayed in any number of ways, making it fast and easy to find what you’re looking for as a reader.

Using a CMS is a great way to increase output because the writer or marketer doesn’t have to think in terms of coding or design. That’s already been taken care of by whatever theme the CMS is using. Instead, you can focus on what’s most important for you at that moment: reaching your ideal audience through a content strategy that is likely to convert.

What’s the Best Content Management System?

When you think about it, most websites on the internet today are some form of CMS.

Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Medium are examples of massive multi-user content management systems, in which everyone can add content in a variety of forms (text, images, video, etc) and all that content is filed and organized in such a way that it can be easily found later.

Most websites use a closed CMS where only approved users can upload new articles or media. They may use WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace, or they may use other open-source options like Joomla or Drupal.

Which content management system is the best?

Well, it depends on several factors. Let’s look at a few of those now.


Some content management systems are open source and therefore free. WordPress.org is probably the best example. You still have to pay for hosting and a domain, though, of course. Other CMSes are based around monthly charges. Wix and Squarespace are great examples of that.

Ease of Use

The free CMS options may have a monetary advantage, but they take more expertise and work to set up and start using. If you are responsible for setting up a website, you’ll either need to be well-versed in all things WordPress or hire a WP developer to help you set up the website and customize it.

Other services, while more expensive, are more user-friendly. Squarespace, for example, allows you to have a beautifully designed website up and running in minutes. There are dozens of themes to choose from and hundreds of customization options.

If you choose the turn-key options, however, you do give up a lot of customizability. WordPress can be redesigned thousands of ways. Professional WordPress developers can make just about any kind of website you can imagine. When they’re done, readers will never guess at the software under the hood.

With Squarespace, as an example, you only have so many options. You can’t completely redesign the site to fit your taste or needs.


As you can tell from the above subheadings, choosing a CMS is all about balancing price, ease of use, and customizability. But there is one other aspect to consider: the system’s features.

For example, what kinds of content do you plan to upload to the site? Only text and images? Or do you plan to add videos and audio files, as well?

Do you want the website to host a podcast? What about file sharing? What about gated content, files or videos that only paying customers can have access to?

It would be a good idea to write down what features you need in your CMS and then compare that list to what the various options offer. You don’t want to have a website designed only to discover that it won’t serve your needs.

What Does the Future of Content Look Like?

Now that are at the turn of a new decade, many people are starting to think of 2020 as the first year of the Future. What does that mean for content and content management systems?

Content and content marketing will continue to evolve in the year to come. Let’s look at some trends to expect.

More Authority

The internet contains more content than ever before. People are already starting to feel lost. When searching for answers, who do you believe? Sooner or later, the concept of “fake news” will spread to authority on the internet.

That means content marketers will have to focus more on building authority than ever before. Weak authority won’t cut it anymore. Articles will have to be well researched and authoritative to catch anyone’s eye.

More Personalization

As systems and AI get smarter, we’ve come to expect a more personalized experience on the web. Advertising has become more targeted than ever, as well.

So the content we make in 2020 and beyond can’t be the general brand speak our audience got from us in the past. We have to create more content and more targeted content so that each segment of our ideal audience gets a more personalized experience.

More Conversations

The content street has long been (mostly) a one-way street. The brand talks to the consumer. That was it.

Now, customers expect more of a conversation with their brands. They expect to be able to respond and be heard. They want their questions answered and their complaints heard.

Heading into the future, content marketers will have to create content that encourages engagement like never before. On top of that, marketers may find themselves spending more time conversing with customers (via comments or chat) than create more one-way content.

Certainly, the future is bright for content marketing and content management systems! When it comes to choosing a CMS, it’s important to look into the future and make a decision that will benefit your brand for months or years to come.