Content Management Systems / contests / Websites

WordPress leads pack of Pacemaker finalists picked

The Associated Collegiate Press announced their list of 2012 online Pacemaker finalists yesterday. There are 55 finalists, and lots of familiar names. Congratulations to all the nominees.

Beyond that, I’m always interested in what’s going on under the hood, in the “CMS Wars!” So, I went through the entire list, looked at lots of source code and page footers to find clues, and identified all but four of the sites’ CMS’s. Previously, we looked at these numbers from 2008 and 2009. In 2010, I commented on the CMS’s used by the winners.

The results for the finalists this year are below, and somewhat astounding:


WordPress 29 53%
College Publisher 2 4%
TownNews (Blox) 3 5%
Detroit Softworks 4 7%
dotnetnuke 1 2%
Surreal 1 2%
Ellington 3 5%
HTML (handcoded) 2 4%
Django/Custom 5 9%
Unknown 4 7%

WordPress powers 53 percent of the finalists, far more than any other CMS. Meanwhile, College Media Network, once the largest player in college media site hosting, is only powering two of the finalists.

There are obvious qualifiers in this data: it’s highly selective, non-representative of the broader college media web environment, and, as I’ve said before, the best CMS won’t put lipstick on bad journalism.

Also, WordPress is an open-source CMS that you host on your own server location, as is Joomla and dotnetnuke. TownNews (Blox) and Detroit SoftWorks (Gryphon) have hosted, proprietary CMS’s and cost significantly more. Ellington is also a pricey system. Surreal CMS is a hybrid, cloud-based CMS that costs a small amount per month. And django is a web framework, not a CMS.

This is not a knock on any of the systems, either. I’m from the “whatever works best for you” CMS school. They all have pros and cons.

BUT, here’s an interesting bit I did discern from this small sample of college journalism outlets’ web sites.

Smaller outlets are more invested in WordPress.

Since the CMS is “free” (you still have to pay for or arrange hosting and tech support), it’s more financially feasible for small sites. As you can see from the chart below, the larger the enrollment, the more likely the outlet was to have another system beside WordPress.

 Larger sites are more likely to spend on a hosted solution or a custom framework.

Notice how the penetration of WordPress goes down at the larger newpapers? Detroit Softworks shows up only among schools with over 20,000 enrollment, TownNews only above 10,000. (Disclaimer: The Daily Eastern News online site runs on TownNews’ system). These schools are more likely to attract programmer/journalists, and also more likely to have the funds to invest in one of the hosted suppliers.

Now, this is little more than a thing of interest, and something to peek at a population to see what’s going on. It would be good to have a look at all the CMS’s of the news outlets that submitted entries. I’ve reached out to Logan Aimone at ACP, and although I can’t look at which schools entered, he’s going to see about getting me the data on CMS use. I’ll keep you posted about that.

And one final note about this: Whether you are a Pacemaker finalist or not, how about giving your site visitors a way to find out what system you’re using? Even just a note in the meta of the source code. It is frustrating to have to peck through playing Sherlock Homepage when your coders rename the wp-content folders, or you take out the metadata that indicates you’re using a CMS (the hosted systems are more easy to detect). The best site for this was the Maneater at the University of Missouri, which had an actual colophon! If you’ve done your own system, maybe put it on the “About” page, with the name of the developers who worked on it.

Here’s a spreadsheet of all the finalists and the CMS they use, where available.

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