Chorus is the best content management system I have ever heard of

TechCrunch writes a love letter about Vox Media’s content management system Chorus, and who can blame the, it sounds like the best CMS I’ve ever heard of:

Christened with the new name last month, the four year-old platform is now much more than a CMS. It comes with nearly every tool that’s needed for publishing, all tightly connected. And it’s already powering hundreds of SB Nation sports fan sites around the country, plus our gadget-oriented pseudo-competitors over at The Verge, forthcoming gaming site Polygon, and whatever else Vox decides to launch (I’ve heard there’s one coming about cars, for example).

I’ve used a lot of CMSes in my day. None sound nearly this good. Joshua Topolsky described The Verge’s CMS as a living, breathing Web app that is ongoing continuos development. I’ve never seen a publication talk about their CMS like that before, nor have I seen top editors care so deeply about their CMS.

Top editors should care. The quality of a CMS can greatly impact the quality of a website. What makes Chorus so interesting is not only does it support virtually unheard of features such as layout functionality (look at how The Verge’s posts are unique compared to other news sites and can change from one post to the next), but it also combines story assignment and management with writing.

It’s one Web app that seeks to manage the entire editorial workflow. Nothing else is like this. For an editorial website, this is a huge competitive advantage that should allow them to produce more stories by reducing some of the management overhead needed for managing the story creation and editing process.

WordPress was the only CMS that I have enjoyed and thought was well built. It feels like it was built by people who were trying to make a product that they would actually use. You don’t want a CMS from a bunch consultants who have never worked in your industry or cared about it.

WordPress is very malleable and with its plugin system, companies can create fairly unique installations of it. But if you can have the money and time, developing your own custom platform may give your company a competitive advantage.

Usually, I would reocmmend staying away from a proprietary CMS like Chorus. Open source usually ends up better in the long run because of better support, future development and a larger community of developers around the platform. This advice, however, does not apply if you are actvely developing and interating on your own CMS and willing to invest significant ongoing development resources into it.

What Vox appears to have built is a CMS that fits their needs perfectly, in a way that neither an open source CMS nor a proprietary one from a vender could. When I look at The Verge compared with TechCrunch, Mashable, Engadget and other tech sites, I see a unique site. The Verge stands out with its story streams, advanced commenting controls, unique layouts for stories, advanced ways of navigating stories and other features.

If managing content is a major part of what your company does, and you’re a large enough company, perhaps it does make sense to invest in developing your own platform. When you develop your own platform, your programmers and content creators can work together to create a platform that fits your exact needs:

“We don’t throw things over the fence,” explains Trei Brundrett, the company’s vice president of product and technology. “We map our development plan around the tools that our editorial and advertising teams tell us they need, and then rapidly evolve the product based on data and feedback.”

As odd as this sounds, that’s not how things usually work at journalism organizations.