Media House takes open source route

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New York magazine is trying out a different approach to stay ahead of competition. It built its own content management system called Clay, for the magazine’s founder Clay Felker in 2015 and then licensed the software to the online magazine Slate. Slate started using Clay CMS a year ago and was set to fully migrate its site to Clay. But New York refused to charge Slate a licensing fee, but pay the New York magazine in the form of code.

The CMS is open-source, and developers from both the companies to contribute to it. This way New York magazine doesn’t have to devote precious staff to support a client. To share code benefits Slate developed a plug-in so it can access Getty Images, and New York also plans to use the plug-in, for example. It completely changes both the way editors and writers create stories and all the technology that puts that work on a webpage.

For Slate, the open-source nature of the Clay CMS made sense because Slate has a development team that is comfortable operating without the outside support that a big technology company could supply, said Greg Lavallee, Slate’s director of technology. They liked Clay because it turns all editorial elements such as taglines and pull quotes into their own building blocks, which makes it easier to meet the growing need to publish to distributed platforms like Facebook and Apple News.

Clay also doesn’t force its users to adopt every update; the publisher can pick and choose. And with Clay, Slate can control access to all its audience data. It’s too early to say where New York magazine will take Clay, but it’s casually marketing it to others to see if there’s interest, especially small publishers that have some tech resources and want to build some tech on their own, but can’t afford to do everything in-house.

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Slate and New York magazine are independent, midsize publishers focused on politics and culture. The two aren’t sharing things like editorial content, ad models and user experience, which are the real market differentiators.

 

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