Recap of Acquia's webinar on Content as a Service

Published by Tim
on 30 June 2019
in Drupal
Acquia logo + icon representing content cloud

On Thursday, June 27, 2019, Acquia held a webinar on the topic of content as a service, titled “Shifting from Single Channel to Multichannel Content”. 

Speakers Dries Buytaert and Jake Wilund presented the challenges of multichannel content and what a content-as-a-service (CaaS) platform looks like, topped with a sneak peek into an upcoming new feature of Acquia - Content Cloud. 

While the slides and video will be available publicly in the coming days, we wanted to provide a way for everyone who missed the webinar to get some insight into what it was all about without having to wait for said slides and video, or without having to watch the entire video if they don't have the time.

For this reason, we decided to write up a recap of the most salient and relevant points from the presentation and the subsequent discussion. So, if you were unable to attend the webinar or just want a refresher, this blog post is for you.

We’ll make sure to update it as soon as the slides and videos are available so that you’ll have all the information easily accessible from one place (which is very much in line with the topic of the webinar). 

 

Challenges users face with relation to content

A user experiences a brand and its content through different channels along their digital journey. This means that every touchpoint you have with your customers is a chance to strengthen the relationship they have with your brand - or to weaken it.

Basically, we’ve moved beyond simply the web; we’re now in a multichannel world. Because of this, organizations must deliver great customer experiences across different channels: experiences that are relevant, personalized, easy to navigate and work across different devices. 

Content is the fundamental building block of a good digital experience, so you need to make sure that the content you produce is of a high quality and experientially relevant. 

 

Multichannel content challenge

A multichannel approach, naturally, demands that more content is created for more channels, and the creation of this content needs to happen at a faster pace. 

Additionally, each new channel means a new system for both authors and developers, which translates into more time and resources needed for onboarding. Because of this, having a single source of truth for the latest content is critical, as is the use and reuse of this content. 

Reducing complexity is a cross-organization problem. With a lot of authors working across numerous sites, it’s hard to keep track of and reuse content, as well as manage all of these content creators across different platforms. 

Working in silos creates disjointed digital experiences. Each time you add a channel, you need a new technology system which supports that channel (e.g. e-commerce -> Magento). These solutions are independent platforms, disjointed already when there’s just a few of them - but what if there are hundreds of these technology systems?

 

Best practices for multichannel experiences

There are three key steps to starting the shift from single to multichannel experiences from a content perspective. They are:

  1. Standardize content structures across all systems and channels. Experience builders and authors need to have consistency, so make content structures uniform across channels.
  2. Audit your existing content repositories. It’s already been pointed out that content reuse is imperative, but if you don’t know where the content is located, it’s easy to miss it.
  3. Define the critical roles and responsibilities involved in content creation. You need standardization and governance of your content structures, so that you always know who’s responsible for creating and/or publishing content.

 

Content-as-a-service platform (CaaS platform)

A CaaS platform provides simplified, headless content creation that is independent of delivery channel, which enables organizations to support multichannel digital experiences with the “COPE” model (create once, publish everywhere). 

Structured content is the content that can be used to power digital experiences. A CaaS platform should enable a great authoring experience. 

 

Sneak peak into Acquia Content Cloud

Attendees of the webinar even got a sneak peek into Acquia Content Cloud, an upcoming new tool for content creators to easily create headless experiences and integrate APIs. 

If you’re eager to give Content Cloud a try, you can apply for a private beta. In the meantime, here are the features that stood out to us from the presentation and the demo video:

  • Marketers can write, edit and approve content, independent of where it will be used.
  • Content can be maintained through multiple disconnected systems.
  • It allows for easy inclusion of rich media: images, videos, animations, etc.
  • API-first means that it supports decoupled/headless experiences on any channel. 
  • It integrates with new and existing Drupal sites, allowing for easy content syndication. 
  • It’s built for teams and enterprises to streamline content creation. Enterprises need a lot of control over who gets access to what content, so governance capabilities are a priority. 

In a nutshell, Content Cloud provides a SaaS-based content authoring experience. It caters to the different desired capabilities of managers, who want governance and insights into authors, and developers, who need to build content-driven applications and need fast headless capabilities. 

 

Q&A session

Q: Is Content Cloud built on Drupal?
A: Yes, Acquia started investing heavily in headless Drupal, and this investment can be carried forward into this project. But, not to worry - you won’t need to install and set up Drupal when using Content Cloud, you’ll have everything already enabled.

Q: How does Content Cloud support integrations with other channels?
A: Any piece of content authored in Content Cloud can seamlessly flow into any other existing Drupal 8 application - it will provide a central authoring experience. Out-of-the-box JSON:API functionality will be included. The long-term goal is to build more native integrations, but the team must first determine which of these will have the most impact, as maintaining them can be very costly.

Q: Which version of Drupal is Content Cloud built in?
A: It’s built with the newest versions of Drupal - the beta is in 8.7, for example. But, since it’s CaaS software, customers won’t need to worry about the version.

Q: Does Content Cloud replace the need for a CMS for each of your websites?
A: No, Content Cloud is a content repository, but it still needs to be displayed out in the web. It doesn’t replace websites per se, but it does simplify them and makes it easier to maintain them - all the authoring happens in one place, the website then functions only as the presentation and interaction layer. It can also help accelerate new site builds, since configuration is also retained. A channel is essentially a destination for content, and CMS will remain just that.

Q: How will Content Cloud integrate with the personalization solution Acquia Lift?
A: Any piece of content authored in Content Cloud will be stored in the Acquia Content Hub, which is the source of personalization; this means that any piece of content authored in Content Cloud will be immediately available in Acquia Lift. The view mode will also be stored in Content Hub.

Q: What’s the difference between decoupled and headless CMS?
A: Dries uses these two terms interchangeably, though, technically, they aren’t the same thing. Headless means no head, it is an API-only platform to which you need to add the head. Decoupled, on the other hand, means that there is both an API and a head. You can use APIs to build a new head or additional heads. Content Cloud is headless as it has no presentation layer for the content. The newly emerging terms “CaaS” and “Agile CMS” also overlap with these two definitions. 

Q: Will there be a data analytics component to Content Cloud?
A: Analytics is a key piece of Acquia’s vision, they want to give content creators insights into the performance of their content. The long-term vision is to build tools for content creators to create better, more effective content. This doesn’t just include analytics, but also guidance to authors while they’re creating content (real-time suggestions, e.g. if something won’t work well for SEO, or if something is off-brand). The goal is to create an authoring experience that outputs really good structured content, something that is perfect for authors and marketers. 

Q: Can Content Cloud post directly to a Drupal 8 site?
A: Generally speaking, publication will be orchestrated across channels via releases, but technically it can also post directly if the workflow is such. 

Q: Is there a predefined set of content types? Or can you create your own?
A: It will be shipped with some default content structures (primarily a predefined set of media types), but all the other content types are going to be completely customizable.

Q: When will Content Cloud be available to the general audience?
A: The plan is to ship it at the end of the year, but the insights they learn from the beta phase might push back the release date. 

 

Conclusion

Well, this is it for our recap of Acquia’s webinar. We hope you were able to get a better grasp of the topic and the capabilities of Content Cloud, or rediscovered something that you missed or that has slipped your mind since the webinar. 

The shift to multichannel content is likely to become an important topic as the technologies and devices via which we consume content become more and more diverse, so it makes sense to start planning for it now rather than wait until the last possible moment.

We can probably expect a lot more content on the subject matter. Preston So's idea of a "distributed CMS" is also very much in line with multichannel content and the Caas platform; check out his blog post if you want to find out more about it.

As promised, we'll update this post when the slides and video are available. Hopefully this recap has given you enough food for thought until then.