Open source newspaper and magazine websites: The Do-It-Yourself approach
Setting up your own newspaper or magazine website can be quite an onerous and time-consuming task. Many people start upon this path for various reasons of cost, control, or simple curiousity, yet without really knowing the full extent of the undertaking.
As an established newspaper and magazine website solutions provider, we've gone through this many times, and we don't believe its a suitable choice for most people. There are just too many things to know about. Your time is often more productively spent concentrating on your core business — publishing and managing content — than dealing with technology issues.
To give you a better idea and save you some time in deciding what's right for you, let's point out what's involved.
- Select a cms software
The single most important technology-related aspect of operating a newspaper or magazine website is a suitable content management system (cms). (Yes, you definitely need a cms.)
There are multiple software packages available which can be downloaded and installed. If you're going to do things yourself, you might as well use open source software instead of expensive commercial & proprietary software.
You need to make a shortlist of prospective solutions, and then evaluate each one to decide which software is the most suitable and extensible.
(Whilst a review of the systems available is outside the scope of this article, you could start by looking at Drupal, Wordpress and Joomla.)
- Customise the cms
The selected cms software needs to be customised to fit your requirements and needs. No content management system will, out of the box, do everything you want. You have to decide how you want to handle images and image galleries, how to structure your page types and content, and many other things.
Usually, this means searching for suitable add-ons for your selected cms, but it could involve hiring a web developer to add specific features.
- Find a theme
Then you need to find a theme for your cms.
- Customise the theme
Then you need to customise the theme.
- Find a hosting provider (Don't use shared hosting)
Once the cms has been settled, you need to find a hosting provider as your website needs to be installed on a server on the Internet. Once again, you need to find possible solutions and evaluate the most suitable one.
Do not purchase cheap $5 or $10 per month hosting plans. These are usually oversold shared hosting. Your website shares the server with hundreds of other customers and performance will be substandard. Furthermore, once your website receives a decent amount of traffic, it will be disabled for exceeding hidden resource limits and you will be forcibly upsold to a higher plan.
As a minimum, you should be running on your own server.
- Install the software
Once you have your own server provisioned, you need to install your cms onto the server.
Do not use prepackaged scripts from control panels to install your cms. These are often out of date and present problems if you need to upgrade to the latest version.
- Maintain the website. Keep the software up to date.
Once the website is up and running, that's half the job done. Unfortunately, it's only half.
The cms needs to be kept up to date in order to be ahead of security vulnerabilities. Upgrading from time to time is required otherwise you run the risk of being hacked.
Again, this is something you need to do yourself.
- Backup the website regularly
You should set up periodic backups of your website. This is self-explanatory.
- Monitor the website. Place yourself on call
You should setup monitoring for your website and be notified of any downtime. Downtime means lost readers, lost ad impressions, and possibly lost revenue.
If you manage to do all these things, then congratulations. You have set up your own newspaper or magazine website properly.
For most people though, it's a lot of work — most of which can be avoided and more efficiently outsourced. Look at the steps listed above. Do you really want to do all that? Do you really have that much time and attention to spare?
Often not. Hence we recommend that most aspiring newspaper and magazine website owners get someone else to do it. Then you can concentrate on your core task of publishing and managing content. Let others deal with the technology hassles.
(If you are an aspiring web publisher, please consider dropping by and having a look at ProsePoint Express, our hosted newspaper website solution. It's designed for people like you.)
(This article was first posted at http://www.prosepoint.net/articles/986-open-source-newspaper-magazine-websites-diy. Permission is given to reproduce and redistribute as long as the article is unmodified and proper attribution is given.)