Beating the CMS blues:

Designing the next generation of publishing tools

Tuesday July 12th & Wednesday July 13th, 2016

MIT Media Lab, Room E15-341, 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

About 'Beating the CMS Blues'

At its best, a modern Content Management System allows writers and editors to collaborate, quickly get multimedia content online, and provide readers with compelling visual experiences. Unfortunately, most newsrooms—particularly legacy organizations that still create a printed daily—are held back by outdated technologies that obstruct newsroom workflows and don't easily support new forms of rich media. And the workflows within news organizations are often so intertwined with the CMS that it’s hard to distinguish the technology problems from the human communication problems.

“Beating the CMS blues: Designing the next generation of publishing tools” is a two-day event at the MIT Media Lab focused on taking a human-centered approach to designing the next generation of tools to create, publish, and share news content. We believe newsroom technologies should be a pleasure to use and support existing workflows, rather than getting in the way.

The event’s goals are as follows:

  • Bring together designers, software developers, and news producers to discuss digital publishing needs and how technologies can best support and improve existing newsroom workflows
  • Create a shared knowledge base of original/unusual approaches to content management challenges
  • Start an ongoing conversation about future collaborations and how the Knight Foundation can support legacy newsrooms with their digital publishing needs

“Beating the CMS blues: Designing the next generation of publishing tools” is presented by the Knight Foundation, the Future of News Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, the Society for News Design, and TEN FWD.


"Beating the CMS Blues" will be held on the third floor of the MIT Media Lab.

When: 10am - 5pm on Tuesday July 12th & Wednesday July 13th, 2016.

Where: MIT Media Lab, Building E15-351. 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

Hotel: Hyatt Regency, Cambridge. Discount room rate: $244 a night. Reservations *must* be made by June 20. Reservation website here.

Travel/housing scholarships available: Contact Matt Carroll.


  • From the Hyatt:
    • MIT’s Tech shuttle is a bus that stops directly in front of the hotel and goes to the Media Lab, as well as other spots on campus. This is a bus that goes very frequently (every 10 min – 20 min depending on the time of day).
    • The hotel also has a shuttle that is open to all hotel guests, first come first serve.
    • Walking: A 25-minute walk from the hotel.
  • MBTA: Get off at the Red Line's Kendall Square stop. It's a short walk from there.
  • Driving: 75 Amherst St., Cambridge. Some on-street parking is available, but it is tight.


This is an invitation-only event, bringing together a small group for two days of meaningful conversation, ideation, and prototyping. The first day will convene designers, developers, and publishers to discuss needs and challenges across the digital publishing space. The second day will be hands-on: participants will work in teams to prototype ideas for a modular, open-source CMS.

Monday Night:

  • 6pm: Informal dinner


  • 10am: Intros
  • 10:30 - 11:30am: What is the logic behind how a CMS is designed, selected, adapted, and used? How is it shaped by a publication’s measurement logics? By its balance between trying to entice unique viewers vs. loyal viewers that dig deeper into the site? By the increasing pressure on many publications to distribute content across a range of platforms? Moderator: Sam Ford, Fusion
  • 11:30 - 12:30pm: New storytelling formats: How do we create tools flexible enough to allow experimentation quickly and across multiple devices, like mobile? Can we build tools that allow the easy re-use of content? Moderator: Alice Dubois, BuzzFeed
  • 12:30 - 1:30pm: Lunch
  • 1:30pm - 2:30pm: Lightning talks
    • Bill Adair (Duke): The Truth-O-Meter, Pants on Fire and a Custom-built CMS
    • Matt Ericson (NYT): Reinventing our CMS from the point of view of content creators
    • Ryan Osborn (NBC News): When We Talk About Tools, We’re Really Talking About Culture: Building NewsConnect at NBC News
    • Alexis Hope (MIT / TEN FWD): FOLD ( lightning demo
    • Ping Chao (Lakana): Creative Control at Scale
    • Mitch Gelman (Newseum / Gannett): Approaching a CMS
  • 2:30 - 3:30pm: Is it a CMS problem, a culture problem or a workflow problem? How do you diagnose what the problem is? How do our tools shape culture and workflow? Moderator: Matt Ericson, NYT
  • 3:30 - 4:30pm: How can we build a CMS that is adaptable enough for tomorrow’s needs? Should this even be a goal? Could we create open-source tools that many newsrooms could benefit from? Moderator: Elizabeth Osder, Lakana
  • 5pm: Drinks and social hour sponsored by our friends at Upstatement.


  • 10 - 11:30am: Group brainstorming how might we's, led by Kyle Ellis from SND and Mike Swartz from Upstatement
  • 11:30 - 12:30pm: Lunch and visit Electome team in the Media Lab
  • 12:45 - 1:15pm: Note + Vote on the how might we's (people silently vote with three to five stickers on the how might we's that are most promising)
  • 1:15 - 2:30pm: Teams will begin to work on paper prototypes around a chosen HMW
  • (30 minute break)
  • 3 - 3:30pm: Team report backs and group feedback
  • 3:30 - 4:45: Refine your idea, or explore a new one
  • (15 minute break)
  • 5 - 5:30pm: Final thoughts

RSVP & Contact

If you have any questions about logistics or accomodations, please contact Matt Carroll.