A review of free Content Managment Tools (CMS)


Joomla! is an open source content management system (CMS). It's open source like the Linux OS, so that means it's free to use and people give up their spare time to develop it.


Open Source is generally good news for individuals, non-profit organisations and those companies on a budget. You can spend a lot of money on a commercial CMS, but there
are solid reasons for going open source. To start with, your web site
won't be in the hands of a software company that can go bust at any
moment andyou won't be paying expensive maintenance contracts to idiots.  

Static HTML or DYNAMIC site? Take your pick.

a) What is a good news site?

Put simply:

  • It has a 'front-end' (home page)  that changes frequently
  • A template design that will appeal to the audience and is easy to navigate 
  • It also has 'back-end' database that is stacked full of brilliant
    content generated by a team of journalists (or perhaps just you!). 

All major news sites are built around a CMS. Some 'big beasts' include Tridion (used by Emap) and eScenic (used by Daily Telegraph, CNN, Informa  and The Independent) – but you obviously pay a lot for these solutions.

b) Would you benefit from a CMS or are you better using straightforward HTML?

You don't have to be a big media giant to benefit from using a CMS.

  1. Do you update your site more than once a week?  
  2. Do you have multiple contributors (e.g. writers) to the site?
  3. Do you want to keep design separate from content?

If you answer 'yes' to any of the above – a CMS would definitely be worth a look.


There is something about using a CMS that sounds:

A) Really complicated
B) Really expensive

You can certainly make expensive mistakes – particularly if you take the advice of Joe Blogs, the designer, who created a bespoke CMS back in 2005 and he still thinks it's REALLY great.

even worse (!), you take the advice of the IT manager who was taken to a lap-dancing club by a sales rep from a posh software
developer called Contendium

So have a reason to reject open source solutions before looking to a commercial CMS.

There are a number of free CMS to consider, alongside Joomla!

There are others worth looking at like:

Having been round a few magazine and newspaper newsrooms, it's amazing the number of editors that seem to 'apologise' for using free tools and want to keep it secret. I won't name them, but they have each had a good look around and have concluded that Joomla!, Xaraya, or WordPress actually fit the bill just fine. So say it loud and proud – I USE OPEN SOURCE!

NOTE: There are some security issues with Joomla, which people need to be aware of. Some say these are very severe problems, but these tend not to be a problem if you keep an eye on the upgrades.


As a journalism lecturer, I
wanted to teach my undergraduate students about content management.
Students need the skills to write and produce great copy, take images
and produce video for the web.


Just a word of warning, when you download Joomla! all you get is really a basic shell of a CMS. All the exciting applications come via downloaded modules and extensions (and there are lots of them – many are free!) and you will need to install these.

Integration of some functions can be a bit weak compared to commercial providers (particularly audio or video content integration.

ALSO there seems to be no automatic way to 'strip' content from other packages (such as magazine pages made in InDesign).

Drupal and Joomla! CMS's Compared 

Joomla! or Drupal which is best to create a site for journalism students

Choose the best free CMS (.Net Magazine – December 2008) (A great intro guide, but they shouldn't have included Blogger in the feature).

One Response to A review of free Content Managment Tools (CMS)

  1. Rene Rencontre July 23, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    I need help. I am opening a humble small business and I need to set up a website that includes news, a calendar, a gallery, etc.
    The web designer told he’ll charge me about $1,500 for 15 page layout designs and $2,400 for a content management online software, plus $900 for a gallery and $600 for a news system. I know a bit about html and css coding and found out that a lot of CMSs are offered for free.
    Question: should I pay the webdesigner or can it be done with a free CMS and hosting?