The headless CMS is considered a future-proof platform for publishers. But how exactly does a headless CMS actually work? (Image: Adobe Stock / deagreez)
First, let’s look at traditional content management systems: In principle, these offer the possibility of creating website interfaces and filling them with content – without having to have real programming knowledge. However, traditional CMS solutions have a rigid system architecture consisting of backenImaged and frontend. This traditional CMS approach to content management combines everything to deliver content specifically tailored to the web frontend – text, images, HTML, CSS. This makes it almost impossible to easily adapt existing content for other digital interfaces – for use in an app, for example – so that each new channel on which the same content is to be played out basically requires newly prepared content.
A headless CMS works differently: Here, content is stored separately, the “body”, independently of the “head”, i.e. the form in which the content is to be presented or played out. This creates a fundamental prerequisite for multi- or omnichannel publishing. In a headless CMS, content can be pulled into any digital endpoint, the “frontend”, via APIs (interfaces) without having to change the original content. This allows the same content to be customized and optimized for each frontend.
Headless content management systems thus allow channels such as apps, POS systems, online stores and websites to be populated with the same but individualized content. This is efficient and flexible and allows digital uniformity across all channels. For example, websites, online editions of a publication, online stores and the associated apps can be managed and designed together. This not only makes the work of the editorial team and the layout easier and relieves the IT department, but also benefits the reader experience enormously. The recurring structures deepen reader loyalty and the recognition value rises sharply.
A pure headless CMS offers only rudimentary backend functions for content authors. For example, it is not possible to construct automatic landing pages, make changes to the layout or create release processes. The purpose of a “bare” headless CMS is essentially that of a content pool with interfaces.
However, via appropriate APIs, the CMS can not only pass on content, but also obtain content from other systems, such as product databases or digital asset management systems. This information can then be played out to different front ends together with the “own” content.
In principle, a headless CMS is therefore ideal for any publisher who wants to serve different channels with uniform content in a flexible, focused, secure and easy-to-maintain manner. And ultimately, print can also be usefully integrated as a channel in a headless CMS.
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