In some ways, the Web has become like late-night television: one big infomercial.

When you’ve been handed the duty of choosing the best product for your organization, finding a centralized source of unbiased research is difficult. But if you’re a consultant who is researching your options for a content management system (CMS), can make your job easier.

How does a CMS work?

Content management systems are designed to help organizations keep track of their Web site content. A good explanation of how one works can be found on

First impressions
The site’s home page lays the cards on the table with a self-defining statement: “CMSWatch is an independent source of information, news, opinion, and analysis about Web content management.”

The layout is tidy and easy to read. White space helps your eyes find the clearly defined feature articles. An internal search is easily located in the upper right-hand corner of the home page. Site menus, which line the top of the page, drop down for easy access to content deeper within the site (Figure A).

Figure A

One menu is devoted entirely to a print product called “The CMS Report”—”a comprehensive overview of Web Content Management products and practices”—written by CMSWatch’s Managing Editor, Tony Byrne. Byrne is also Senior Vice President of Web Development at IDEV, the content solutions firm that owns CMSWatch. Advertising and links for purchasing the report (for a whopping $895) are sprinkled throughout the site, but they don’t interfere with the other information presented. (Everyone has to make money, right?)

The gold for CMS shoppers
Perhaps the most valuable portion of the site for those researching CMSs for their organizations is the Content Management Products section, which provides an overview of the “CM software universe,” divided into eight categories:

  • Major, full-cycle platforms
  • Mid-Market
  • Former Document Management (DM) companies
  • Production-Oriented
  • Publishing-Oriented
  • Open Source
  • Low-priced
  • ASP

Links are provided to CMS products that fit into each category. If you’re a midsize firm looking for a low-priced CMS solution, you could use the information to narrow your search to the three listed products and dismiss any search hits for the major platforms with six-figure licensing costs.”The CMS Report” also contains comparisons of 16 of the listed products.Byrne said CMSWatch has particular criteria for choosing the systems listed.

“To make the list, a product needs to have a track record of serving a critical mass of clients, either nationally in the United States or have a significant presence overseas,” he said. “We don’t want to list all of the 180-plus Web content management software products out there, because then we become another Yahoo. The goal is to help midsized to large enterprises figure out what their options are.”

Content about content
CMSWatch’s home page is divided into four main sections:

  • PeopleWatch contains interviews with experienced leaders in the CMS sector.
  • OpinionWatch provides views from industry insiders about CMS news.
  • ProductWatch offers content about developments in the major CMS packages and services.
  • TopicWatch helps define CMS concepts and related technologies.

With only two or three articles under each heading, content in these areas isn’t very deep. However, the site was established in July 2001, so it’s only been live for a little more than two months.

The site’s News section offers links to new product offerings, press releases, and vendor Web sites. The Online Content News section, populated by, offers daily, CMS-related articles.

To help visitors keep track of recent features, the site also offers a monthly digest of new articles and findings. The site’s privacy policy promises that CMSWatch “will not share your personally identifiable information with any third-party organization.” However, like many Web sites, it does, according to its privacy policy, track the number of visitors to the site, users’ IP addresses, referral data, and browser and platform type.

Admission of biases
Overall, the site seems to be an unbiased source of news and information about CMS.Its neutral position seems apparentin that CMSWatch’s own CMS, Midgard, is disclosed in the About Us section and receives no special endorsement or treatment in the product area.

In a column under the OpinionWatch heading, Byrne explains the rationale behind the launch of CMSWatch and explains why there is no product sponsorship on the site’s pages: “Of course, everyone has biases. Here is ours: CMSWatch is sponsored by IDEV, a professional services company, so we will bring you the integrator perspective, as well as news and analysis geared fundamentally to end users,” Byrne wrote. “CMSWatch therefore will not allow product vendor sponsorship (but we won’t become a vendor-bashing site either).”

Overall impression
The pages load quickly and have a consistent look and feel for easy navigation. A site map is offered via a link at the bottom of the home page. Quotes on the right margin (Figure B) add a human touch to this technology site.

Figure B

Searches on Yahoo and Dogpile yielded nothing quite like CMSWatch. Most hits were product home pages. Other technologies and product groups, however, do have similar sites. For example, is an independent “vertical research portal” featuring information about professional services automation software and related management practices, technology, and strategies.

What’s your favorite “independent” news source?

It’s often difficult to find news and industry information about niche markets and specific technologies. Have you found another site that provides product-specific independent content? Send us your comments or post your finds below.