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Headless CMSs Ride Again

Headless content management systems aren’t new. But the $40 million funding round for Kontent.AI offers proof that the tech is having a moment. Headless CMSs help organizations manage content regardless of its ultimate distribution channel (website, blog, social, third-party sites, etc.). Robert Rose digs in to why Kontent.AI (and other startups) may make sense – in certain situations.

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Aired: July 15, 2022

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Hello everybody, Robert Rose here with the news. It’s what’s new and what’s important in the world of content marketing. It’s the news you need to lead in the practice of content marketing and content strategy.

For the best in best practices – you can always go to

One small item in the news this week is another data point in an important trend. It’s all about content, but this is Kontent with a K.

This week Kontent (with a K) dot AI announced that it raised $40 million from Expedition Growth Capital as part of a new infusion of cash.

The company comes out of the classic CMS Kentico, a popular content management system among Microsoft .Net fans. The company began experimenting with a headless system a while ago, and now it’s on its own with funding.

The newly appointed CEO Bart Omlo says that the proceeds from Kontent’s first external investment round are going to go – well, no surprise here – to new sales and marketing teams (they’ll be opening an office in New York) and to product development. You know, the usual shopping list.

While the news about Kontent is interesting – the bigger story is the rise of what’s known as headless content management systems as a way for companies to manage their many, many channels of content, including websites, blogs, email, social, and even syndication feeds to third party platforms.

A number of startups in the space have started to gain quite a bit of traction with marketing and communications teams looking for fast ways to launch new and owned media properties like websites, landing page programs, resource centers, and others.

There are companies like the aforementioned Kontent, Contentstack, and Contentful (no, there’s not a contractual obligation to have the word content in your name). There are companies like Agility CMS, Storyblok, Magnolia, ButterCMS – and, honestly, just too many to name here without forgetting somebody.

And that’s one of the key takeaways here – while there is a lot of new investment and excitement over the headless idea (and with good reason), the idea of headless is certainly not new.

Headless is simply separating out the management of the content from the presentation of the content. In other words, you simply manage a repository of content that may live in any number of presentations, such as a website, email, app, or even on a third-party platform.

Many modern content management systems have had this capability (even if limited) for several years. You see these popular enterprise content management systems jumping on the bandwagon now.

I would be remiss not to mention that I worked in this world – I was trying to convince marketing teams of what a good idea it was to separate the idea of content presentation from the content itself way back in 2004. But, as usual, I’m woefully early to what would become a much cooler party.

content management is a process, not a product. If you don’t have the former, the latter won’t help, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent Click To Tweet

Our take: Industry analyst (and my friend) Tony Byrne of Real Story Group recently wrote a great article about headless CMSs on, and we at CMI are in full agreement with him.

Tony notes that business people often have a real challenge adapting to headless CMS platforms (this is something we see as well). It’s as simple as this: Creating and managing content that will live in many different presentations is just VERY different.

Related: 3 Ways You Sabotage Your Content Tech Search

Just as a simple example, when you’re writing a block of content in headless writing, something like “On the right, you will see X, Y, Z,” or “If you look on the previous page” is something you just can’t do. This block may live in any number of presentations, so you have to write it so that it fits it all. Creating content atomically is something a lot of marketers and content practitioners don’t have a ton of experience with.

It also typically takes away from business users the ability to manage (the key word there) elements of designs like layout or menus or sometimes even colors.

“What do you mean I can’t easily change the layout to two columns on this top of the funnel page?” a marketer might ask. “That’s what a content management system is for.”

Well, yes, it is, but we actually have to define what content will be managed. And this is something most businesses don’t think through completely

That said, we agree with Tony when he says it’s not an either-or choice.

Related: Content Management and Strategy: The Big Wave Is Here [New Research]

Headless is amazing for some applications and inappropriate for others. The answer is there is a role for both.

But most importantly – as I’ve said for 20+ years now – content management is a process, not a product. If you don’t have the former, choosing the latter won’t be fruitful.

Headless CMS has a great future ahead of it, but it’s a tool. And the tool is only as useful as the things we can build with it.

And that’s five minutes of news you need to lead in content marketing. I’m Robert Rose. Remember, it’s your story. Tell it well. I’ll see you next week.

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