What is Content as a Service (CaaS)?
The traditional CMS is channel-first, meaning each channel has its own presentation layer. This creates a huge headache for content managers, who lack the flexibility to adapt their content to users’ behaviors and needs—and for developers, who have to use plug-ins and workarounds to create the multichannel experience that users expect.
Content-as-a-service, or CaaS, has emerged in response to these limitations.
Content-as-a-service (CaaS) is a new approach to content management that combines all assets into a cloud-based server. The content is categorized with tags and then called up to the presentation layer via an API.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the rise of CaaS, how it differs from traditional CMSes, and some exciting use cases for this new approach.
When the CMS first emerged, the website reigned supreme. Developers and content managers only needed to worry about serving up content via a single channel. The traditional CMS is rigidly coupled to the website itself; this wasn’t a problem when users were mostly consuming content on web pages that they browsed on their computers.
Today, in the omnichannel era, brands seek to deliver a more personal experience. Companies stay in touch with their audience through an ever-changing ecosystem that spans channels and touchpoints, like on mobile and via IoT devices such as wearables.
However, monolithic platforms haven’t lived up to the promise of orchestrated, cross-channel content. To connect with modern audiences on a standard-issue CMS, developers have to navigate a variety of cumbersome integrations and plug-ins. This extra effort requires tremendous coordination across marketing teams and developers that severely curtails the organization’s flexibility.
That’s where content-as-a-service comes in. CaaS is a major player in the composable era of content. It allows for the true decoupling of presentation layers from content management and storage.
The growing popularity of cloud computing, open-source software, and API-based architectures have fueled the rise of content-as-a-service. CaaS requires a repository of content that is decoupled from presentation, so you can call the content using an API and then display it. Companies can adapt to new presentation layers, but also to new technologies that drive competitive differentiation.
CaaS amalgamates all assets into a cloud-based server. The content is categorized with tags and metadata and can be served up to any presentation layer—on a computer, on mobile, a smart device, an in-store kiosk, social media, wearables, anything. In other words, the content is not tied to the presentation.
The traditional CMS is a monolithic architecture. In a monolithic system, all content—text, images, videos, layouts—is stored in a single location.
On the one hand, a monolithic system is easy to trust because it’s been around for a long time, it offers many core capabilities out of the box, and it often comes with a huge community of developers who can provide support.
On the other hand, a monolithic architecture isn’t flexible or scalable. As businesses grow, they want more than just a website. But customizing a monolithic CMS is costly and difficult, and it’s almost impossible to integrate the CMS with new technologies.
That’s why many organizations are switching to a microservices architecture: a suite of individual services, each with a unique codebase, that use APIs to communicate.
Developers can deploy these services individually, as a group, manually, or automatically. Since there is little-to-no centralized management, the content is decoupled from its presentation. Flexibility is the name of the game.
A microservices architecture lends itself to the creation of composable content, or content with constituent parts that can be reconfigured as needed.
A headless CMS is an example of a microservices architecture. A headless CMS is a content management system that separates where content is stored (the “body”) from where it is presented (the “head“).
In a headless CMS, content is stored as data. This separates information and presentation, enabling teams to use and reuse content across web, mobile, and digital media platforms. Format-agnostic content unlocks a better experience for everyone: authors, developers and users.
Storing content as data is known as a structured content approach. Structured content is content that has been broken up into its smallest component parts, which are then organized and classified so that computers and humans can understand them. CaaS requires a headless CMS. By separating the “head” from the “body,” teams can play with raw content: building a front-end interface and then using an API to call up the content.
Headless CMSes use structured content to create agile, scalable experiences for marketers and developers through benefits like improved SEO, smarter links between content, and reduced silos between teams. This leads to faster, smarter experiences for audiences.
Managing content in a traditional CMS requires a lot of coordination and back-and-forth between stakeholders. CaaS fosters better partnerships between development and content by giving content teams autonomy so devs can focus on higher-order work.
Rather than fighting to keep track of multiple content streams, content managers can more easily orchestrate their editorial calendar across channels. This boosts agility while promoting brand consistency across the whole content ecosystem.
Contemporary brands are responsible for delivering an omnichannel experience to customers. When content only works on a web page—if it doesn’t seamlessly translate into a delightful mobile experience, for example—users are likely to get frustrated. Using a traditional CMS to deliver content across channels is cumbersome and slow.
Structured content, delivered via CaaS, extends the lifespan of your content. By treating content as data, you can easily plug it in across a variety of channels, allowing you to reach more audiences with less.
People want personalized relationships with brands. Anything that feels too generic or transactional is anathema to today’s consumers.
Fortunately, CaaS enables you to customize your content as you grow. For one, CaaS relies on structured content, which turns every piece of content into LEGO bricks that you can assemble and reassemble into new shapes. And CaaS modularizes the channels through which you deliver content, empowering your team to drill down into your audience’s behavior, location, and demographics to fine-tune their experience.
Turning data into insights is an evergreen struggle for content creators. CaaS makes this a lot simpler. Since content is called and then delivered using an API, it’s easy for marketing teams to track content performance via that same API by integrating with an analytics platform.
Teams can focus on how content is performing, how it’s consumed, and where it’s succeeding across channels. That enables teams to experiment and adjust strategies and tactics.
CaaS is a game-changer for today’s content teams, just as the original CMS was a game-changer for yesterday’s. CaaS enables teams to streamline processes and create repeatable workflows for publishing content.
Since content can be created, used, and reassembled so easily, teams are empowered to add and personalize content across channels and without relying on developer support or reinventing the wheel.
Brands are sitting on a wealth of information about their customers and audiences. The beauty of CaaS is that brands can better use that information to personalize shopping experiences.
For example, let’s say you have an online store that sells camping equipment. Based on the user’s location, demographics, and behavior—the pages they’ve clicked on recently, how long they stayed on a page, and so on—you can choose what content they see next. Someone who has recently looked for information about what they need to go camping might be served up a page with tents.
Or if you operate a clothing store, and you know that your user has been looking for long-sleeved crew-necks, then you can make sure that’s the first thing they see when they find your site.
You can even change up the pricing based on your user’s profile, what they’ve purchased in the past, their location, and much more. The potential for customization is endless.
Marketing is all about personalization and engagement. CaaS allows you to fine-tune a user’s experience of your site so that marketing never feels like being marketed to. Write for every audience and application, localize content as needed, and generate content on the fly using audience insights.
Audiences change; content should change too. CaaS gives your marketing team the tools to create experiences that cater to an audience’s unique needs.
For example, let’s say you run an online gaming platform. The gaming industry is constantly evolving. CaaS enables you to keep up with your audience by harnessing information about what they want and need. A younger audience might want to see information about age-appropriate games. New gamers might want to be served up a walkthrough for the game they just bought.
Control what they see and how they see it—without having to rely on generic-looking templates or constantly rework your site.
When a user accesses a support site, they want to get their information as quickly and accurately as possible. Support sites offer a chance for organizations to win over customers who might be frustrated, confused, or even just curious about how to better use a product or service. Separating content from presentation allows that content to make its way to your audience even faster—and for your audience to get exactly what they need.
For instance, a user who has recently purchased a product can be served up a relevant one-pager as soon as they click over to your site. Or chatbots, which rely on structured and searchable content, can provide information from that one-pager so the user doesn’t even need to click on anything.
Customize the learning experience for your audiences with the power of structured content. Since content is classified and categorized, it’s a lot easier for users to access the information they need about the thing they want to learn.
Let’s say you operate a website that’s all about bird-watching. Half your audience are novices while the other half are more experienced. A novice will want an entirely different experience of the site than someone who has been peering through binoculars for decades. With CaaS, you can configure different user experiences depending on your audience’s level of interest and background.
This is the era of composable content. Content-as-a-service empowers teams to get creative with their content rather than locking them into a single method or approach. That’s why it’s the best approach for this exciting time.
Sanity was created in the spirit of customizability, flexibility, and composability. Treating content as data enables teams to build experiences that are as unique as their audiences and as agile as their developers.
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