The Essential Tech Stack for Digital Publishing Pros

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Content creators, digital publishers, and writing-centric companies need more than a pen and paper to stay at the forefront of their industries. Today, multiple software and tools help publishing professionals automate tedious tasks, analyze results, and improve engagement.

However, it often feels impossible to find the perfect suite of technical tools to fit a business’s unique needs. After years in the digital publishing arena, our team found a tech stack combination that offers autonomy, flexibility, and scalability to propel your business forward. 

In this article, discover:

    • The definition and use of a content marketing tech stack.
    • The essential eight-piece content marketing stack for digital publishers.
    • Four considerations for choosing a content marketing tech stack.
    • Tips for digital publishers auditing their existing content marketing tech stack.

What is a content marketing tech stack?

A content marketing tech stack describes the software and tools a content marketer uses to carry out their content marketing strategy. 

A technology stack (AKA a “tech stack”) describes a set of software or online tools professionals use to complete their tasks. The term “tech stack” gained popularity in the computer development industry, but the broad term can indicate any set of technologies employed to complete a job or project.

How a content marketing tech stack differs from other tech stacks

Tech stack exists beyond content marketing agencies. Any industry can create its own tech stack, but the most common include development tech stacks, marketing tech (MarTech) stacks, and content creator tech stacks.

Development tech stacks often include front-end and back-end technologies used to build and maintain a website (or mobile app). Front-end technologies dictate what the website or app looks like while back-end technologies support the inner workings of the website, app, or server. Common technologies in dev tech stacks include HTML, Javascript, MySQL, CSS, and MongoDB, among others. Dev tech stacks depend on the device a developer builds on. Mobile tech stacks differ from desktop tech stacks based on the platform and intended use.

MarTech stacks have nearly-limitless combinations. First published in 2017, Scott Brinker created the MarTech 5000 matrix to illustrate 5,000 marketing technologies professionals in the industry can combine to suit their companies’ needs. As of 2022, the MarTech 5000 has grown to include over 8,000 marketing software and solutions. The included technologies break down into six categories: advertising and promotion, content and experience, social and relationships, commerce and sales, data, and management. As marketing continues to shift with user behavior and experience, MarTech stacks will change too. 

Content creator tech stacks and content marketing tech stacks nestle under the umbrella of MarTech stacks. Content creator tech stacks remain smaller than others, usually consisting of a content management platform (CMS), an email service provider (ESP), and a payment processing platform for organizations that regularly exchange goods and services with consumers. Content creators require few technologies to do their actual work; marketing, advertising, and promoting the content they create becomes the more involved process.

Goals of a content marketing tech stack

Saving resources is the main goal of a content marketing tech stack. The best tech stacks combine several technologies to save time, money, and effort — and to make workflows and processes more efficient. 

Organizational goals for a tech stack vary by company and tech stack use. Some businesses use tech stacks with the express intention of identifying ways to increase ROI while others make content marketing tech stacks an indispensable part of daily work routines.

Digital publishers — for both B2B and B2C publishers — face a unique set of challenges to overcome. From identifying an ever-evolving audience to tracking their behavior, to writing, producing, and promoting valuable content that keeps the audience engaged… It’s more than a full-time job. 

As such, editors can rely on robust content marketing tech stacks to automate promotion, create and manage content, connect with audiences, perform research, and more.

Related article: Volume Content Marketing Tips

The essential content marketing tech stack for digital publishers

We’ve created the most essential content marketing tech stack for digital publishers based on personal experience and research. The tech stack includes technologies and solutions useful in the whole content creation process, from conception to execution. 

We have not included specific brands or companies; instead, we hope readers use this list as a jumping-off point to find the best services and solutions that fit their organization’s needs.

Project or task management software

With the dozens of articles digital publishers release weekly (or daily), the essential digital publisher tech stack must include a powerful project management solution.

Depending on internal processes, each team may need something different from a project or task management software. In general, project management software should have the scalability to work with a business’s current and future workload, easy access to all team members, and security to keep data private.

Some project management software uses a Kanban-style board while others use task lists or schedules — or a combination of all three. Communication, file sharing, and reporting also rank among the most important functionalities of project management software offers. 

Automation

Automation technology saves valuable time and increases ROI by reducing user input to processes. For a content marketing tech stack, two types of automation offer the best benefits to digital publishing professionals: marketing automation and internal workflows. 

Marketing automation automates tedious tasks, allowing marketers to focus on strategy. The AI technology in marketing automation (depending on the solution chosen and its intended goal) uses complex algorithms to segment audience lists, nurture cold leads or customers, and engage prospects to increase a brand’s awareness and loyalty in a target market.

Internal workflow automation seeks to make every employee’s job easier. From automatic notification for due dates to efficient onboarding to seamless project creation and management, internal workflow automation decreases the need for human intervention and allows for autonomous work — while keeping a team aligned with common goals.

A content creation process

Digital publishing professionals need a strong content creation process as part of their essential tech stack. Without a strong process, content creation can run off the rails quickly — from poorly-written content to plagiarized work to nothing getting written at all. Digital publishers can rely on several solutions for their content creation: an in-house team, freelancers, a content creation agency like Lightning Media Partners, or AI copywriters

In-house teams often sound like the best choice but can get expensive. Freelancers can cost much less than an in-house team of writers and editors but need a managing editor to handle daily project communication, payments, and more. While AI copywriters sound like a reliable bet — with a low price point and near-instantaneous deliverables — they lack the human element of storytelling.

A content creation agency gives the best of both worlds: Lightning Media Partners’ average editorial package costs less than the average annual salary of a U.S.-based writer, creates unique, well-researched, SEO-optimized content, and has one point of contact for clients to talk to. 

When considering a tech stack, ensure the content creation process works for your team’s internal process and toward external business goals.

Related article: 7 Reasons To Hire A Content Marketing Agency

A content management system (CMS)

No content marketing tech stack is complete without a CMS. At its base, a CMS enables users to create, change, and manage content on a website. CMS choices vary and companies often dictate their CMS based on goals, scalability, and in-house support.

The CMS industry remains fast-growing — experts predict the market will reach $123 billion by 2026. Based on current use around the world, WordPress holds a commanding 62% of the CMS market share. Still, nearly 43% of users choose to work with a custom-made CMS.

Across the board, the CMS chosen for a tech stack needs to be accessible for multiple departments to use, have the ability to handle the amount of content you’ll publish and manage, and have a fair pricing structure with dedicated technical support (whether it’s in-house or outsourced).

Ad server

Part of a digital publisher’s content creation process is content promotion. An ad server (like Google Ads, Bing Ads, or Yahoo Gemini) enables digital publishers to promote their content. Ad servers:

  • Segment audiences based on search phrases, age, and time of ad engagement — among other metrics.
  • Serve ads based on the highest potential rate of goal completion.
  • Build remarketing lists of people who visit your website (or a specific page/set of pages on the website).
  • Enable digital publishers to promote their most important articles.
  • Bolster SEO efforts.

While not every digital publisher chooses to engage in pay-per-click advertising, ad servers offer a different audience and the ability to re-engage cold leads.

An email service provider (ESP)

Along with ad servers, ESPs give digital publishers another avenue to promote content. Email marketing tends to suit the goals of digital publishers better in every facet, including:

    • A higher return on investment compared to paid advertising.
    • A deeper, more meaningful connection to subscribers.
    • The ability to talk directly to the consumer instead of waiting for them to “make the first move.”
    • A lower cost to start and maintain email marketing campaigns.

Digital publishers with an established readership or subscriber base should use email marketing’s many advantages to promote their content. The perfect ESP for a digital marketing tech stack will help accomplish the business’s goals by handling a large subscriber base, segmenting audiences based on behavior, integrating with other software, and offering fair, scalable pricing.

Analytics software

Analytics software enables users to track and analyze KPIs, OKRs, and other key metrics — and make data-driven decisions based on their findings.

We include analytics software in the essential tech stack for an important reason: we believe making data-driven decisions is vital to the success and growth of content marketing. In every facet, data enhances content marketing strategy. It enables users to understand who their audience is, where their audience congregates, what the audience looks for, how their audience interacts with their — and competitors’ — content, and so much more.

Not only does access to analytics inform users of their audience’s behaviors; it is an instrumental tool in the search engine optimization (SEO) toolkit.

Considerations when choosing a content marketing tech stack

Though we mentioned most of these considerations above, let’s take a deeper look at what to focus on when choosing software for a content marketing tech stack.

Does it integrate with the other software in your stack?

Software in tech stacks works together, not against each other. For each tech chosen, ensure integrations exist for seamless data sharing and reporting. 

Your ESP should integrate with payment processing, analytics, and social platforms to make decisions based on traffic or drive repeat purchases, connect behavioral data, and convert generated leads to customers.

The chosen ad server should integrate with analytics software to segment audiences and serve relevant ads based on user interests and behaviors. 

Your content creation process (whether in-house or outsourced) needs flexibility for date changes, revisions, and future updates. 

Is it scalable with your team?

Scalability means more than the ability to handle more work; it also represents ease of adoption and simplicity.

Digital publishing teams ebb and flow — and with new employees joining the team every so often, the essential tech stack they’ll use to complete their job is easy to learn and use. Most content marketing professionals have used at least a few of the previously-mentioned techs in previous positions, though their experience may be limited to one brand. Ensuring a shallow learning curve keeps teams productive and saves time and effort to re-teach stacks to every new team member.

While tech stacks aim to make professionals’ daily routines easier, there’s a latent potential that the tech stack will become unmanageable as each software adds new features and business strategies change. Auditing your content marketing tech stack (which we discuss below) will keep functionality lean.

Will it report on KPIs specific to your business’s success?

Along with making daily work more efficient, tech stacks should demonstrate value by adding to a business’s overall goals. Tech stacks should keep a marketing department on track to accomplish their organization’s goals, objectives, KPIs, or OKRs. 

Tech stack software often has “express” data for automated, one-click reports. If metrics about client projects, accomplished tasks, or employee progress are important to you, the chosen project management system should report on all three. For an SEO team within a content marketing department, they may value data like source, medium, and organic goal completions from the analytics software.

When evaluating solutions to add to a tech stack, ask every team member or department who will use the tech what KPIs matter most to them — and ensure the tech in question has that capability.

Is it affordable to keep for the long run?

Staying budget-conscious at early adoption avoids headaches down the road. Evaluate the pricing structure for each tech to understand if and when scaling is no longer feasible. With that knowledge, compare the integrations too — if you know you won’t be able to afford the ESP’s tier for 1 million email subscribers, what happens next? Will you throttle your email list until it becomes more feasible for the budget? Move and re-integrate the rest of your tech stack into another solution? Create a second account at a lower price point to deal with the overflow?

Related article: How To Decide What Content To Create

How digital publishers can audit their tech stack

Tech stacks will only perform as well as they’re maintained. Teams should look to audit their tech stacks as often as twice a year or when primary business objectives change. Try the following when auditing a tech stack. 

    • Discuss current strategies and processes. Market fluctuations, world crises, and success or failure in one area of business may result in a change of strategy — which offers the perfect time to re-evaluate the technologies used in a tech stack. When the pandemic started, the travel and hospitality industry took major hits and reallocated budgets to vital operations. Similarly, video conferencing became a non-negotiable tech for many businesses. By writing out both marketing strategies and current processes, leaders can identify how their current tools serve them and fall short.
    • Talk to your team. For editors primarily focused on strategy, talking to employees who use the tech stack in their day-to-day activities will afford valuable insight into the tool’s reputation and use. If everyone hates the automation software and chooses not to use it — but never brings it up because “we’ve always done it this way” — the team can save thousands of dollars by getting rid of the tech. Conversely, if your team loves a certain software but fails to use it enough in a meaningful way that drives ROI, it’s time to evaluate how useful that part of the tech stack is.
    • Update issues and costs. Tech is never stagnant. Without a team member constantly tracking and analyzing the tech stack’s updates and function rollouts, the software can shift quickly and morph into a useless tool. By auditing each piece of a tech stack twice a year (or even annually), you’ll keep yourself and the team up-to-date on software issues, data breaches, new feature rollouts, and cost increases.
    • Integrations. When first evaluating a tech stack, maybe your favorite solution didn’t integrate with the analytics software or project management system your team uses. Check periodically to discover if that first tech has developed an integration through an API key or third-party tool like Zapier. Or, analyze how the data exchange of your current tech stack works. Does it offer two-way communication or throttle growth through one-sided pathways?

The bottom line: Content marketing tech stacks keep digital publishers moving — they help great content at a fast pace for an affordable cost and less manual effort.

If you’re a digital publishing editor looking to automate your content creation process, let us know! We’d love to have a complimentary call with you to discuss how our team can support yours with high-quality, high-volume, SEO-optimized content.

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