AAP embarks on open source CMS project

Australian Associated Press has joined with open source software developer Sourcefabric to develop a comprehensive and flexible editorial platform that manages workflows – and is inviting other news organisations to collaborate.

Unlike commercially developed editorial systems, which are the most popular option for major publishers, open source software allows a more collaborative approach, as the code for the software is made available for users to modify.

“Over the past 10 years, our existing editorial platform has proven increasingly inflexible,” AAP editor-in-chief Tony Gillies said.

“Now we will no longer be forced to compromise on how we produce and deliver content because the system will be able to readily bend and flex to the immediate needs of our operation,” he said.

The platform, called Superdesk, is a modular system which will allow publishers to adapt the “building blocks” of the software to suit their needs, from creation and production of news through to curation and distribution. It has been designed to be scalable to operations of all sizes and can be easily adapted without users having to rewrite the base code.

An intuitive dashboard allows users to add and rearrange widgets as needed, all tasks and to-dos are visible and authors and editors can comment on articles in progress.

A screenshot of the Superdesk dashboard

A screenshot of the Superdesk dashboard

Sourcefabric staff have been embedded in AAP’s newsroom and development teams for months, working side-by-side with journalists to build tools that meet the agency’s requirements for both speed and accuracy in its news production.

While commercial systems are a convenient choice, Mr Gillies said, they are “generally cost-prohibitive and don’t speak to the specific requirements of an agency newsroom”.

“The time is right for some true innovation in this area and we believe that Sourcefabric will set us on the right path.”

Sourcefabric’s Sava Tatic said that in terms of technology AAP was doing something very different – but at the heart of its decision was a focus on journalism.

“We want to empower all journalists with tools that free them from technical distractions and accelerate their output.

“Open source software generally sparks innovation and, ultimately, leads to more options for end-users.”

Publishers wishing to become involved should contact Sourcefabric.

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