But a CMS could be a tough sell for Google, especially as a number of publishers have lately staked their future on the strength of a proprietary CMS. Three prominent examples are Vox Media, whose vaunted Chorus CMS is considered its secret sauce, BuzzFeed, which has baked native advertising into its content platform, and The New York Times, where technology-powered storytelling is seen as core to its editorial and advertising mission. For such publishers, adopting a CMS from a large platform player like Google would be tantamount to outsourcing the very notion of innovation.
Additionally many established publishers have customized their content tools to integrate with legacy publishing systems. Many publishers use multiple CMSs, for instance a custom platform powered by Drupal alongside Wordpress for blogging. So there's a big technical hurdle to adopting any off-the-shelf solution Google has on offer. That's setting aside the technical and human resources barriers required to migrate away from "good enough" content systems.
But what about this idea of holistic yield management?
"There are many ways to skin that cat without building a whole content management system," said one senior executive at a major publisher. "An API into whatever yield-management system they have would be sufficient. But Google wants to own the whole stack."
Even so, for every Vox Media there may be a Meredith Corp. or a McClatchy Co., both well regarded print publishers that may lack the resources to continually invest in content distribution tools. For those that already have a solid relationship with Google, the allure of a closer partnership could be strong.
From Google's standpoint the opportunity is clear. Within the broadening programmatic arena, premium publishers are the belles at the ball, swarmed by would-be dance partners that include SSPs (PubMatic, Rubicon Project, OpenX and, yes, Google); ad networks (Criteo, Rocket Fuel and, again, Google), content recommendation vendors (Taboola, Outbrain, AOL's Gravity) and analytics and data specialists (AddThis, ShareThis, ChartBeat), to name a handful.
While development of Google's CMS has begun, its completion may not be assured. One senior publisher source said Google has been relatively silent after numerous meetings extending from summer to late fall 2013. And another person with knowledge of Google's plans suggested there's no guarantee a CMS product will come to market at all.
After all, Google has dabbled in content technology projects over the years, but those efforts have tended to fizzle. There's the Blogger platform, acquired in 2003 and still up on cinderblocks. And back in 2009, it worked with The Washington Post and the Times on a project called Living Stories, but that too never amounted to much.