Headless CMS - the strategic opportunity for publishers

Gundel Henke

In the following, we explain the functions of a headless CMS, also in comparison with traditional content management systems and, above all, which strategic opportunities arise from the use of a headless CMS.

In the world of publishing, content management systems (CMS) are increasingly being challenged from their traditional foundations. These systems, once considered indispensable tools, are now reaching their limits, especially in an environment characterized by an ever-growing need for multichannel publishing.

The rigid architecture of traditional CMS makes it difficult to adapt to new requirements and effectively serve different channels such as websites, apps, social media, podcasts and print products. This leads to a noticeable lack of flexibility, which is problematic in today's agile media landscape.

The complexity of multichannel operations poses a considerable challenge. Traditional CMSs require considerable technical effort to present content seamlessly on different platforms. This not only impairs efficiency, but also the ability to respond to constantly changing requirements.

Collaboration within teams, especially in larger structures, is often inefficient due to the rigid nature of traditional CMSs. The limited personalization options and the high technical effort required to integrate additional channels contribute to the fact that many CMS are no longer up to date.

The limited possibilities for the seamless integration of print products show that traditional CMSs are struggling to adapt to the hybrid reality of digital and physical publications. The increasing complexity of editorial operations requires an agility that many traditional CMSs cannot offer.

In view of these challenges, publishers are increasingly looking for modern alternatives that can meet the changing requirements. Headless CMS are moving into focus as they can offer a flexible and innovative answer to the current limitations of traditional CMS.

In the following, we explain the functions of a headless CMS, also in comparison with traditional content management systems and, above all, which strategic opportunities arise from the use of a headless CMS.

What is a Headless CMS

A headless CMS has only the backend and no frontend (head). Content is generated and managed in the backend for various channels, regardless of whether they are online stores, websites or apps.  

The content editors or managers work on the content in the background, store it in the backend, which is then played out and visible to frontends via the APIs, the interfaces or data mediators. Only in the frontend are the content pieces then integrated and visible. In this way, the content can be individually adapted and designed for each channel. However, not only "own" content can be published via the API. The Headless CMS can also fetch content from other systems via the API, such as digital asset management systems. This means: This info paired with the self-produced content then appears in the frontend.  

In comparison: headless vs. traditional CMS

Traditional content management systems have a relatively rigid architecture. They consist of a backend and a frontend. Content managers maintain the content in the backend that is displayed in the frontend, which is usually your own website. The content is created in such a way that it looks good in the primary frontend, in this case the website. Other channels such as apps, social media etc. can also be connected to a traditional CMS, but this involves considerable technical effort. Additional effort is required to optimize the content for these additional channels. And with each additional channel, the complexity increases, both on the technical side and in content management. This is not only inefficient, but also not scalable.

‍HeadlessCMS have been developed precisely for this type of multichannel publishing. The form-neutral content in the backend can be adapted to different frontends without any technical effort, reducing complexity at both the technical and content management level. It does not matter how many and which channels are connected.    

Focus on value creation

As already mentioned, the frontend and backend are decoupled in a headless CMS, which results in increased added value. This allows teams to work much more efficiently. The formation of specialized teams, including frontend and backend teams, product management and editorial teams, leads to increased added value and improved workflows. This is because team structures usually involve a joint team working in a joint system. And the larger a team is, the more time has to be spent on communication than on actual value-adding work.

However, the use of Headless CMS allows different teams to be set up, which then work separately from each other. In plain language, this means that a new team structure can be built, which is much more efficient for the work.  

The new software structure and the separation of the systems provides more flexibility and offers the opportunity for different teams to work with different objectives and specializations. This means that dedicated front-end and back-end teams can be set up, while product management, editors and IT can concentrate fully on the users.  

By focusing on APP/Web, more can be accomplished in smaller teams than with a large team.
Peter Dyllick-Brenzinger

Optimal solution for editorial operations

While on the one hand the frontend is optimized for readers, on the other hand the backend is optimized for editors.

On the one hand, you can concentrate on creating value for readers. On the other hand, the separation optimizes editorial workflows.

Genuine multichannel

A headless CMS offers an API that enables several channels to be used via one interface. This means that several channels can be used.

Compared to traditional CMSs, the technical effort required to integrate additional channels is lower. In addition, a headless CMS can also be used for the output of print products, which is particularly advantageous for publishers with traditional print products.

The question of whether additional channels should be used can thus be decided from a purely commercial perspective. While the technical effort involved in traditional CMS is associated with high costs, this is not the case with headless systems.

Another advantage for publishers is:  

The headless CMS can also be used for the output of print products, similar to the output for apps or websites. Even if print has different requirements than digital products, the headless CMS can be used for traditional print products - provided the headless is also programmed for this.  

In addition, new products can be generated from existing content.  

Example: If one is the editor of a car magazine and has published numerous articles about Porsche, the various articles could be recombined to form a new product, namely a Porsche special issue.


Personalization is a key aspect of modern user experiences, and headless content management systems offer publishers the perfect stage for effective implementation. Compared to traditional CMS, which often reach their limits, the API-based structure of headless CMS enables personalized content delivery across multiple channels.

With a headless CMS, publishers have access to comprehensive user data, as the backend and frontend are decoupled from each other. This data forms the basis for targeted personalization by taking user behaviour, preferences and interactions into account.

The scalable API of Headless CMS enables a consistent user experience across different platforms. Whether website, app or social media - the content can be individually tailored to the needs of the user.

Checklist for a Headless CMS

So if you decide to use a headless CMS, you should consider the following criteria:

  • It must offer the possibility to define free fields as well as new document types. This means that the frontend team can do this without the need for a corresponding backend team.
  • A high editorial usability must be given. Here, the many and also large differences have to be examined, because there are headless CMSs that are strongly oriented towards developers. It is important to note that editors of daily newspapers have different needs than e-commerce publishers.
  • Data and AI functions should be state of the art.
  • API should be flexible and scalable, especially when it comes to personalization and multichannel
  • And - especially important for publishers with print products: Headless should also enable print integration.


At a time when digital content has to be distributed via various channels, it is clear that traditional content management systems are no longer sufficient for publishers. The rigid structures and limited customization options of these systems are at odds with the diverse requirements of modern publishing work. The challenges range from a lack of flexibility in multichannel operations to inefficient team structures and limited personalization options.

This is where the headless CMS comes in as an innovative solution. The decoupling of frontend and backend enables flexible adaptation to different channels without the technical effort of traditional systems. By forming specialized teams and optimizing editorial processes, a headless CMS increases efficiency and added value in publishing work.

The true multichannel capability and the integration of print products offer publishers a holistic solution for their publications. The personalization options and access to comprehensive user data help to increase reader loyalty. The high degree of flexibility and modern API architecture make Headless CMS a forward-looking choice for publishers who want to meet the dynamic demands of digital publishing.

In conclusion, the strategic importance of headless CMS for publishers goes far beyond the function of a content management system. It is a transformative technology that not only increases efficiency, but also enables publishers to adapt agilely to the ever-changing needs of their readership. As a provider of a headless CMS, Purple is positioning itself as a partner for publishers to optimize their editorial workflows and meet the ever-growing demands for digital content. At a time when quality and availability of content are crucial, a headless CMS opens up new horizons for the future of publishing.


If you would like to learn more about the advantages of a headless content management system, we invite you to attend our on-demand webinar "Headless CMS - the strategic opportunity for publishers".

We would be happy to show you how Purple can help you simplify your editorial workflows or give you a short demo of our headless CMS.

Not sure if Purple suits you?

Or you have individual requirements?
We will be happy to advise you.
Kevin Kallenbach
Head of Sales