Headless CMS - the strategic opportunity for publishers

Sou-Yen Kim

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

Traditions are important because they give people security, orientation and even a sense of belonging, at least for certain groups of people.

Content management systems - CMS for short - have been basic tools for years. There are traditions in the digital world as well, even if they are not as traditional and significant as in the offline world. The use of content management systems is one such tradition. But for companies and especially publishers that operate and serve different channels, these traditional CMS are no longer sufficient. For some, therefore, the switch to a so-called headless CMS, translated as "headless", makes sense.

In the following, we explain the functions of a headless CMS, also in comparison with the "traditional" content management systems and, above all, what 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.  

Comparison: Headless and 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 the user's own website. The content is created so that it looks good in the primary frontend, in this case the website. Other channels, such as app, social media, etc., can also be connected to a traditional CMS, but this involves considerable technical effort. Additional effort is then required to optimize the content for these additional channels. And with each additional channel, complexity increases, both on the technical side and in content management. This is not only inefficient, but also not scalable. Headless CMSs have been developed precisely for such multichannel publishing. Since the content is stored form-neutral in the backend, it can be adapted to the respective frontends and published in the different channels without any technical effort. It does not matter how many and which channels are connected.  

Another disadvantage is the organization of work, which costs a lot of resources. Why therefore a headless CMS can be more ideal, we explain below.


Focus on value creation

As mentioned earlier, with a headless CMS, the frontend and backend are decoupled, and this results in increased value. This allows teams to work much more efficiently.

Most of the time, team structures look like a common team working in a common system. And the larger a team is, the more time has to be spent on communication than on actual value-creating 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, the separation of the systems, provides more flexibility and also offers the possibility for different teams to operate 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.

True multichannel

With the headless CMS, you have an API, an interface that can be used to serve multiple channels. This means that several platforms are served from a single location, and with much less effort than is the case with traditional content management systems. The question of whether additional channels should be used can thus be decided from a purely commercial point of view. While with traditional CMS the technical effort 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, comparable to the output for apps or websites. Even though print has different requirements than digital products, the headless system can be used for traditional print products - provided that the headless is also programmed for this. But basically, headless CMSs offer this option. 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 in the publishing sense means predicting which stories are particularly interesting for certain users. Whether it's podcasts, articles, or videos - everything can be tailored to the needs and habits of readers.

However, you need access to this data, i.e. how users use the medium or the different offers. Personalization in the frontend of Headless works very well because the CMS can guarantee access to all content and the delivery/API is fully comprehensive and scalable.

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.


Traditions in the digital world work for specific purposes and audiences. However, the larger a company, its offering, its content, the more channels there are through which the content is to be published, the more worth considering the use of headless content management systems. Especially as digital content becomes more and more complex and user expectations more and more demanding.

Nowadays, it's no longer enough just to create good quality content. Content must be made available to the user always and everywhere. And in the format that the user wants.

Purple DS naturally also offers a headless CMS and many useful tools that make work in publishing houses easier.  

If you want to learn more about the benefits of a headless content management system, we invite you to join our On Demand Webinar "Headless CMS - the strategic opportunity for publishers".

We would be happy to show you how Purple DS 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