Headless CMS has revolutionized the way publishers create and manage content. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global headless CMS market size was valued at $326.1 million in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.6% from 2021 to 2028. 

A headless CMS allows publishers to create and manage content without being tied down by the front-end display of their website or application. Publishers can create content that can be used across multiple channels, such as mobile apps, websites, and even voice assistants. 

These are API-first CMS, where the content is managed through Application Programming Interfaces. This allows publishers to use the CMS as a content repository while using API to retrieve the content and display it on their website or application.

Decoupled CMS is another term that is often used interchangeably with headless CMS. However, decoupled CMS may still have some restrictions on how the content can be displayed, whereas headless CMS provides complete flexibility in terms of the front-end display.

 

Differences between a Headless CMS and a Traditional CMS

A traditional CMS is a software application that allows publishers to manage content and create websites without any coding. It includes both the front-end presentation layer and the back-end management system in a single application.

On the other hand, a headless CMS is a content management system that separates the content management capabilities from the presentation layer. This means that while the content can be created, stored, and managed in the CMS, it is delivered through an API to any front-end application or platform.

The main difference between traditional and headless CMS is that traditional CMS focuses on the presentation layer, while headless CMS focuses on the content management layer. Both CMSs provide more flexibility than traditional CMS. They allow publishers to create and manage content in a way that is more efficient and effective, as the content can be used across multiple channels and platforms to deliver content quickly and efficiently to their audience.

Advantages of Headless CMS over Traditional CMS

Flexibility: With headless CMS, developers have more flexibility in terms of choosing the front-end technology and platform they want to use.

Scalability: Headless CMS can be easily scaled to handle large volumes of content and traffic.

Faster Development: Developers can build and deploy websites or applications more quickly with a headless CMS, as they don't have to worry about the presentation layer.

Easier Maintenance: With a headless CMS, it's easier to maintain and update content, as changes can be made in the CMS and immediately reflected across all platforms.

It is important to note that the choice between the two depends on the specific needs of the business or organization.

Traditional CMS vs Headless CMS

Factors

Traditional CMS

Headless CMS

Front-end presentation layer

Included within the CMS

Not included in the CMS

Content management layer

Included within the CMS

Included within the CMS

Flexibility

Limited by the CMS's front-end technology

Developers can choose any front-end technology or platform

Scalability

Limited by the CMS's architecture

Easily scalable to handle large volumes of content and traffic

Development speed

Slower, as the presentation layer needs to be developed in addition to the back-end

Faster, as developers only need to focus on the back-end

Maintenance

Changes may require updates to both the back-end and front-end

Changes made to the back end are immediately reflected across all platforms

Use cases

Best suited for smaller websites or blogs

Best suited for complex websites or applications that require multiple channels for content delivery

Examples

WordPress, Drupal

Contentful, Kontent.ai, Prismic

 

Best Headless CMSs for Publishers Compared

CMS

Key Features

Cloud-Hosted

Open-Source

Pricing

WordPress VIP

Large plugin ecosystem, multi-site management, enterprise-level security, scalable hosting infrastructure, SEO features

Yes

No

Custom pricing, starts at $25,000/ year

Sanity

Real-time collaboration, customizable schema, image and asset handling, flexible querying options

Yes

No

Team: $99/month

Business: $949/ month

Enterprise: Custom Pricing

Magnolia

Enterprise-level security, headless and traditional options, content personalization, multi-channel publishing

Yes

No

Custom pricing

Contentful

GraphQL API, customizable schema, asset management, content modeling, webhooks

Yes

No

Free Plan

Basic Plan: $300/ month

Premium: Custom Pricing

Arc XP

Integrated with AWS services, AI-powered content recommendations, A/B testing, personalization

Yes

No

Custom pricing

Superdesk

Integrated newsroom workflow, editorial calendar, flexible content types, multilingual support

Yes

Yes

Custom pricing

Kontent.ai

Customizable content types, multi-language support, content personalization, SEO features

Yes

No

Custom pricing

Contentstack

Customizable content types, multi-channel publishing, webhooks, role-based access control

Yes

No

Custom pricing

Directus

API-driven content management, customizable content types, real-time updates, flexible querying options

Yes

Yes

Standard: $99/ month

Enterprise: $599/ month

Quintype

Customizable content types, multi-channel publishing, workflow management, analytics

Yes

No

Starts at $100/ month.

Enterprise: Custom pricing

Hygraph CMS

Integrated headless commerce, GraphQL API, customizable content types, content versioning

Yes

Yes

Community: Free

Professiona:: $299

Scale: $799

 Enterprise: Custom

Strapi

Customizable content types, GraphQL and REST API, role-based access control, webhook support

Yes

Yes

Sel-Hosted: Free and Flexible plans

Cloud

Pro:$99

Team: $499

Ghost

SEO features, content scheduling, multi-language support, member management

Yes

Yes

Starter: $9/ month

Creator: $25/ month

Team: $50/ month

Business: $199/ month

dotCMS

Multi-site management, content personalization, workflow management, customizable content types

Yes

Yes

Open Source: Free

Starter: $3,750/ month

Enterprise: Custom

Butter CMS

Flexible content modeling, customizable content types, webhook support, SEO features

Yes

No

Micro: $83/ month

Startup: $166/ month

Small Business: $333/ month

Enterprise: Custom

Agility CMS

Headless CMS, multi-channel content delivery, personalization, integrations

Yes

No

Plans start at $399/month

 

16 Best Headless CMSs for 2023



1. WordPress VIP

WordPress VIP is a powerful and flexible headless CMS platform built on top of the WordPress platform. One of the key benefits of WordPress VIP is its enterprise-grade security features, which are essential for large organizations handling sensitive data. The platform also offers a range of customization options, including support for custom code and integrations with third-party services, making it easy to tailor the platform to meet the unique needs of your organization.

WordPress VIP also offers advanced scalability features, which are ideal for enterprise publishers with large and complex content ecosystems. The platform can handle high traffic volumes without sacrificing performance or stability, ensuring that your content is always available to your audience.

Popular publishers that use WordPress VIP include TechCrunch, Quartz, Time Inc., The New York Post, News Corp Australia, Bloomberg Professional, Harvard Business Review, USA Today, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and many more.


2. Sanity.io

Sanity.io is a popular headless CMS platform that offers a range of features specifically designed for enterprise publishers. One of the platform's standout features is its real-time collaboration capabilities, which allow teams to work together on content and see changes made in real-time. This makes it ideal for large organizations with distributed teams, as it enables seamless collaboration across departments and locations.

Another key feature of Sanity.io is its powerful content modeling tools, which allow publishers to easily create and manage complex content structures. The platform also offers a range of customization options, including support for custom code and integrations with third-party services, making it easy to tailor the platform to meet the unique needs of your organization.

Popular publishers that use Sanity.io include National Geographic, Ikea, A+E Networks, Condé Nast, and Sennheiser.



3.Magnolia

Magnolia is a robust headless CMS platform that offers a range of features specifically designed for enterprise publishers. One of the platform's standout features is its flexible content modeling capabilities, which allow publishers to easily create and manage complex content structures. The platform also offers advanced localization capabilities, making it easy to manage multilingual content across a range of regions and markets.

Another key feature of Magnolia is its powerful workflow automation capabilities, which streamline content creation and publishing processes, enabling publishers to get content to market faster. The platform also offers a range of customization options, including support for custom code and integrations with third-party services, making it easy to tailor the platform to meet the unique needs of your organization.

Popular publishers that use Magnolia include JetBlue, Atlassian, and Al Arabiya News.


4. Contentful

Contentful is a headless CMS solution that offers flexible content modeling capabilities and can integrate with various channels and platforms easily. With Contentful, enterprise publishers can manage their complex content needs, collaborate with their teams, and scale their digital content creation without worrying about technological limitations. This CMS solution offers advanced features such as localization, role-based permissions, powerful webhooks, and digital asset management, making it an ideal choice for enterprises looking to achieve their content goals on a global scale.

Popular publishers using Contentful include Spotify, Urban Outfitters, and Jack Daniel's.


5. Arc XP

AArc XP is a powerful headless CMS solution that is specially designed to cater to the needs of enterprise publishers. It provides a robust content management system that enables publishers to author, curate, and distribute content across multiple channels. The platform offers a user-friendly interface that simplifies content creation, publishing, and distribution for publishers. It comes equipped with several features that are ideal for enterprise publishers, such as built-in analytics and SEO tools, content personalization, and audience segmentation.

Additionally, Arc XP provides advanced capabilities such as data management, automated workflows, and granular access control to ensure that content governance for enterprise organizations can be enforced in a structured manner. The platform's easy integration capabilities, and API management tools enable enterprises to build custom integrations in-house or with third-party solutions, thus easing content management across channels.

Some of the popular publishers that use Arc XP as their CMS include The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News,

6. Superdesk

Superdesk is an open-source newsroom management system that offers a headless CMS, allowing publishers to create content on one platform and distribute it across multiple channels. Its features include flexible workflows, advanced planning tools, real-time collaboration, and multi-language support. Additionally, Superdesk includes a content management system that allows publishers to create, edit, and archive multimedia content, as well as manage user permissions and analytics.

Popular publishers using Superdesk include the news outlets of Agence France-Presse (AFP), Asian News International (ANI), Eurovision News Exchange (EVN), and the Australian Associated Press (AAP).


7. Kontent.ai

Kontent.ai is a highly flexible and user-friendly headless CMS that allows enterprise publishers to create and manage content more efficiently. It provides an intuitive user interface that enables content creators to easily create, manage and distribute digital content across multiple channels. Kontent.ai also offers a wide range of content editing tools, including rich text editors, image galleries, video players, and more.

The platform's advanced features include a flexible data model that allows publishers to create content structures that can be customized to meet their specific needs. It also has built-in SEO and social media integration that helps publishers to optimize their content for maximum visibility across the web. Additionally, Kontent.ai has robust localization features that allow publishers to create and publish content in multiple languages.

Some of the popular publishers using Kontent.ai include Rackspace, UBM, Lundbeck, American Red Cross, and Smeg

8. ContentStack

Contentstack is a headless CMS that simplifies content management for enterprise publishers. With a focus on scalability and flexibility, Contentstack helps companies deliver content across multiple channels quickly and easily. The platform's robust API-driven architecture allows developers to create custom integrations, while the drag-and-drop interface and customizable workflows streamline content creation and publishing.

One of the key features of Contentstack is its multi-site management capability, which enables businesses to create and manage multiple websites, landing pages, and content hubs within a single platform. The platform's localization tools also facilitate the creation of multilingual content, making it easy for companies to reach global audiences. Contentstack also offers a host of integrations, including eCommerce platforms, social media, and marketing automation tools, allowing businesses to create personalized experiences for customers across channels.

Some popular companies using Contentstack include Shell, NBC Universal, and Riot Games.


9. Directus


Directus is a powerful and flexible headless CMS that comes with a range of features that are beneficial for enterprise publishers. One of the unique selling points of Directus is its open-source nature, which makes it highly customizable and scalable. With Directus, enterprise publishers can easily manage their content across multiple channels, including web, mobile, and IoT devices. It offers a range of features like role-based access control, granular permissions, API support, and real-time updates that help publishers streamline their content management workflows for better productivity.

Directus has a long list of clients that includes some of the most popular names in the publishing industry. Some of the notable publishers using Directus include Forbes, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic. The popularity of Directus among these publishers shows how efficient and reliable its platform is for managing digital content at scale.

10. Quintype


Quintype is a cloud-based headless CMS platform that offers a range of features tailored specifically for enterprise publishers. One of the platform's standout features is its intuitive editorial workflow management, which enables publishers to easily collaborate on content creation and management tasks. The platform also offers advanced content personalization and recommendation capabilities, making it easy to deliver targeted content to different audience segments.

Another key feature of Quintype is its comprehensive analytics and reporting capabilities, which provide publishers with detailed insights into audience behavior, content performance, and other key metrics. The platform also offers a range of customization options, including support for custom themes and integrations with third-party services, making it easy to tailor the platform to meet the unique needs of your organization.

Popular publishers that use Quintype include The Quint, The Daily Star, and WION.

11. HygraphCMS

Hygraph CMS is a modern headless CMS that offers a range of features specifically designed for enterprise publishers. One of the platform's standout features is its powerful content modeling capabilities, which allow publishers to easily create and manage complex content structures. The platform also offers a range of customization options, including support for custom code and integrations with third-party services, making it easy to tailor the platform to meet the unique needs of your organization.

Another key feature of Hygraph CMS is its advanced workflow automation capabilities, which streamline content creation and publishing processes, enabling publishers to get content to market faster. The platform also offers robust analytics and reporting tools, giving publishers deep insights into how their content is performing and helping them optimize their content strategies.

As Hygraph CMS is a relatively new platform, there are not yet many well-known publishers using it. However, the platform has received positive reviews from early adopters and is quickly gaining traction in the market.

12. Strapi

Strapi CMS is a highly flexible and scalable headless CMS platform that is ideal for enterprise publishers. One of its key features is its powerful content modeling system, which allows publishers to easily create and manage complex content structures. The platform also offers robust API capabilities, making it easy to integrate with other systems and applications.

Another important feature of Strapi CMS is its security capabilities, which include access control and role-based permissions, ensuring that only authorized users can access and modify content. The platform also offers a range of deployment options, including on-premises, cloud, and Kubernetes, making it easy to scale the platform to meet the needs of your organization.

Popular news publishers that use Strapi CMS include The Economist and The World Economic Forum.

13. Ghost

Ghost CMS is a popular headless CMS platform that offers a range of features designed specifically for enterprise publishers. One of the platform's standout features is its simple and intuitive interface, which makes it easy to create, edit, and manage content. The platform also offers advanced content modeling capabilities, allowing publishers to create complex content structures and relationships.

Another key feature of Ghost CMS is its flexible publishing workflows, which allow publishers to easily manage and publish content across a range of channels and platforms. The platform also offers advanced analytics and SEO tools, making it easy to track the performance of your content and optimize it for search engines.

Popular news publishers that use Ghost CMS include The Daily Telegraph, Sky News Arabia, and The Intercept.

14. dotCMS

Dot CMS is a powerful headless CMS platform that offers a range of features designed specifically for enterprise publishers. One of the platform's standout features is its content tagging capabilities, which make it easy to organize and manage large volumes of content. The platform also offers robust workflow automation capabilities, which streamline content creation and publishing processes, enabling publishers to get content to market faster.

Another key feature of Dot CMS is its flexible architecture, which makes it easy to customize and integrate with third-party services and technologies. The platform also offers advanced personalization capabilities, enabling publishers to deliver targeted content experiences to different audience segments based on their preferences and behavior.

Popular news publishers using Dot CMS include NBC Universal, FOX News, and Euronews.

15. Butter CMS

Butter CMS is a modern headless CMS platform that offers a range of features tailored to the needs of enterprise publishers. One of the standout features of Butter CMS is its intuitive content editing interface, which makes it easy for non-technical users to create and manage content. The platform also offers a range of content modeling and management tools, making it easy to organize and structure complex content.

Butter CMS also includes a range of advanced features that are particularly beneficial for enterprise publishers, including SEO optimization tools, content versioning, and granular user permissions. Additionally, the platform integrates with a range of popular third-party services, including Google Analytics, HubSpot, and Salesforce, enabling publishers to easily connect their content with other parts of their tech stack.

Popular news publishers that use Butter CMS include Axios, The Telegraph, and Digiday.

16. Agility CMS

Agility CMS is a cloud-based content management system that offers headless and hybrid content management solutions. Its unique features include a powerful drag-and-drop interface for building pages and a fully integrated eCommerce solution for managing online stores. Agility CMS also provides users with a range of content personalization tools, including automated recommendations, dynamic content, and user segmentation capabilities. Additionally, the platform offers powerful analytics and reporting tools that enable users to track content performance and optimize their content strategy over time.

Several popular news and media publishers use Agility CMS, including CTV News, TechCrunch, and Cosmopolitan.

Headless CMSs with Dedicated Mobile App for Remote Publishing

CMS Platform

Mobile App

Dedicated Mobile App for Publishing

Mobile Publishing Experience

WordPress VIP

N/A

No

Simple, streamlined interface for publishing and editing content on the go

Sanity

Yes

Yes

Mobile-friendly and responsive authoring interface for publishing and uploading media content from mobile devices

Magnolia

N/A

No

Responsive and optimized authoring interface for mobile devices

Contentful

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Arc XP

Yes

Yes

Mobile app called Arc Mobile allows for publishing, editing, and media content upload on the go

Superdesk

N/A

No

Responsive and optimized authoring interface for mobile devices

Kontent.ai

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Content Stack

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Directus

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Quintype

Yes

Yes

User-friendly interface for publishing and uploading media content on the go

Hygraph CMS

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Strapi

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Ghost

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

dotCMS

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Butter CMS

N/A

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

Agility CMS

NA

No

A responsive web-based authoring interface that can be used on mobile devices

 

Migration from WordPress to Headless CMS Platforms

CMS Platform

Support for Migration

Help Documentation

WordPress VIP

Yes

WordPress to WordPress VIP Migration

Sanity

Yes

WordPress to Sanity Migration

Magnolia

Yes

WordPress to Magnolia Migration

Contentful

Yes

WordPress to Contentful Migration

Arc XP

Yes

NA

Superdesk

Yes

NA

Kontent.ai

Yes

WordPress to Kontent.ai Migration

Content Stack

Yes

WordPress to Content Stack Migration

Directus

Yes

WordPress to Directus Migration

Quintype 

Yes

WordPress to Quintype Migration

Hygraph CMS

Yes

WordPress to Hygraph Migration

Strapi

Yes

NA

Ghost

Yes

WordPress to Ghost Migration

dotCMS

Yes

WordPress to dotCMS Migration

Butter CMS

Yes

WordPress to Butter CMS Migration

Agility CMS

Yes 

NA

 

But do you really need it?

Headless CMSs are for enterprise publishers. If you are running a single website populated with static content that aren't changed frequently, switching to a headless CMS might not make a huge difference. It might strike back in fact as a headless CMS requires strong technical proficiency. This list is relevant only if you are part of a larger newsroom setup.

Headless CMSs, in a way, are a response to the way users consume content over the internet nowadays. For a very long time, the content was served on browsers via web pages. Unlike that, today we have multiple interfaces that the content has to lay on. Hence, a headless CMS.

Although all the Headless CMSs listed above look promising, we request you to refer to their features page thoroughly before finalizing one because of the time-consuming migration. Don’t forget to tell us which one you decided to go with and why.

Also, in case we mention a headless CMS that you like, drop us a line here at marketing@izooto.com

 

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