The headless content management system market has recently been valued at $328.5 million and is projected to hit $1.16 billion by 2027.
And within this industry, these are a few relative newbies that are disrupting the norms and established hierarchies. One of these is the headless content management system Contentful.
With strong growth and increasing popularity, is Contentful’s movement upwards strong enough and sustainable enough to break into the old guard of those content management systems that sit at the top after three decades of power?
And speaking more broadly, will the content management system market be permanently infiltrated by new approaches to digital solutions?
Investors have been turned by the headless approach to content. Contentful, the CMS born in Berlin, has earned plenty of funding. It recently received $175 million in funding last month, and is currently valued at $3 billion. Not bad for a 10-year-old system.
A bit about Contentful
In its own words, Contentful explains that
“a headless CMS is any type of back-end content management system where the content repository ‘body’ is separated or decoupled from the presentation layer ‘head.’ Content that is housed in a headless CMS is delivered via APIs for seamless display across different devices.”
So what is the state of headless content management systems? “We call ourselves a content platform; that is developers and builders build on top of us in a variety of scenarios,” said Steve Sloan, the chief executive officer at Contentful. “In the subcategory of CMS is headless CMS, and people talk about us in that light. Our perspective is that when you say headless CMS, because you say CMS, people assume that it’s as narrow as web-only, on-prem, single-stack content management systems have been.
“You have to think about that set of marketing experiences which are external… And so, the path we’re on is to ideally help people understand what a modern content platform is and how it is different from what came before,” added Steve.
“Web content management, mobile content management and enterprise content management used to be three totally distinct categories with totally different players. Today, we serve lots and lots of people across those use cases. And so we’re trying to evolve the conversation, and the way people think about what is possible.”
Contentful is a headless CMS that has an API-first approach – which almost all headless content management systems now have.
“You get an API, actually multiple APIs, an infrastructure to host your content and an editor tool to manage that content,” said Marcelo Lewin, founder of Headless Creator. “The delivery channel is up to you and your developers to create. That definitely makes them a headless CMS company.”
Contentful has the advantage of being able to integrate with other content management systems, or act as the migration host of other properties, so that businesses benefit from having a single platform that powers devices and digital experiences.
Contentful provides various APIs and GraphQL as well as a self-service version. “Contentful offers what they call the Application Framework,” said Marcelo, “which allows you to create apps that integrate with other systems using their API and plugging that app directly into Contentful using their Form36 design system, which makes the app look like it’s natively part of the web admin interface.
“Their API library is pretty extensive offering APIs for delivering published content, for delivering drafts, for creating and managing content, content types, an image transformation API, a GraphQL API and a user management API.”
Despite the strengths that Contentful possesses, it does come with some challenges – just like every content management system.
Among these is the lag in content governance that many have noticed. “I think the number 1 concern for me with regards to Contentful,” according to Marcelo, “and most other headless CMSs, is the authoring experience. When you create a content model, you try to keep it abstract so that it scales for the future.
“The problem is that forms that authors use to enter content are built around these content models and sometimes they can be too abstract and confusing for authors. They need to separate the content model from the creation of the form used to enter content by the authors.”
And much like all headless content management systems, in the act of chopping off the head and separating it from the body, it overlooks some of the features that are often found in legacy content management systems. And we’ve begun to see Contentful expand some features such as tagging and their new Compose app.