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My Comparison of the 'Top 5 Content Marketing Platforms'
My Comparison of the 'Top 5 Content Marketing Platforms'

In the first article of this series, we looked at the criteria you might want to keep in mind when deciding on a content marketing tech platform. We looked at three important criteria (organise, realise, analyse) and also talked about how to think about price when you're making your decision on what platform to go with.

I'm going to go one step further in this article by applying the four rationales to some of the most common content marketing platforms in the market today.

This is not to say that you should make your decision just based on what you read here, because each organisation and team has a different set of requirements and I haven't taken all your potential variables into account, but I do think you can use this breakdown as a sort of reference guide when comparing solutions and applying the organise, realise, analyse criteria to your situation.

Some of these may not seem like holistic content marketing solutions or platforms in the strictest sense of the words (AEM and Trello, I'm looking at you), but I've seen a bunch of teams and organisations running marketing programs using these platforms, so I think they deserve a run alongside the others in this comparison. 

Newscred

Organise

One of NewsCred's greatest strengths is its ability to organise and manage the processes and workflows that sit behind your content production and publishing.

The calendar and pipeline features are solid and well-visualised and the various views allow you to quickly find and work on individual content items without having to click through endless pages or levels.

When it comes to assets, NewsCred doesn't do a great job of sorting these or making it easy for you to edit the metadata of each item so, if you quickly scale from 100 to, say, 10,000 images and videos, you're going to have some challenges finding what you need.

Realise

It's easy enough to write an article in NewsCred, track its progress through a production and approval workflow and then publish to a website.

In fact, the version control and comments view in the platform is so easy to navigate that it can easily become the default way for producers and editors/reviewers to communicate about the progress of content.

In my experience, the ability for NewsCred to push completed content into destinations other than your own website (like your Facebook page or YouTube channel) is not smooth and requires a substantial amount of technical knowledge to achieve and then maintain on an ongoing basis so, if you don't have technical skills available to you, this is a red flag to keep in mind.

Analyse

NewsCred's analytics solution is comprehensive and deep but has a massive learning curve.

As with any solution, you'll need to integrate it via API into your website, but once you've done that you might find that the platform's dashboards are not super-intuitive and will make you work to surface the most useful data.

It's also very website heavy, so it's challenging to be able to understand how the one item of content has performed across various platforms including social media as you'll need to surface that information yourself and then build out your own comparisons.

Price

NewsCred is one of the more expensive content marketing platforms on the market, if you want something comprehensive for your team to work with.

The basic plans at about $3,500 per month are on the more affordable end of the spectrum, but they provide very little flexibility and depth which, frankly, make the platform overpriced at that level.

The more expensive levels for NewsCred can run up to about $10,000 per month and give you all the bells and whistles but with substantial ongoing maintenance that, in my opinion, necessitates someone managing the platform full-time so your producers can focus on getting their content output right.

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM)

Organise

If you've heard anything about marketing platforms, you've heard of AEM.

This thing is the 800-pound gorilla of the marketing world and is part of the comprehensive Adobe Marketing Cloud. Specifically, AEM is the most robust of all content marketing platforms if you are running a massive content program with tens of thousands of assets across multiple countries and in multiple languages.

The platform is excellent at organising content, even down to the individual asset level, and finding a needle in a haystack is easy with AEM's powerful search feature. However (and in my opinion, most unfortunately), AEM makes absolutely no allowances for helping you plan, calendarise and workflow your content.

Anything like a content backlog, editorial calendar or production workflow is not supported without extensive custom development which will quickly see you racking up those agency and development hours both in build time and ongoing maintenance. Ouch.

Realise

Because AEM is a content management system, you can write and edit your content directly on the web page and see exactly what it's going to look like while you're building it.

This is super useful as it can cut down QA time and help you take advantage of your page templates very easily. Personally, I've found AEM very easy to pick up for content authors and anyone with a slightly technical or design bent will appreciate the extra control over their content.

The main downside of AEM is that you cannot publish content directly to any other channel other than the site/s you're producing for without buying additional products from the Adobe Marketing Cloud. So, you'll still have to either publish to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube manually, one at a time, or pay for a whole other product to do it for you.

Analyse

AEM on its own provides no analytics or insights functionality.

You'll need to purchase Adobe Analytics or use a separate analytics platform (e.g. Google Analytics, Mixpanel) and then link the two products together to see any kind of information about how your content is performing.

You can enable some activity reporting within AEM to see, for example, which users are most active and what assets are used most often, but you have no way of knowing if your content is hitting its straps without buying additional software.

Price

There's no way around it, AEM is expensive.

The licence fee is substantial and the requirement for a partner or other third-party to spin up and configure your instance of AEM is generally also pricey.

It's not uncommon for Adobe customers to drop over $150,000 in their first year to buy the software, get things up and running and do some very light customisation, although this depends on whether you buy into just AEM or multiple modules of the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

AEM is definitely a long-term play and requires a commitment from your organisation to keep servicing and upgrading it over time to get the maximum benefit from the product.

Trello

Organise

The thing that makes Trello so popular for content production operations is how simple it is to start and how easy it is to organise your content factory.

For example, you can easily integrate tools like Slack, Dropbox and Evernote into your Trello operation meaning that your users don't need to learn a whole new system before they can publish their first item of content.

Trello is great if you have a relatively small amount of people working on your content team (anywhere up to five or six) and the workflow and review process is quite straightforward.

Because this platform is actually a project management tool, it doesn't have many allowances for things like storing your assets, searching deeply or keeping an audit trail of where you're at with your content production, so keep that in mind.

Realise

Trello doesn't account for any content creation or publishing tools so you won't be able to click a 'new article' button or 'upload to Facebook' option, meaning all your actual production must be done somewhere else.

This could be a combination of offline solutions or another platform that I've mentioned in this piece; whatever platform you go with, you'll have to do a lot of eyeballing from one app to the other to make sure things don't get lost, misplaced in a workflow or uploaded in the wrong place.

Once you start getting into the day-to-day of content operations, you'll quickly see that Trello is a great organisational tool, but not at all helpful for content production.

Analyse

Like I said above, Trello is a project management tool and, while you do have access to some activity reporting, you will not be able to access any kind of performance data or insights about your content on any channel via Trello.

While AEM is a great production platform for content and Trello is a great organisational and workflow tool, neither allow you to understand how well your content is doing.

So, you'd have to plug in an analytics platform or use in-channel analytics for social and then stitch the insights together yourself and, as you can imagine, the costs (licence/platform fees and head hours) quickly stack up.

Price

Trello's main advantage is that it is cheap, low-commitment and has easy to understand flat fees.

You can get started for free but with very limited options (for example, you can only attach files smaller than 10MB so say goodbye to those beautiful hi-res TIFF files you're using for your campaign) and integrations with other apps.

On the higher end, you'll pay about $20 per user per month (so, for a team of 10, that works out to about $2,400 per year) with many more security, storage, after-sales care and integration inclusions.

But remember, you're paying that just for a project management tool so, if you're going to set up a Dropbox account, Evernote for Work profiles and Slack for your 10 person team to complement Trello, you'll quickly rack up costs that might be over $2,000 per month.

Percolate

Organise

Personally, I think Percolate is great at simplifying the overall complexity associated with marketing in a bunch of different channels (after all, it is a marketing project management platform). Its features designed to help you organise your marketing operations are easy to learn and use and the product has scaled well into other areas beyond just content.

The platform excels at stitching together various must-have aspects of a great content factory like storing and searching assets easily, planning and assigning editorial tasks and creating briefs and templates. Its marketing calendar and marketing project management features are especially useful if you have displaced or location-independent teams and individuals. 

Percolate is a beast though, and, in my opinion, out of all the platforms we're looking at here, it can take the most time to come to grips with Percolate. Expect a months-long learning curve with this platform before you and your teams feel like they're in control and pumping out great content.

Realise

Perhaps the best way to encapsulate Percolate's features when it comes to producing and publishing content is to tell you what an editor from a publishing company once said to me, "this is basically the ideal tool for a busy newsroom that's under-staffed". And this translates into the philosophy behind Percolate's production and publishing facets: to give as much quick visibility to managers as to individual producers so everyone can see what they want to see when they want to see it.

Again, this means there are A LOT of buttons, tabs, forms and screens to get used to and, sure, if you're just writing articles, sourcing video or checking metadata, you can just focus on your individual cog in the machine, but, if you're going to take that sort of approach, do you need to get this mega enterprise-grade beast of a tool? Probably not, tbh.

If you want a tool that mainly focuses on getting content planned, made and out there, Percolate is way over-qualified.

Analyse

Percolate has an insights and analytics suite that is very similar to NewsCred in the sense that it is both gargantuan and heavily visual. It's a sort of interface and platform that rewards deep engagement by someone who is intimately familiar with both the content and perhaps even some data science.

Now, I'm not the most technical of data-driven marketers, but I do know my way around an analytics platform and how to interrogate data a little more deeply; I can tell you, hand on heart, that I've found it hard to see what additional value Percolate's analytics suite brings when compared with the excellent and very free Google Analytics.

Some of the visualisation is different, but I suspect you would need to spend many, many hours with this reporting tool before understanding why you paid extra for it.

Price

In many ways, Percolate is closest to NewsCred (in its feature set and content-first philosophy) and AEM (in that it has multiple modules you can buy and plug together if you want to).

Pricing for Percolate is notoriously hard to come by before you're neck deep into the sales process with their consultants but I've heard peers tell me they've spent somewhere around $40,000 to $60,000 for licence and subscription costs and a similar amount in development and onboarding costs.

Many say their first year with Percolate is between $80,000 and $120,000.

Cognitives

Organise

Before we start here and in case it wasn't clear, you're reading an article on Cognitives' website. Cognitives has a substantial focus on the entire end-to-end process of content operations, from planning, content creation and asset management through to the distribution and measurement of your content and editorial program.

Cognitives is unique to the market in that it is a content platform at heart, rather than a marketing platform with a 'content marketing module'. It's not a marketing resource management tool, so it's not made to send your campaign emails and SMS offers or run digital display ads like Adobe's products or some of Percolate's features.

Instead, it lets you build out content for multiple channels in the one place and provides flexible features to help you organise and set up your content factory.

These especially broad features include kanban-style boards, editorial calendars, customised workflows and a social funnel tool. Cognitives is up there with NewsCred and Percolate in terms of the breadth of helping you plan for content operations but with a significantly shorter learning curve.

Realise

Production and publishing in Cognitives is straightforward and stripped-back; the focus is on enabling authors and producers to quickly create content and move it along the workflow.

It's easy to label and tag content as you go as well as make minor changes at any point in the workflow before and after publishing. This is especially useful as some of the other platforms we've looked at here are more rigid and force you to restart a workflow if you need to change something small (say, the third image in a 600-word piece when everything else is ready to go).

As Cognitives sits behind your content management system, you'll still have to publish onto a website once your content is ready to go but, you can build these sites with Cognitives and then run them alongside sites built in WordPress, AEM, Squarespace or anything else.

The major advantage with Cognitives is its open API which means you can publish to multiple destinations quickly and easily with no copy-paste action needed.

Analyse

Like NewsCred and Percolate, Cognitives has a powerful analytics platform built in which will help you quickly understand how your content is doing against your objectives.

Importantly, though, the reporting features of the platform are easy to understand and manipulate, with the advantage of having your social media data fed directly into the same dashboard for real-time and immediate comparisons of content performance.

In my opinion, this is especially useful for those creating the content as they can quickly see if an item works across some or all channels, make the required tweaks and optimise what they're producing in almost no time. Expect some time to get up to speed with this facet of the platform, but nowhere near as much as some of the other tools we've looked at here.

Price

When it comes to pricing, Cognitives major difference is that all the various elements of the product (including planning, creation, management, storage, distribution and measurement etc) can be included within one monthly price.

Of course, if you're looking for a tool that does one of these things (for example, something to just manage your workflows or store your assets) then Cognitives offers lower price points for particular features. If you're currently working with two or more platforms, apps or tools for your content and marketing (say, Trello for project management and Dropbox for storage), Cognitives could be a good way to reduce costs and up the quality of your output.

You should expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 per month for their base plan, up to $4,500 per month for the whole kit and caboodle with Cognitives, allowing you to easily scale your content factory up and out for the long term.

So, what now?

Well, like I said at the start and in the first article in this series, you have a specific set of circumstances and business needs to address for your organisation.

This comparison is built on extensive personal experience with these platforms and conversations with my peers who have worked in a range of very large all the way down to very small types of marketing operations.

If you consider the above analysis for each platform as a sort of guide, your next step is to identify which kind of product broadly suits your organisation's challenges and needs and then contact those brands for more detailed information and demonstrations.

Make sure you ask lots of questions, get your end users in the room with the company's sales consultants and try to speak with existing customers to get an idea of the pros and cons of the platform you're thinking of buying into.

Where possible, insist on live demos that reflect your specific use cases and make sure the company also offers after sales support in your country (or at least timezone) and in your language.

Finally, get the product's after-sales team as involved as possible in the onboarding and transition process; this will give you and your team a more robust support network while you're getting up to speed and also help the brand understand how to improve their product in the long-term.

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