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Insights / Blog / Tech

The future of content management – How headless and decoupled CMS simplify content delivery

January 29, 2024

In recent years, the demands on editorial teams and, consequently, content creation have changed significantly. The increasing number of output channel variations for engaging content presents not only new challenges for creatives but also requires a professional publishing concept and associated control of content distribution. This allows content to be managed and disseminated efficiently. This primarily administrative task is usually located with the creatives themselves and consumes their valuable working time. The contemporary solution: Headless and Decoupled Content Management Systems (CMS) with individual connections to different applications and publishing tools. These systems offer a flexible and future-proof way to partially or even fully automate content distribution across various channels, allowing editors to focus on their primary task: content creation. Furthermore, such systems are architecturally sensible in many enterprise applications to cover content management aspects beyond standard solutions.

What are headless and decoupled content management systems?

The world of Content Management Systems (CMS) has evolved significantly in recent years. While traditional CMS like WordPress or Joomla have long dominated the market, new solutions like Headless and Decoupled CMS are gaining importance. But what exactly do these terms mean?

At their core, Headless and Decoupled CMS differ from traditional CMS in their architecture and functionality. Traditional content management systems are often monolithic, meaning they combine both the backend (content management) and the frontend (content presentation) in a single system. This close link allows for content to be precisely set for the desired output format but also limits adaptability and flexibility in content distribution since the traditional CMS knows only one output channel: itself.

In contrast, a Headless CMS completely separates the backend from the frontend. It provides a backend database and an API (Application Programming Interface) through which content can be accessed. This separation allows developers to flexibly integrate content into various frontends such as websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, or even IoT devices without being bound to a specific template or platform. Editors can create and easily manage posts by maintaining different fields like headlines, subheadings, paragraphs, images, and teasers. The only disadvantage: the presentation of the posts towards consumers is not directly visible, as the presentation cannot be defined in the backend.

Decoupled CMS combine the advantages of both worlds and offer developers the highest degree of flexibility and convenience. Similar to Headless CMS, they retain a standard frontend that can be used for content presentation. This allows editors to view the created content at any time without restricting its further use for other output channels.

Content Repurposing, but how?

The idea of reusing high-quality content sounds attractive, but in practice, it's not always straightforward. First, the desired content variants must be defined in the CMS: headlines, teasers, visualizations with videos and photos, texts of different lengths, and sometimes text variants for different target groups like Boomers or Gen-Z.

What exactly is needed and how the content management systems should be configured vary for each company and application, as this depends greatly on the field of activity and desired outputs. Once this step is completed, the editorial workflows of the CMS support the journey to a well-rounded content set, which can then be released for distribution.

The distribution of content is also an element that can be precisely tailored to one's own requirements and needs. From small helpers that simply enable content transfer at the push of a button and allow a manual quality check per output medium before publication to fully automated campaign orchestration with publications at the push of a button following pre-configured schedules, anything is possible. It's not necessary to predetermine the degree of automation. Rather, it's advisable to approach automation iteratively. While the first publications in a new output channel might still be undertaken with caution and human control, established processes can gradually take over the work of publishing automatically.

The Path to the Goal

While the idea of easier content distribution initially seems to be associated with major changes in the technical ecosystem, the path to success is often easier than expected on second glance. Most of the systems used either come with data extraction capabilities or are already equipped with APIs, making them easy to convert to a Decoupled CMS. Existing publishing tools like Hootsuite also offer APIs for content import and automated publishing. Thus, existing work habits can be maintained while automation is gradually integrated. Starting afresh without constraints is even simpler: A brief evaluation of potential CMS solutions like Strapi, Drupal, or TYPO3 in terms of desired editorial workflows and distributions quickly leads to a CMS that matches individual communication goals.

Technical specifications, such as which simplifications and automations are desirable, form the basis for the specifications of the degree of automation: a service that extracts data from the CMS via API and plays it out on various channels according to predefined business logic, from Insta stories and Facebook posts to blog articles and trade journal submissions. Depending on requirements, all of this can be completely mapped in the code, configuration options can be built in or powerful workflow e-engines such as Camunda can be used, which use integrated visualizations to clearly illustrate to those involved in the process what happens when and based on which rules.

Is the Goal the Goal?

The benefits of using Headless and Decoupled CMS, especially in conjunction with automated distribution, are clear: editorial teams can focus exclusively on content creation, publications are no longer dependent on vacations and require no human intervention. Information on a topic is consistent, any corrections need to be made only in one place in the system. The publications are consistent and follow a clear schema that is always understandable to consumers. And last but not least, content can be presented on all connected channels in the shortest possible time, without a whole group of editors having to manually operate the different output media.

Evaluation Criteria

Depending on the application context, various criteria play a role in selecting a suitable CMS. Below, we have summarized the most important criteria for you:

Functions for Content Creation:

  • Multilingualism and Localization Capabilities: Does the solution support managing multiple languages? What about translation workflows and localization options?
  • Flexible Data Structures: Often it is sensible and necessary to use semantically structured content elements (e.g., “blog post”, “product teaser”, etc.). How flexibly is this supported by the CMS? Is “nesting” (i.e., the interlocking of elements) possible?

Editorial Comfort and Functions:

  • Editorial Workflow: What kind of editorial workflow do you need? Is there a need for multi-stage approvals and more extensive publishing workflows?
  • Content Preview and Quality Checks: What support for quality control does the system offer?
  • Editorial Comfort in the Backend: Is there a good search function? How well can content be structured and categorized? Is a site tree and the creation of navigation structures needed? Can assets be managed?
  • Automation Options: Are time-based publications supported? What other automations are needed?

Development Experience and Operation:

  • Creation of Content Elements: How comfortably can new content elements be deployed and tested? How easily can the system be operated scalably?
  • API Experience: How usable is the offered API? Does it follow clear, structured, and understandable patterns and security requirements? What API standards are supported (Rest, GraphQL, etc.)?
  • Adaptability: Can the system be easily adapted to special requirements? Should an open-source solution be preferred for this purpose?

Auditability and Compliance:

  • SSO Integration: Can the system be well connected to existing IAM/SSO systems?
  • Rights and Roles: How finely granular must rights and roles be assigned and controlled within the editorial team?
  • Auditability: Are all changes logged? Is there a need for rollbacks?

Costs and Operating Model:

  • Ongoing Costs and Possible Licenses
  • SaaS or On-Prem: Is the system available as a SaaS service? Or is an on-premises operation needed?
  • Performance and Scalability: What load requirements need to be ensured?

In the open-source sector, the following solutions are among those that offer advantages in various areas:

  • TYPO3: Comprehensive, established, and proven enterprise CMS with numerous extensions. Can be easily used as a Decoupled CMS.
  • Strapi: CMS specifically developed as a Headless CMS.
  • Drupal: Flexible and established CMS, which can also be used as a Decoupled CMS.


Headless and Decoupled content management systems are more than just a trend. They offer forward-looking solutions for companies that want to efficiently distribute their content across a variety of channels. In this context, they serve as a cornerstone for the professional management of valuable content in conjunction with orchestration tools and publishing tools. The choice of a suitable CMS needs to be well-considered. Do you need support in evaluating a CMS that is precisely tailored to your requirements? We would be happy to advise you in detail on the various options.