In an article by Bill Machrone in PC Magazine called “I Blog/Do Not Blog”, he explains that the type of program used to blog is little different from any Content Management System (CMS) like those used to run CNN, PCMag, and other corporate sites.
A surprising number of people don’t realize that blogging software is a content management system. A CMS is what runs PCMag.com, CNN.com, and thousands of other sites that are characterized by a formatted home page that changes as articles are added, with old ones pushed down, then expiring, but automatically archived and searchable. The software that runs these big sites is phenomenally complex, and the cost of installation would make your eyeballs jiggle. Seven- and eight-digit price tags are the norm, and you can pay up to a million dollars or more (maybe much more) in annual direct-support costs for programming and maintenance.
The defining characteristic of a CMS is that it separates content from presentation. Unlike traditional, static Web pages that mix formatting and content, CMS content is stored in a database, and formatting is applied when the page is built. You can radically alter the look of a site with a few changes to style sheets or other layout descriptors that define font styles and sizes, colors, positioning, backgrounds, and other graphical treatments.
The article goes on to explain the differences between a blogging tool and CMS software, and they are surprisingly few. Cost is one big difference. CMS tends to cost a lot more while blogging software tools are relatively cheap, or, in the case of powerful WordPress, free.
WordPress, like most other blogging tools, stores content in a database and the WordPress Theme (presentation/layout/design) controls the look of how the content is displayed. In this, CMS is no different from a blogging tool.
The only distinctive difference is that a CMS has greater control over what content shows up where within an article such as ads, related posts, recent comments, polling, and other interactive, random, or controlled elements which appear on a web page. Yet, with today’s powerful plugins and add-ons, especially with WordPress, you can add all of these features to your blog, making the line between a blog and a CMS very narrow.
If you check out my main site, Taking Your Camera on the Road, you might miss that I use many of these CMS features on my site. I use random posts set as Article Highlights which offer visitors a glimpse at other content, most recent posts to help people find more current information, related articles to help visitors find related content, and other features to help the user navigate through my site.
On Taking Your Camera on the Road, I use WordPress as a CMS. I love the ability to categorize information and have recently added site search tags which help the visitor find keywords that will generate a search results with those words, finding the information they need. I do not consider my main site a blog, though it is generated with blogging software. This site I consider a blog because WordPress.com is a blog service. I can’t control the layout other than by choosing another from the preset list. I can’t customize it, add plugins, or tweak it, so I consider it a limited blogging tool, which is fine. It does what it needs to do. If I need more, I get the full version of WordPress and turn it into a CMS with the many options, customization, and controls available to me.
As blogging tools become more sophisticated, the line between blogging and CMS will narrow even more. It all benefits us bloggers who can get top quality blogging software for little or no money compared to an expensive CMS, and who would know the difference?