When the California-based software company EllisLab closed its doors in October 2019, users of its flagship open-source content management system, Expression Engine (EE), were faced with a choice: continue with a product that was under new ownership or find a replacement. The National Catholic Register, one of the United States’ oldest sources of Catholic news and opinion, chose the latter.

 Four months after EllisLab closed, the Register partnered with Sourcefabric, Europe’s largest developer of open-source tools for the news media, to migrate its CMS from EE to Superdesk. By August, the Register’s website will be fully powered by Sourcefabric’s open-source headless CMS and native publishing extension, Superdesk Publisher.

 Editor-in-Chief Jeanette De Melo says the flexibility of open source was an important factor in why the Register, which was founded in 1927, selected Superdesk as its EE successor.

 “We were looking for an open-source platform to meet our needs but appreciate that we didn’t have to build from scratch,” says De Melo. “Superdesk was a good fit because it is built specifically for the news industry. We like that it is being used internationally by news organizations and is meant to scale.”

 For De Melo, autonomy was key. Proprietary CMSs are costly to install and maintain and come with the added burden of being forever dependent on the vendor. With an open-source CMS like Superdesk – which is supported by a large community of news industry users –  the Register can focus on developing its own resources to support, maintain, and develop the site independently. While the Register will use Sourcefabric for its development and server needs now, the newspaper’s owners will proceed with the knowledge that they can take over with their own developers and server at any time.

 A common concern for businesses reliant on open-source tools is what happens if the software developer closes. In the case of EE, which only became open source in 2018, the CMS continues to be maintained. Before shutting its doors, EllisLab sold EE to Packet Tide, another software company. But EE’s new owners concede that the CMS might not always remain free. Superdesk, on the other hand, has open source in its DNA; it was conceived as a free resource built by journalists, for journalists..

 One of the Register’s long-term projects is to digitize its nine decades of archives. De Melo says Superdesk’s powerful search function will be helpful in digitally accessing the newspaper’s old content. Additionally, Superdesk’s robust publishing and planning tools will give the Register the digital horsepower to retain current readers and reach new ones.

But the primary reason to migrate to Superdesk was to help position the Register for future growth. Every month, the Register clocks some 2.4 million page views and nearly one million users at NCRegister.com (as well as a growing print subscription base). De Melo says Superdesk, with it’s efficient workflows and API-first framework, will help the Register grow these impressive numbers even more. 

“The opportunity is to get our religious content out to where readers are and understand well what kind of news they are reading,” she says.

Migrating to a new CMS is never easy. But with an open-source solution like Superdesk, Publishers are always in control of their own destiny. “Superdesk was developed to help journalists and independent news organisations thrive both financially and editorially,” said Sava Tatić, Sourcefabric Managing Director. “We are thrilled to welcome the Register to our growing ranks of Superdesk newsrooms.”

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