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Arc XP

Arc XP Content

Borne out of The Washington Post, Arc XP offers a highly customizable and sophisticated set of tools for content and site management, as well as subscriptions, at the expense of comparatively high complexity and cost.

  • The platform supports sophisticated editorial publishing, website management, and audience development/revgen via a large set of connected modules, from which you can purchase à la carte
  • It's customizability and functional richness make Arc XP best suited to large news organizations that can handle its complexity and support the developer resources required to make it work
  • Some named customers include The Atlanta Journal Constitution (USA), Boston Globe (USA), La Nacion (AR), and El Pais (ES)

Likely fit

Arc XP is best fit for a large news organization and indeed the most contented licensees seem to be large dailies. The firm's global reach and support for six languages in the UX make the platform suitable for EMEA and some parts of Asia-Pac as well. A savvy and well-resourced mid-sized organization could also leverage this platform to stay competitive digitally. Arc XP is poorly suited to news organizations that do not have sizable internal development teams or the financial resources to support the comparatively high TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) that comes with this rich suite of tools.

At a glance

Primary Customer Fit

Large News Organization

Secondary Fit

Mid-Sized Independent News Organization

Most Active Geographies

Global

Official Support Hours

Email / Ticket: 24x7x365

Slack: 24x7x365

Officially Supported Languages for User Interface

DE, EN, ES, FR, JP, KR

Third-party Language Support Available?

No

License Model

Commercial Licensing that includes managed hosting, with fees ranging from $50k to $3m per year, and an estimated median of $400-500k/yr

Scope Summary

Arc XP is a comparatively wide offering, built around a headless Content Management System (CMS) with optional experience platform and subscription services

Tech Base

AWS-based Microservices

Cloud Model

Multitenant SaaS

Headquarters

Washington, DC, USA

Head Count

300

What customers report

  • Likely the most sophisticated media-oriented CMS on the market from a functional standpoint
  • Platform offers a wide array of different services for publishers and editors, but you can pick and choose from among modules you really need
  • Authors and editors seem to value the overall UX, which is stable and highly customizable to their needs
  • The vendor consistently upgrades capabilities across the suite
  • Customer support and account management are well regarded; Arc Digital seems to want to take close care of its licensees
  • Platform is very developer-intensive, and requires ample familiarization, as developers tend to find it arcane, inconsistently documented, and not always leveraging AWS best practices
  • Subscription module provides metrics, but not real analytics; the vendor seems to assume you have an internal Business Intelligence team to do that
  • Some systems (like the Video Center) seem to reflect the Post's editorial approach and workflow and may not downshift effectively to a smaller or less sophisticated news operation
  • Doesn't seem to handle wire ingests very consistently
  • Subscription modules, while wide in scope, still tend to be shallow in depth and missing some features
  • There's some lingering uncertainty about future ownership

Background

  • Arc XP is headquartered in Washington DC, with satellite offices in New York, Chicago, and Denver (USA), as well as a regional office in Paris (FR).
  • The vendor's tech base dates to 2012, but really took off after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquired The Washington Post in 2013 and accelerated funding for the platform, built entirely in AWS, also owned by Bezos. By 2015, the Arc platform went into wide use with the Post and in 2016 obtained its first external licensee, Portland, U.S.-based Willamette Weekly. It's a digital-first platform, though some licensees (including the Post) have plugged it into print CMS platforms for print layout.
  • The Arc XP platform initially suffered from some immaturity, but still landed early adopters, including mid-sized news organizations, based on an early Arc XP strategy of charging very low licensing and hosting fees while requiring you to employ their professional services teams to implement what was then a very toolkit-like collection of services. In the past five years, the firm has cemented the offering into a more coherent whole and charges licensees accordingly, with median fees running from $400-500K per year, plus typically about that much in initial implementation costs. A white paper on Arc's website suggests that annual fees span from $50K to more than $3M, likely based on newsroom size and traffic volumes.
  • Today, Arc XP consists of a set of modules that in theory you can license à la carte, although most larger news organizations seem to purchase most or all of the set. The pieces cluster around three platforms:
    • Arc XP Content, comprised of Web Sked (a scheduling module), Composer (headless authoring environment), Video Center, Photo Center, and Exchange (bidirectional syndication)
    • Arc XP Experience Platform, an optional content delivery and website management environment, with Page Builder Editor (WYSIWYG page assembly) and Page Builder Engine (front-end development environment, based on React)
    • Arc XP Subscriptions, with Identity (subscription management), Retail (purchase), and Sales (metrics)
  • Arc XP Content is the oldest part of the platform and most mature. It's a headless CMS that focuses on article authoring/scheduling/publishing usability and efficiency. Note the separate applications for video and photo editors; Arc clearly targets newsrooms sizable enough that those comprise two different desks. WebSked is an impressive calendar and planning service that spans from article pitches to multi-channel syndication of published posts and everything in-between. Content authoring is very reporter- and editor-friendly at the expense of formalized structure. There are no structured content types with set fields; each story gets built from the ground up as a kind of large rich-text area where authors can add pretty much whatever they want. Authors can leverage custom "power-ups" in the WYSIWYG editor, which allow them to do things like embed videos, data tables, event listings, and other components, in lieu of getting restricted by a locked-down template.
  • Arc XP Experience is a platform upon which you build an actual front-end website, using the React Javascript framework. It includes a nifty drag-and-drop interface for assembling pages from components, but the overall environment typically requires heavy customization for each new client, and a large share of ongoing developer work seems to happen here.
  • Arc XP Subscriptions is newer and less mature, with potential scope for an unusually broad range of custom subscription options, albeit with some lingering bugginess and difficulties extending subscription models across titles and sites.
    Overall this is a very powerful platform that requires substantial development resources for care, feeding, and upgrades. One 200-person newsroom licensee keeps 10 Arc-trained developers on staff to work on digital product; some of this is for custom modules like specialized video presentations. The platform supports and even invites this sort of innovation. However, a less developer-rich news organization would likely not be able to handle Arc XP or would have to outsource potentially expensive development to a third party. In other words, despite a legacy licensee base of varying sizes, Arc today is best suited to large news organizations.
  • By many accounts, the firm continues to grow revenues handily, reportedly now seeing annual turnover above $100M but evidently also still loses money at this level. News reports surfaced in late 2022 of Bezos acceding to Post executives' requests to spin off the company amid interest from investment firms and the departure of some early Arc visionaries. Recent quarters have seen Arc selling into non-news media enterprises including British Petroleum, to expand its commercial base. So while the platform clearly exhibits a solid "up" arrow in the market, it's possible Arc XP will find new institutional owners sometime in the future.

Package scope (as reported by vendor)

Core platform - i.e., bundled in product (yes/no/beta) Add-On (yes/custom/3rd party)
Content lifecycle: author / classify / edit / approve / publish / re-purpose / archive / dispose
Yes
Basic digital / voice / media asset management
No
3rd Party
Support print publishing
No
3rd Party
Simple social media re-publishing
No
3rd Party
Optional modules: forms / polls / social widgets / etc
No
3rd Party
Connector library (OOTB connectors, APIs, etc.)
Yes
Bundled CDN (with DDOS protection)
Yes
User registration
Yes
Subscription management and fulfillment - digital
Yes
3rd Party
Subscription or membership
Yes
Personalisation
No
Custom
Ad management - digital
No
3rd Party
Ad management - print
No
Content management
Yes
Research
No
3rd Party
Content management
Yes
Video management / OVP
Yes
Audio management / podcasting
No
Data journalism and visualisation
Yes
3rd Party
Classifieds
No
3rd Party
Commenting / community features/
No
3rd Party
Newsletter production and management
No
3rd Party
Notifications and alerts
Yes
A/B testing
Yes
SEO
Yes
Multi-title management with variable inheritance
No
Custom
Complex layout and subsite / subsection cloning
Yes
AR- / VR- enhanced services
No
Audience segmentation
No
Online user / partner forums
Yes
Regular user group meetings
Yes
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