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WhiteBeard News Suite

News Suite

Lebanese company produces a very feature-complete, if somewhat clunky, Content Management System (CMS), offering a "one-stop shop" for publishers primarily in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

  • Breadth of platform features as well as vendor professional services makes this a very white-glove -— if not fully mature -— solution, with the added twist of excellent Arabic support
  • The platform best fits mid-sized Independent news organizations, especially those with only minimal technical resources
  • Customers include L’Orient-Le Jour (Lebanon), Al Nahar (Lebanon), Raseef22, and Fatafeat (Dubai)

Likely fit

WhiteBeard is a good fit for publishers in the MENA region, especially those that have a single publication, are digital-first or moving away for print, and don’t have a large in-house team of tech resources.

At a glance

Primary Customer Fit

Mid-sized Independent News Organizations

Secondary Fit

Small Independent News Organization

Most Active Geographies

EMEA

Official Support Hours

24/7/365

Officially Supported Languages for User Interface

AR (LB, SA, EG, JO, AE, OM, BH, SY, QA), US, FR, NL

Third-party Language Support Available?

No

License Model

SaaS, median licensing reported to be 1000 USD/month

Scope Summary

Emphasis on broad (though not necessarily deep) functionality in digital experience and revenue generation, but with comparatively thinner editorial UX

Tech Base

PHP

Cloud Model

SaaS (hosted on Liquidweb)

Headquarters

Beirut, Lebanon

Head Count

33

What customers report

  • Customers appreciate the WhiteBeard team and report the vendor understands the publishing business, making the translation to technology for them
  • Platform offers a very complete solution, to the point that some customers self-report only scratched the surface in terms of possibilities
  • Vendor understands the nuances of publishing in Arabic
  • Can deal with a relatively large number (hundreds) of editors
  • Breadth of functionality built out over time clutters the interface and can prove overwhelming to workaday journalists
  • Platform is ill-suited to print workflows
  • You become closely tied to WhiteBeard as both vendor and implementation partner, and therefore remain dependent on the company’s resource availability

Background

  • WhiteBeard was founded in Beirut (Lebanon) in 2011, as a spin-off from newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour, where the CMS had been in development from 2008. Since then, it has attracted more than a dozen other publications, mostly in Lebanon. While the CTO is based in Amsterdam, the company effectively still operates from Beirut.
  • WhiteBeard’s “News Suite” is a very broad solution, with modules for subscription management, analytics, e-commerce, commenting, planning, and video, all of which can be accessed from the same interface. However, WhiteBeard acknowledges the resulting clutter can be confusing (and they’re working on redesigning it to make it cleaner and easier to use).
  • The content model is fixed and relatively straightforward with the main body content, as well as embedded content (such as social quotes), in one rich text field. (WhiteBeard says it can adapt the content types to the wishes of their customers if needed.) While this is convenient for authors, the resulting content “blobs” can be difficult to re-use between channels and digital presentations.
  • News Suite is a headless CMS, and there is no out-of-the-box front-end; WhiteBeard can develop one for you, or you can do this yourself. Given that the front-end will be closely tied to the back-end CMS (for analytics, commenting, subscriptions, and so on), you’ll probably have to involve WhiteBeard in front-end development in one capacity or another. For print, the company says it has an integration with InDesign, though most customers seem to be either digital-only or have separate automation for print.
  • In terms of fit, then, the platform potentially suits digital-first, small to mid-sized independent news organizations in the MENA region. It presently has less to suit the multi-title needs of chains and would prove overkill for micro-publishers.
  • News Suite is offered as SaaS, with WhiteBeard managing hosting on LiquidWeb in the US. According to the company, median license cost is $1000/month.
  • Apart from the CMS, and related implementation and support, the company also offers more general purpose (web) development services. These seem to account for a large percentage of the revenue. WhiteBeard has no partner network for implementations; as such, in most projects, the company would likely be responsible for the CMS, the website, and app development. The advantage here is that effectively, WhiteBeard is a one stop shop — though the potential drawback, of course, is getting tied in exclusively with the company if you choose their CMS.

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
Yes
Support print publishing
Yes
Simple social media re-publishing
Yes
Optional modules: forms / polls / social widgets / etc
Yes
3rd Party
Connector library (OOTB connectors, APIs, etc.)
Yes
Bundled CDN (with DDOS protection)
Yes
User registration
Yes
Subscription management and fulfillment - digital
Yes
Subscription or membership
Yes
Personalisation
Yes
Ad management - digital
No
3rd Party
Ad management - print
No
3rd Party
Content management
Yes
Research
Yes
Content management
Yes
Video management / OVP
Yes
Audio management / podcasting
Yes
Data journalism and visualisation
Yes
Classifieds
Yes
Commenting / community features/
Yes
3rd Party
Newsletter production and management
Yes
3rd Party
Notifications and alerts
Yes
A/B testing
No
Yes
SEO
Yes
Multi-title management with variable inheritance
Yes
Complex layout and subsite / subsection cloning
No
AR- / VR- enhanced services
No
Audience segmentation
Yes
Online user / partner forums
Yes
Regular user group meetings
No
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