OpenSense Labs: An extensive study on Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) with Drupal

An extensive study on Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) with Drupal
Maitreayee Bora
Mon, 09/20/2021 – 16:16

People of the modern era have witnessed the impact of the digital revolution that has successfully connected the whole world through the medium of technology. Sitting at the cozy corner of your home you can explore the new cuisines added in your favourite restaurant nearby. How about going trekking this weekend? You can get an idea about the best treks with the help of information available over the internet. So, have you ever wondered how the digital content is maintained and made accessible to the large audience across various channels with every new update or information? Well it is made possible with the help of “create once and publish everywhere” (COPE) where you can just create the content once and publish the same in every digital format over multiple platforms, also enhancing the digital outreach. In this article, I will take you through the details of this significant term, C.O.P.E. with Drupal. 

What is meant by create once, publish everywhere (COPE)?

Create once, publish everywhere (COPE) is a strategy that helps in content creation and distribution. With COPE, instead of creating content multiple times over multiple pages, you can manage a single piece of content in one place and publish it in many different platforms for either the first time or the hundredth. Due to this unique facility, more organizations are seen adopting the COPE model that helps in managing their increasing demands over content creation and distribution. Let us look into an example for better understanding. Assume that you own a fashion house and it has a very exciting website. Now, it so happens that you plan to change your business hours which are present in every page of your website. If your website has got 25 pages, does that mean you will have to make changes in all the pages? Not really. Because with COPE you can form a panel or a block which holds your business hours and can instruct your content management system (CMS) that you want that particular block to appear in each page of your website. So, now when you change your business hours, you will only have to change that particular block, and it will get updated over all the pages of your website with just one click. 

COPE was first pioneered by National Public Radio (NPR) to make multimedia content sharing and publishing easy across various devices, email marketing, social media and many more. In regard to the significance of COPE, NPR states that with the growing need of digital content, the opportunities for content providers have increased massively. Therefore, to blow away the audience with amazing pieces of content, the content providers also require distribution platforms and APIs. But along with those, they essentially need to follow the philosophy of COPE which ensures content portability and modularity. Below is a diagram representing NPR’s content management pipeline and how it adopts the COPE principles. The diagram depicts the main principle that is to have content producers and ingestion scripts channel content into just one system or series of nearly tied systems. Also, it illustrates that regardless of content destinations, or its type, the distribution of all content can be done uniformly.  

A diagram describing NPR's Content Management Pipeline, demonstrating COPE (Create once, publish everywhere)
Source: NPR

With the growing technology, the interaction between the customer and the brands are constantly changing. The users are no longer accustomed to the traditional way of using websites or applications. They are seen connecting to your brands via IoT devices, conversational UIs and wearables. With their exclusive requirements, the customers actively engage with the organization’s content and data over various platforms. Due to the increase in the different channels through which the content is shared, the marketing team felt the need of treating content more like data. The marketers started to conceptualize content in the form of html pages, however the page architecture cannot be applied to all of the content available today. So, here comes the need of adaptation towards the models of structured content. Treating the content like data helps the marketers to practice the approach of COPE across various channels, and  executing structured content enables in extending an organization’s reach at the same time. 

To get a better learning experience about “create once, and publish everywhere” (C.O.P.E) you can go through these informative sessions below.


Where can you find COPE?

Now, here comes the question, where do you find COPE? Basically, you’re running into such type of content over various websites you engage in. For example, Healthcare websites that are related to clinic locations, doctors. Retail websites where you can view products of your choice. News websites that are related to news or information. Entertainment websites where you can watch your favorite shows, movies and many more. Finally, to end with, recipe websites related to recipes and blog posts. 

Why shall you COPE?

A diagram describing the reasons to COPE (Create once, publish everywhere)
By far in brief you got an idea what exactly is COPE. Now, it’s very essential to know the reasons for implementing it. Since, it is a big initiative that requires time, technical resources and cooperation from various groups at your organization.

Provides scalability

As we know that publishing content is just not limited to the web. With growing times, the number of systems and devices which consume content is increasing. Companies are seen publishing everywhere their content through digital signage, mobile apps, televisions and wearable technology as well. There is a need to make your content ideally scalable as you will have no time to manage your content in a different place for every output. So, having the capacity to create and update content in one single place is the best way to ensure scalability for a long term, and which is undoubtedly provided by COPE.

Provides growth with less resources

One of the important benefits COPE provides is that even with less resources you get the opportunity to grow and develop. A lot of money and time can be saved by not having the burden of creating different content for different platforms. Some of the companies who allow members from non-marketing departments to create content find it difficult to get those professionals to deliver and update content as per requirements. By executing COPE, some of these problems can be resolved as the duplication of content can be eliminated for different platforms.

Provides wider audience reach

COPE allows your organization to circulate content to a growing number of channels. For example, you might post a piece of content to your newsroom and associate it with some particular keywords or categories. Then the content’s summary will automatically be shown up on the newsroom’s homepage, on the main website homepage, and also in category-specific RSS feeds. Additionally, a link to your content and a summary will be shared on social-media automatically, also the users of your mobile app will receive a notification of the accessibility of the new content that can be read by them on their Android phones, iPhones, iPads and tablets. So, with COPE you have the facility of publishing your content over different mediums, also enhancing your audience reach at the same time. 

Provides accessibility

With COPE you can make your content accessible to a wide range of platforms through various formats that allows the people with disabilities to consume content without facing any difficulty. Accessibility can be provided in various forms. This approach is just not providing content accessibility to vision impaired users but also to users who are reading impaired, hearing impaired, neurologically impaired and the ones who are technologically challenged i.e. having slow or no internet access at all. Therefore, all these issues can be solved with the help of this approach.

Provides easier redesign

The web design trends keep on changing frequently, so the organizations need to go through a comprehensive redesign of their sites within a few years or constantly get involved in making iterative changes to their websites. In cases like this, if you do not have the basic principle of COPE i.e. the separation of content completely from the presentation layer, then you will have to create the new design and then copy the existing content into the new templates manually which is so troublesome. But with COPE, by separating content from the design, you don’t have to be concerned about the migration process, since you have the option of applying a different presentation to your content.

Enhances content freshness and accuracy

Managing your content in multiple places can not just be dull and time consuming but it can degrade the quality of your content negatively. If you have to log into various systems to create the same content in just different formats, you might lack enthusiasm in creating fresh content which could bring a negative impact over your Search Engine Results Page Ranking (SERP). Additionally, handling different types of content in numerous places further makes it difficult to provide exact accuracy over all channels. So, all these risks can be handled well by the COPE approach. And the users will be enabled to enter content into structured fields that helps them to personalize specific sections for particular destinations and outputs. The content creation also can be increased by pulling in links to related content that is recently published. 

What does it take to execute COPE?

This section will give you an understanding of what exactly it takes to implement COPE. So, let’s find out.
A  diagram describing what exactly it takes to implement COPE (Create once, publish everywhere)

Separate content and design

The complete separation of content from the presentation layer is one of the primary prerequisites of COPE as you will have to produce your content in any presentation. One important thing to emphasize upon is the need for the appropriate CMS as it works as content capturing tools that are very particular about where or how the content should be viewed, be it a mobile app, web page, TV etc to completely separate the content from the display. You will have to be careful from the content management systems that can distract your content contributors from prioritizing upon publishing quality and fresh content. 

Better structured content entry

Karen McGrane, a content strategist and website accessibility advocate explains the need for more structured content entry. She uses the terminology “dumb blobs versus smart chunks” in her talks around the world. So, dumb blobs are large pieces of content which are managed in one WYSIWYG editor that is similar to a Word document. With this there is a problem, it basically comprises your capacity to share content of different versions like condensed versions for a different website or a synopsis on a homepage. When it comes to executing COPE, content modularity is the key. It is the same as object-oriented programming that enables you to write your code in small, hugely reusable chunks. COPE essentially makes you understand that you need to be away from the dumb blobs and rather make your content entry forms even more smarter. You need to go beyond a monolithic WYSIWYG area by replacing it with much more structured data like content blocks, text fields and textareas, file choosers, pertinent metadata fields such as category, tags and keywords, summary and start and end date.

Cross-platform facility

Both proprietary and open source content management systems are seen struggling with cross-site sharing of content. You need to evaluate whether your CMS is capable enough to share content across sites and pages, and also inspect how it enables content sharing by non-technical users. In case, if you want to move to another system, then it is very important to carefully inspect and examine, also test how the ones which you are assessing supports the content sharing over websites and pages. While evaluating your present CMS, it is imperative to carefully analyze how to produce a single piece of content in as many different formats as you require without duplicating any content. You will have to figure out whether your CMS allows you to manage as many different websites as you require and also publish your content to limitless destinations. 

What are the challenges you face while coping?

Every coin has two sides, so with benefits also comes challenges. Here we will dive into the challenges you might face while coping.
A diagram describing the challenges one face during COPE (Create once, publish everywhere)

Paradigm shift

For some of the organizations, executing COPE requires an extreme paradigm shift. Some of the contributors might be very protective about their content and hesitant to have it published beyond their control, while others might have a concern that the content which is irrelevant to their page may accidentally be pulled in. Additionally, COPE necessitates you to think differently about the content. For instance, rather than creating “big blobs” which do not allow you to share smaller chunks of content to various platforms, COPE suggests you break your content entry forms into various structured blocks and fields. And in result, it will be time consuming for your “WYSIWYG blob” lobby to get a proper understanding about how your organization and audience will be benefited by the shift.

Requires investment

Depending on your current infrastructure, you might need to make some investments. Let’s say, for example, all the content management systems do not support COPE, and executing a more new, more appropriate CMS also integrating it with other systems can be time consuming and require resources. Training all your content contributors also requires time, and considering that if you don’t go for a CMS switch, you will need to re-work your content entry forms to further allow users to enter content in a much more structured way to attain portability. Ultimately, you will have to ensure that you tend to separate the content from the presentation layer, also providing the contributors the facility to enter content in small chunks instead of big blobs via WYSIWYG editor. One more important aspect is the need to explain to the stakeholders about the requirements and benefits of COPE. With the help of examples of companies like NPR who have successfully executed COPE, you can convince your stakeholders to consider adopting the most essential COPE approach.

Too much COPE is troublesome

A very important thing to remember is that COPE doesn’t signify you to randomly push all content to all platforms. Excessive use of this approach will bring the risk of losing your audience as they will be provided with content that might not be relevant to them. Therefore, it is advisable to be very strategic and recognize which content is suitable to which platforms or channels. Content marketing tools and analytics can be used to understand in detail about the different elements of your target audience, also measure your content effectiveness and strategize your plan accordingly.

What is the right way to COPE?

We have now understood the significance of COPE with the above explanations but along with that we should also be knowing the right approach of COPE. So, this section will exactly guide you with it.
A diagram describing the right way to COPE

Understanding your users

Adopting a user-centred design approach will help you in preparing your content according to the mindsets and behavioural patterns of the users. By using proper research and testing of the users preferences, you can provide your audience a seamless multi-channel experience of useful and relevant content.

Reviewing your tech stack

There is a necessity for a strong technology infrastructure, and the right content strategy that enables in delivering at the right time, the right content to the right person in the right format. To provide such a seamless delivery there is a need for a very sophisticated content management system that can easily identify which device your website or applications are being viewed on and also adapt what’s displayed suitably. 

Refreshing your internal and external resources

One of the important aspects that mostly gets unnoticed is the internal culture and processes. If your teams are busy working in silos then you won’t be able to get a clear and complete picture of the content creation that would further lead to dissatisfied and disaffected customer experience. 

Getting in touch with your stakeholders

Stakeholders are a very important part of the project’s success. You cannot afford to miss the opportunity to contact them at the early stage when you decide to adopt the COPE approach into your business. There is a need for transparency between you and the stakeholders where you can explain to them the significance of this approach and how hugely the business can be benefited by adopting COPE.

Establishing high-level goals

At the beginning it is important to recognize your analytics and know where you exactly want to head towards. Without making them your sole focus, you need to have a SMART that stands for ‘specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely’ goal for your business.

Documenting your future plan

By hitting the ‘Publish’ button on your website, you do not finish your responsibility towards COPE. Since your work towards the web can never be finished. You will have to boost up your team by having frequent discussions where they can document all their plans, marketing strategies to meet the team goals and objectives. Things like identifying how and when the content shall be governed across the website needs to be looked after closely for better outcomes.

COPE with Drupal

It is well known to us that the digital networks consist of a variety of applications, and therefore all your organization’s can depend upon Drupal as the platform for content creation. So, by adopting an API-first architecture, Drupal can empower all your digital systems. Organizations are seen selecting a decoupled Drupal approach for various benefits. Headless Drupal or Decoupled Drupal uncouples the back-end which is accountable for presenting content, enabling Drupal to display content to other front-end systems, also allowing digital tools to utilize the tools of their convenience while sharing content over various channels. 

To execute a decoupled or headless Drupal architecture, organizations require a platform that enables developers to work with both traditional Drupal sites and decoupled Drupal projects as well.

Here, we will now look into how decoupled Drupal works. The developers with decoupled Drupal architecture gets the option of working with Drupal in the following modes.

  • With a completely decoupled Drupal approach, Drupal’s back-end serves as a decoupled CMS, managing and storing data, also availing it to the front-end systems of the developer’s preferences to deliver the content and communicate with Drupal via web service APIs.
  • Developers can choose a hybrid (progressively decoupled) Drupal approach, where a layer of JavaScript gets added to a webpage to provide a single block or component, or to build a communicative end-user experience.

More about the different options of decoupling Drupal here.

Drupal can be an excellent CMS for editors who need to have control over their content presentation and also be a rich headless CMS for developers building huge content ecosystems in one single package. With the help of the below diagram, you will get a clear understanding about the difference between a traditional Drupal site and a headless CMS.
A diagram describing the difference between a traditional Drupal site and a headless CMS.
The headless CMS steps back in the areas like in-context administration and in-place editing of content while Drupal focuses on allowing an editor to manage content and page structure in an interface beside a live preview instead of an interface that is entirely separate from the front-end user experience. Headless CMSes are unable to provide a full-fledged editorial experience which is integrated into the front ends to the ones they serve content. In order to make the marketers successful there is a need for a proper display and layout manipulation. But headless CMSes do not hold a strong opinion about display and layout settings and therefore fail to provide the required assistance to the marketers. Whereas one of the key features of Drupal is the capability to control where content appears in a layout structure. One more facility that editors and marketers want is the access to an easy preview system for the unpublished content. But in the headless CMS paradigm, developers will have to come into the picture to deliver a seamless preview by setting up a new API endpoint and deploying a distinct version of their application which issues requests against new ways. Therefore, headless CMS lacks in providing a seamless preview to the marketers and editors as there is an interference of the developers without whose assistance they cannot preview the content on their own. 

So, from the above discussion it is clear that the features provided by Drupal are simply unique in comparison to other headless CMSes. Therefore, Drupal is certainly the first choice for an editor and a developer who enthusiastically look forward to working hand-in-hand with the latest technology and trends.

Learn more about decoupled Drupal here:


If you want to sustain your content management for a long-term, then all you need to do is adopt the COPE framework. This approach will need you to change your perspective towards managing your content to make it available to a wide range of audiences through multiple platforms and channels. And implementing COPE with Drupal will be the best way to ensure your organization the route to success.

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