WaPo’s Yuri Victor spoke at WordCamp San Francisco last month about why the Post has adopted WordPress and what it lets them do that other CMSes haven’t. From the description:
The Washington Post used a user-centered design philosophy to radically shift our development process to launch dozens of successful new blogs, platforms and tools in the past year. This philosophy is the reason why we use WordPress. This presentation explores the importance of empathy, brainstorming, rapid prototyping, testing and iterating and how to incorporate these methods to build better products, faster.
(The screenshot of the Post’s other CMS at 9:00 is truly chilling.)
Here’s Yuri’s writeup of an earlier iteration of this talk. From that:
We concentrate so much on the front end, a lot of times we forget about the people who use the system more than anyone. We the people. The reporters, photographers, editors. People like Ezra Klein. People like me.
Everyone hates their CMS. The problem is enterprise software isn’t build for us. It’s built for people who buy enterprise software, not for users. Newspaper CMSes were built to handle every problem ever. They can do newspaper pagination and online management and make waffles.
This makes doing simple things difficult and change near impossible because each change has to worry about every feature. Features rarely help and more often than not they complicate everything else you do going forward.
While I’m a total WordPress apologist (it’s what we run here), it’s also worth noting that while the Post is betting increasingly on WordPress, The New York Times is, broadly speaking, shifting away from it. I believe that’s more in the spirit of systems unification than any particular critique of WordPress; the upcoming Times redesign also blurs the lines between “blogs” and “nonblogs” more fully (hence the recent Times blog killing spree).