“Sometimes media analyzing is not about unveiling what you didn’t know, but about validating things you already did know”

Rayna Grudova-de Lange

Interview with Rayna Grudova-de Lange, CEO of DeLange Analytics, a research and analytics agency in Bulgaria.

Hi Rayna, what is your background and what is included in your current role at DeLange Analytics?

As managing director of the company, my role includes absolutely everything. I’m responsible for the strategic vision, partnerships and client relationships and presenting the company to external parties. I need to think about positioning and how to respond to the changing environment, as well as how to implement those ideas. I have high profile analysts and project managers in my team that really think with me here, but in the end, it is me who draws the line.

What distinguishes DeLange Analytics from other research and analytics agencies?

It’s not a secret that we live in extremely dynamic times. Everything changes so fast and clients and their business problems are all different. That’s why I don’t believe in standard offerings and methodologies. They used to work some 10 years ago but not anymore.

We’re different because we take a very tailored approach with our customers, developing analyses and research exactly around their needs. Our ultimate goal is to help the client answer the questions, and to make them ask questions that they haven’t asked themselves before. So we really seek what is behind their request—if they have one at all. We start with close conversations to understand the client and end up with a sketched approach which we think reflects their business case. And we offer this in many different languages for many different markets. My team members are all multilingual.

What are some of your greatest challenges ahead at DeLange Analytics?

At the beginning of the social media era, it was much easier to access the data and provide a comprehensive analysis. Many social channels like Facebook and then Instagram started closing themselves for third party technology providers to harvest their data due to internal politics and privacy. China, for example, is a very important market to cover but because of its internal politics you can only get very limited access. We still include them in in our analyses, but only manually, which means you’re getting fewer valuable data points. We tackle this by introducing something we call “integrated analysis” in our industry. But blending different types of data and analysis to build a comprehensive picture it is very challenging, and it increases costs.

There is also the rising importance of chats like WhatsApp and Telegram. Brands start talking more to their customers via those platforms. They’re important for understanding the relationship between a brand and the customers, and how the customer journey goes. But they are once again closed data.

What is a common misconception your customers have regarding research and analytics?

When you present to experts—the engineers, or the sales team—they know their product pretty well. So often when we present an analysis to clients, they say: “Okay. But we already know that.” Sometimes analyzing is not about unveiling what you didn’t know, but about validating things you already did know.

You may know things because of your experience in the industry, but very often, you don’t have the data to prove it and you need it, for example, to communicate with your colleagues from another country. There is a huge difference between the market in Brazil versus Mexico, or Kazakhstan versus Canada. The misconception would be, I would say, that you constantly need to review new things.

Regarding the actual analytics, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

I see challenges and opportunities coming around Web3. We see that brands and companies are already trying different marketing strategies for the Metaverse, but we don’t know exactly what types of content (data) we will use, if we will be able to measure it and how. There are many question marks in terms of the strategic developments of the Internet.

You are a board member of AMEC – International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication. What is the most important thing AMEC brings to its members?

I’ve been an AMEC-member for several years and I’m passionate about it. AMEC is the biggest international association for measurement and evaluation companies like mine and bigger corporations. They are all about moving forward through innovation to establish best practices as well as thinking outside the box. They look back at old methods to explain why they are now outdated. Lots of educational resources are freely accessible and they help not only communication professionals, but also students in universities in every part of the world to understand this sector that is in fact quite a niche. I think this form of education is extremely important.

Within AMEC we have specialized groups such as the College & Education Group that I’m part of. We just released a foundation course for measurement and evaluation in communications. We’re producing all our courses and tutorials from scratch. We’re really trying to help the industry become more advanced by creating these resources, by helping people understand.

How would you like to see AMEC evolve in the future?

I would like to see them drive innovation in the industry even further. I think that we are obliged to create new analyses, approaches, and methodologies to answer the latest requirements. AMEC offers all sorts of impactful events throughout the year. For example, there is the annual summit where not only members, but also other external companies can share knowledge, practices, and challenges. AMEC is a great platform for that.

What is the thing that makes you work hard to grow DeLange Analytics to the next level?

When I started, around 2010, we were innovators in terms of establishing and creating social media analyses. Clients didn’t know yet that social media was important. They didn’t know how to use it, measure it and what the effect of that could be. It turned us into consultants. Every one or two years a similar strong development happens—now it is blockchain, NFTs and so on—that people must adapt to as soon as possible to lead their clients, because they don’t know how to react. This makes you a very trusted partner which is incredibly appreciative. It gives me the satisfaction that I’ve done a good job, because I’ve helped somebody do his work better.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

“We do something important, because even in times of war our customers stay with us”

Oksana Kononova

Interview with Oksana Kononova, co-founder and CEO of Looqme, a media intelligence company in Ukraine.

Hi Oksana, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Looqme?

My background is in communications and analytics. I’ve been working in this area for us for about 16 years. I’m leading teams and projects. At Looqme, most of my tasks are about strategic management and leadership. I need to decide what we’re going to do next, how to find our partners et cetera.

Of course, things are different now with the war. During the last four to five months, it has been a lot of small tasks like talking to all our employees daily to check in how they are and how they are controlling the finances. I never had to do these things before, and I hope very much that it will be over soon.

What distinguishes Looqme from other media intelligence companies?

In general, we show our consumers how to merge social media and mainstream media. We focus on showing the impact of these types of communication. This way we try to grow our customers’ results. We use traditional ways, like reports and different indicators that a lot of companies have, but we also have a great data science team that deals with huge amounts of mentions to develop new things. They are able to find insights that are not visible with the manual approach.

Can you describe how the recent Russian invasion affected the company’s operations?

It’s very stressful: for the country, the people, for me personally and my team. The first months were very scary. I didn’t know if we would survive or not. There was the real threat of Russian occupations in the big cities, so people started to move quickly without knowing where they were going. They were just moving from place to place, and nobody knew when it was going to stop. I had to figure out how to ground all these people somewhere and ensure online internet access, so we could still work together. The same with our customers; for a while, I actually didn’t know how many customers we still had, because we couldn’t contact anyone. Now we do know, and the new questions evolve around what is going on and how to move on.

I think that we more or less reflect the whole economy right now. We had to cut the team with around 10% which was very difficult, but it had to be done to survive. We lost 30% percent of revenue compared to February, and I think that is a great result. Other companies have lost much more. And we have new customers as well. Our major clients are from Ukraine, but we now face a lot of requests outside of Ukraine, globally. This is great. It means that we all are trying to find new ways to do business, make money and stay here.

All people working in media monitoring and analytics know that their product is not a life-or-death question. And usually when it comes to cutting costs, marketing, PR, and communications are the first to go. It was the same during covid times. For me these times prove that we do something important, because even in times of war – when it is difficult to find money to pay for your company’s needs, our customers try not to cancel all contracts and stay with us.

Congratulations, that is amazing. And concerning your consumers, how have you seen their needs shift because of the invasion?

Many people think it is about anti-crisis campaigns, but I don’t see them much. I do see more requests for analytical support for strategic communications. Companies and government ask how specific topics and brands are presented in Ukraine, Europe or globally. The situation changes constantly – basically every hour, and we see that Governmental offices try to cope with this and try to understand how to communicate their messages. They ask us for research to grasp what the difference is between before the war and now, because all strategies ought to be changed.

How have your clients changed their communication towards their customers since the invasion started?

Social media is now extremely popular because we didn’t have much content from traditional mainstream media for a few months. It was obviously all about the war and TV channels were all broadcasting the same content. So, except for social, there were not so many channels companies could communicate through.

There is also the fact that you can’t communicate something funny now because these are not the times to entertain people. Companies must balance between what they have to say to sell their products and keeping it polite, without hurting anyone.

What has surprised you the most in Ukrainians reaction to the invasion?

The courage and bravery of ordinary people. I’m proud of my team members that try to support each other and their relatives and friends through the different communities and people. It is people that gave shelter to people, like I have never seen before. It is something that really amazes me and motivates me to keep going.

What are some of the greatest challenges you experienced with Looqme before, and what challenge of the future will bring the company to the next level?

One of the biggest challenges we had within the company in the very beginning was merging two companies together. I have a degree in management, so I read about the difficulties around different corporate cultures, but only when I finally faced it my own, I understood how important it is to have shared values and translate them into real actions. If you do the same business with a different approach, it is difficult to create a great new team. Also, we made a change in business model from traditional media agency to B2B. We had to create a new design from scratch, develop the product itself from the IT point of view, create a data science team and another type of customer support. Each step of the work has a big story behind it and now, we have really good team.

The future challenges are more about how to choose the things that you should and should not do with your IT and data science team. For example, around 10 years ago people started to talk about integrated marketing and now I think it’s coming back. And we are working on the kind of analytical communications support that can translate numbers into actionable insights – to find something more than just a quantity. But bottom line is that it is difficult to plan anything at the moment.

Will the invasion have any long-lasting affect in media intelligence for the coming years?

No, I don’t think so. Because we don’t see anything new in communications because of this war. We do see a lot of propaganda from Russia and Ukraine that is forced into the European and American media landscape and how China and other countries react. It is certainly interesting to see how that develops but it is not something absolutely new.

What are the challenges ahead related to media intelligence?

Firstly, I believe that media intelligence needs to move faster to keep up with artificial intelligence and machine learning. I think that we suffer a lot from conservative ways of thinking because public relations is not so used to Big Data as marketing. They often expect data to be perfectly clear and precise, which makes us slower because we have to spend time and effort to clean everything up. We need a new approach to data and how to use it so we can move faster and develop modules, because I do believe – as this war proved again – that media is important.

Secondly, that reputation is important, also as a small business. Reputation is built through mainstream media and your actions, and we have to find new ways to communicate it. It is the only thing that now helps Ukrainian businesses to move on. Reputation makes people forgive your mistakes and it keeps you alive when you don’t have any other tools to promote yourself with.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

“We need to rethink what social media data is: people talking to each other”

Jeremy Hollow

Interview with Jeremy Hollow, CEO of the UK-based social media intelligence company Listen + Learn Research.

Hi Jeremy, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Listen + Learn Research?

I’m the founder and CEO of Listen + Learn Research. I used to work in traditional market research before I started the company more than ten years ago now.

As the CEO of Listen + Learn Research, I do a little bit of everything; it’s a very hands-on role. I do a lot of business development, I oversee the operational and the financial side of the business, as well as talk to our clients about what their needs are and how we can help them design projects around that. We are in quite a niche market, so a lot of my time is spent on evangelizing the value of the data and how to use it.

Our business is all about helping people get access to better data and to think better about their creativity, innovation, and strategy. We give people a different perspective on consumers’ lives and what’s important to them, so they can create better outcomes for their business.

So, you’re operating in a rather specific media intelligence market. What distinguishes Listen + Learn Research from other companies?

The first is our focus on social media data. On platforms like TikTok, loads of people are making buying decisions. Yet consumer research teams don’t think of TikTok as a consumer insight tool. The challenge is to use those platforms in the same way that you would use focus group data or survey data. If we’re not using social data to inform our opinion about consumer needs, we’re missing out on a massive slice of the pie.

We are, secondly, different in our qualitative research approach. Most media intelligence agencies do analytical work with quantitative analyses and their outputs are usually just dashboards. We’re, in contrast, text analysts who read everything ourselves. So we can understand audiences’ nature, their characteristics, emotions, where they go for inspiration, what they’re trying to achieve, what the barriers are, and how they use social to connect. Once you understand that, you know how to talk to them.

When it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer, what are your greatest challenges ahead at Listen + Learn Research?

In terms of growing our business, the biggest challenge has been inertia. Many of the people we talk to don’t use social media, so they don’t value it and don’t understand how powerful it is. Companies are very fixed and lots of attention goes into our brand trackers and easy numbers. It’s hard to get people to put that aside and try something new.

The other challenge is that people use social listening tools mainly for short-term projects to answer specific questions with quantitative tools to cut the data. We need to rethink what social media data is: people talking to each other. You can use this data for a deeper kind of analysis by immersing yourself deeper in it, or you’ll miss out on growth opportunities. It’s challenging for us to show these opportunity costs.

Do you see any misconceptions that your current and potential clients have regarding what media intelligence can give them?

That social is full of angry and super excited people. There is a lot more mundane, everyday content on there too. It also varies across different platforms: each of them has its own sort of language and codes of conduct.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

The market for data is not very transparent. Instagram is very difficult to get hold of and TikTok is currently without an API. This is a massive shame because they have hugely interesting communities with data that we would love to access if they were publicly available. Furthermore, we need a way to process visual data and link back to it. We have issues around collection and how to get it from the platform into a tool that makes it usable. There are also questions around data quality and making sure that it’s clean.

With your great experience, what has surprised you the most with the development of social media over the last 10 years?

I did not see TikTok coming. What started with some dancing teenagers has become everything. It took that leap from Twitter and Instagram with just some texts and pictures to another dimension – creating so much more data in the process.

Is there a specific mouthwatering case that you know of where media intelligence really has played a crucial role for a client?

We did a lot of work for a global healthcare company to help them better understand the needs of expats. We helped them identify a range of healthcare concerns across the markets they operate in. As a result, they’ve rolled out new services across 35 markets already. We can now look back and say that our work has made people’s lives better.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

A real challenge will be to mature the ethics around data collection. The processing of text data will get more sophisticated. It may also expand to visuals. I’m also curious about the Metaverse: we’ll find out soon whether it is something that people are genuinely interested in.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

“Paid and shared media will continue to increase at the expense of owned and earned media”

Edith Stier-Thompson

Interview with Edith Stier-Thompson, Managing Director of news aktuell, a PR solutions company from Germany.

Hi Edith, what is your background and what is included in your current role at news aktuell?

Since the beginning of my career, I have been working in the media business, in particular for news agencies. I started in the field of media pictures for Associated Press before I switched to the dpa Group in 2002. From 2002 onwards, I was head of the sales department for the dpa-subsidiary Picture Alliance GmbH before I was appointed managing director in 2007.

Since September 2014, I have been working as Managing Director at news aktuell GmbH, a fully owned subsidiary of the dpa-Group. I’m responsible for over 135 people. Together, we provide companies and organizations with effective access to both media and consumers.

What differentiates news aktuell from other PR solutions companies?

With news aktuell, it is extremely easy for customers to place stories on all external channels and to specific target groups that are important to them and the success of their business. Our solutions offer a wide range of customization, allowing our customers to be very precise and target-focused in their media work.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We are currently working on expanding our media database tool called zimpel and adding influencers to the tool. In addition, we are developing our native advertising services.

What part of your current products has a lot of potential but has not yet been adopted fully by your clients?

Visibility and reach are one thing, but in the end, it is also important to analyse the performance of your PR activities. For this, we offer a so-called “ots-Monitoring” – service in cooperation with our partner ARGUS Data Insights. This service has not yet been fully adopted by our clients, not even among those who do not have their own company monitoring.

What are the most common mistakes companies make in their everyday PR communication?

We often see that companies have great stories to tell but try to do so mainly through text. Often, they offer no or little multimedia material or material of poor quality. Therefore, there is a lack of professional images, graphics and/or videos to accompany the story. This is unfortunate, since multimedia material is often extremely important for media to take up the content.

In addition, many companies are not yet optimally positioned in the digital environment. Relying purely on one channel, in particular earned media, no longer works these days. It has become crucial to actively place stories yourself, for example through native ads or in your own newsroom in our “Presseportal”, which strongly supports companies’ efforts to be found prominently in search engines.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at news aktuell, when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer?

The challenge is to always be mentally ahead of the market, our customers and their needs – only then can we provide services and solutions which help companies to succeed in today’s media landscape.

What changes in the PR industry have surprised you the most over the years?

The biggest surprise has been the triumphant march that corporate communications has made in recent years. A few years ago, many communication professionals still had to fight for their right to exist, which is now completely out of the question.

How do you think the PR industry and distribution will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead for the industry?

The importance of channels will continue to shift. Paid and shared media will continue to increase at the expense of owned and earned media. There is no way around social media (and especially social ads). In addition, the importance of internal communication and CSR communication will continue to increase significantly. The greatest challenge for companies is to get through to their target groups and stakeholders in the flood of information, and to position themselves authentically and convincingly.

By Peter Appleby

“Changing customer needs pose an increasing challenge”

Gábor Bundschuh

Interview with Gábor Bundschuh, Head of Development & Innovation at D-TAG Analytics Inc, a media intelligence company in the US.

Hi Gábor, what is your background and what is included in your current role at D-TAG Analytics?

I have been working with different Information retrieval related solutions for more than 30 years and I have relatively strong experience in AI/ML/NLP tools, data and information management.

D-TAG’s main goal is to support the decision making challenges of companies as effectively as possible. We have a self-developed solution for analysing any type of unstructured, textual contents, especially social media posts and/or documents.

In what ways does D-TAG Analytics differ from other companies?

At D-TAG we are trying to identify the special demands of our potential customers in industries we consider very important, such as pharma, insurance, and banking. Our solution covers both legacy type data sources and social media; it is a hybrid solution for heterogeneous data.

With the help of a well-configured and sophisticated data pipeline and fine-tuned NLP background processes, we enrich the data to be analysed effectively, and turn them into information.

The final goal is to have information instead of bits and bytes.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at D-TAG Analytics, when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offering?

The fine tuning of data (effective data enrichment and metadata handling) is a particular challenge because the quality of data is the most important prerequisite of the analytics. The clarity of the collected data and the quality of the data (metadata) enrichment process are the key points of our approach. Based on data with good enough metadata backgrounds, we can use efficient taxonomies, topic management, entity extractions, and other means in order to be able to discover a large amount of information and — very importantly — to give further ideas to the customers about what they are searching for or what they can be interested in. With the help of this information, we cannot only answer predefined questions, but we can also use the results to formulate new questions and get answers to them very quickly and efficiently.

All customers come with a different level of knowledge. What is important when taking on a new customer?

The starting point in a project is standing on the same page with our customer. At the same time, we want to give them as much experience and knowledge we have as possible, and explain how a typical information retrieval or analytics solution works, what the information is trying to show, and how they can understand it. I think that beyond the predefined business requirements, it is also important to give new ideas based on some “hidden information” we were able to discover.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

Most solutions on the market are able to handle any kind of data format coming from any kind of repositories, on premise or cloud based. On the one hand, handling the rich media content (picture, voice, video) effectively is still a challenge, especially in the case of special languages. We are continuously trying to find ideas and tricks in order to improve the quality of the speech to text processes. On the other hand, it is very important to improve the quality of AI/NLP/ML related processes, because as I have already mentioned this can be the token of the excellent results. The level of a successful automation will depend on the granularity and complexity of business demands.

Can the entire process of media intelligence be automated in the future?

I think that the short answer is yes, but the detailed, longer one is no. The basic elements and the processes around important milestones of the information management pipeline can be almost fully automated, the level of the automatisation will increase, but the detailed nuances will still play important roles, and will use ML capabilities. But they require manual corrections, improvements and considerations as well.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges and excitements ahead?

The quality of the analytics will increase, the range and type of customers and end users will expand, and at the same time, the tasks will be more varied.

Changing customer needs pose an increasing challenge to us which won’t be easy to handle from professional nor from other points of view, although technology will also continue to evolve in the meantime as well.

Understanding the relation between the existing data contents and the customer’s business needs will remain one of the most important tokens of a successful project. Technology will help to understand this relationship more deeply.

By Peter Appleby

“The ones that will succeed in the future will develop technology that understands data as humans do”

Ivor Bihar

Interview with Ivor Bihar, COO of Mediatoolkit, a media intelligence company in Croatia.

Hi Ivor, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Mediatoolkit?

I’ve been working on Mediatoolkit since the company’s beginnings in 2014. Currently, I’m Mediatoolkit’s Chief Operations Officer leading and growing the company’s teams including sales, product development, design, and marketing across the various stages of the company’s development. Since we began, Mediatoolkit has grown from two to over 50 people, with the goal to achieve 80% growth in employee numbers in 2022.

What differentiates Mediatoolkit from other media intelligence companies?

Since the beginning, we’ve been developing our proprietary online media monitoring technology that tracks more than 100 million online sources in any language across 250 locations in real time. This is the major differentiator.

It’s our goal to enable customers to make better business decisions based on relevant information from the media delivered by Mediatoolkit. Our whole organization focuses on helping PR and Media Monitoring professionals in any industry to gain value through using Mediatoolkit.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Mediatoolkit when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offering?

Standing out in a crowded market is a challenge for every provider in our space. We’re laser-focused on delivering the best possible experience and continuing to expand the coverage of the ever-expanding number of sources that grows daily.

Educating our customers on what to do with the data we provide is always a challenge, but we want to make sure that clients receive the full value of Mediatoolkit.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We’re focused on market and user research to ensure that the features we deliver consistently are in line with user expectations, and that they solve real problems. Our focus is also on educating our customers and the market about PR topics: vanity metrics, connecting their PR effort with their company’s results, setting and measuring PR KPIs and the other usual suspects.

We’re also developing a new product that will combine media monitoring and machine learning to enable Disaster Warning System powered by artificial intelligence.

All customers come with different levels of knowledge. What are the most common misconceptions that your clients have regarding what media intelligence can give them?

Media intelligence capabilities are still not well-known throughout all industries, and we often get very different requests. Some companies look at media monitoring as a niche and a small part of their PR or marketing efforts, while others, in contrast, see it as the solution to all their problems.

So far, the most common misconception is that media intelligence is a magic bullet that you set up just one time. Many don’t realise that regular effort must be put into media intelligence if you are to get relevant results and adapt to changing circumstances and contexts of companies and the markets they operate in.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

We are in an industry that is always hungry for more sources of information, and we have to keep up with new platforms and ways people share content online. Organizations, however, are facing issues with large volumes of data they are unable to process and drive insights from.

If we drill down to a source level, one of the examples of underutilised sources is definitely Reddit. It’s still not recognised enough, and many customers don’t consider it. On the other hand, TikTok is becoming more and more important, but its impact remains to be seen when it comes to media monitoring.

Privacy around the use of social data is an emerging challenge. How do you think that will affect the media intelligence industry?

Just like social media platforms are working to protect users’ data privacy, we also need to ensure compliance with changes and educate our clients on the importance of respecting privacy. We take data privacy very seriously. It’s our responsibility, but also a challenge, to continue increasing our database of tracked sources without compromising an inch of anyone’s privacy. It is challenging to consider all the regulations, but it’s a necessity that cannot and will not be avoided.

If the future holds anonymised and aggregated content, building trust around the technology that provides insights on top of that data will become an even bigger challenge for the industry.

Is there a specific mouthwatering case that you know of where media intelligence has played a crucial role for a client?

Mouthwatering cases are where clients immediately see substantial business benefits and a quick return on their investment. The most common use cases that our customers use Mediatoolkit for are crisis management, campaign, brand monitoring, competition analysis, and sentiment tracking.

The most recent example that wowed us is a market research company that, prior to using Mediatoolkit, had to spend two months of their projects creating a hypothesis about the markets they are researching. After implementing Mediatoolkit, that process took only two days.

Cases like this are the ones that continue to push us to deliver relevant and timely information to help our clients make better business decisions.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

It’s not news that the amount of data available on the internet grows exponentially. Companies have been going digital for years now, with the recent pandemic pushing this trend further. With these two factors combined, the ability to track and monitor online media is becoming crucial to big brands and smaller businesses wanting to expand their business and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Additionally, the industry has focused solely on the coverage and getting more and more sources and data. The situation is shifting; we should all focus on interpreting the data and enabling customers to make data-driven decisions. The ones that will succeed in the future will develop technology that understands data as humans do while being able to analyse what is relevant and what can make a lasting impact on the business.

By Peter Appleby

“Content is king, but video content is God”

Vladimir Petkov

Interview with Vladimir Petkov, Chief Data Officer of Updata One and CEO of Identrics in Bulgaria.

Hi Vladimir, Updata One is a newly formed community. What companies are included and what are the main purposes of the community?

The four companies that make up the Updata One community (A Data Pro, Identrics, SeeNews and Perceptica), have a variety of expertise and knowledge. Though they’re different companies, they operate in the very same knowledge-intensive industry and this makes the relationship between them beneficial and essential at many levels while allowing each company to build valuable partnerships with the others.

We have many examples of the group’s collaboration in order to answer a specific customer request or perform internal process optimisation. This collaboration leads to an increase of expertise within the community of professionals and provides an opportunity to deliver better products and services to current and potential clients.

What is your background and what is included in your current role as Chief Data Officer at Updata One?

Almost all of my professional path has been related to data and innovation. I have six years of experience in digital media and business development, gained at Economedia, Bulgaria’s top news publisher. After that, I continued my journey as CTO at A Data Pro, a global company specialising in content, data and business intelligence services. Since 2016, I have been CEO at Identrics, and now I am also Chief Data Officer at the newly established business community of Updata One.

In this role, I am responsible for data. I oversee the effectiveness of processes such as data collection, management and transformations and find ways to improve them. In addition, I pay attention to the development of the market we are operating in and find ways to innovate and implement automation.

Outside my professional life, I am a podcast producer and host and deliver lectures on online business and digital media-related topics at various universities.

You are also the CEO of Identrics where you provide automated abstractive summarisation. Can you explain why that is important for media intelligence?

Abstractive summarisation is a solution we launched recently. The media intelligence industry is in constant search for better solutions of content aggregation, transformation and analysis, and we can all agree that we witnessed the rise of a phenomenon during the pandemic – the infodemic.

Nowadays it is even hard for communications experts to know everything about the organisation they are responsible for and respond to the emerging crisis in the fastest possible way.

These problems need the development of new technologies to help media intelligence company deal with the heavy load of information and improve its process, so they can meet the need for accurate, immediate delivery of news resumes.

Abstract summaries are tough and necessitate significant language modelling. It’s also usually more difficult than extractive summarisation. The information in a text is interpreted by abstractive summarisation, which generates new sentences for the summary. It’s pretty similar to how long text summaries are written. This method differs from prior versions of summarisation, which used input sentences to construct shorter texts. To develop human-like summaries, Identrics’ solution employs AI and Machine Learning.

However, there are certain difficulties in creating a new text. One such issue is that abstractive summarisation algorithms can sometimes produce erroneous data. For this reason, Identrics uses a fact-checking method to address this issue.

How will abstractive summarisation affect copyright, and do you see any challenge in relation to copyright owners?

Abstractive summarisation approaches provide outlines that are easily understood and short. They reduce the length of sentences, resulting in reduced recurrence of tasks.

Because abstractive summaries are wholly new texts, they can assist firms to avoid copywriting challenges. This helps save money and time.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions in 2022 that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We are planning to launch various solutions this year, starting with entity-based abstractive summarisation.

A project we have been working on in the past months is our Enterprise Knowledge Graph, which will allow us to solve complex problems such as entity resolution and entity linking. It will help Identrics create deep reports and include non-obvious knowledge.

Another development is our model for fake news and hate speech detection. These types of solutions are essential in a world where everyone has the freedom to share their own or another person’s opinion, and the information is spreading at a fast speed.

When it comes to the actual data behind media intelligence, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

There is always room for additional development and improvement.

Social media is a game-changer for sure, but there are also other emerging communication channels. A lot of podcasts are generating content that could be of interest to business decision-makers and PR experts.

Also, we all know that content is king, but video content is God. There are more and more videos spreading across the internet that carry a variety of information with them. Communicational experts need additional instruments to better explore the information in all types of media.

Can the entire process of media intelligence be automated in the future?

Many tasks can be automated with the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning models. The truth is, though, that technology is still not mature enough to replace people. In my opinion, there will not be full automation in any industry in the following decades.

Automation is not everything when it comes to media monitoring. While automation saves the analyst a great deal of time, it cannot handle everything. Analysts that track media must also consider their opinion, or whether an article’s or a social media post’s tone is good, neutral, or pessimistic.

What excites you the most when it comes to automation in the media intelligence industry in the future?

The emergence of new communication channels brings the need for fast development in the media intelligence industry. Think about it: 10 years ago not so many people owned a smartphone, social media didn’t control our world and nobody had even thought of podcasts.

Now we have to deal with new copywriting issues, and the boom of fake news and hate speech. Addressing all of these problems and looking for a way to solve them is something that I am really passionate about.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

The media intelligence industry needs to change with the pace that media in general is doing. The term “media” has transformed dramatically in the past several years. Today, everybody can be media, and everybody can spread the news around its network.

I think we will have to invest even more in R&D initiatives and find new ways to monitor all the conversations that are happening around the net, around the globe.

By Peter Appleby

“You need to be on top of new technologies to make your business as efficient and valuable as possible”

Thomas Vejlemand

Interview with Thomas Vejlemand, President of FIBEP and CEO of Infomedia, a media intelligence company from Denmark.

Hi Thomas, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Infomedia?

I joined Infomedia seven years ago. Back in 2015 Infomedia had its activities only in Denmark. Today, Infomedia has 250 employees in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, and London. In 2018 Infomedia acquired Opoint, a technology platform for crawling of global online news content.

I am Infomedia Group CEO and chairman of Opoint. I have a background as an engineer with a good sense of business and technology. In the last 20 years I have had CEO roles in digital agencies and information management companies combined with roles as a board member in tech startups. In November 2021 I became president for FIBEP, an industry organisation for media intelligence companies.

What differentiates Infomedia from other media intelligence companies?

We are one of the leading media intelligence companies in the Nordic region. We serve major brands and organizations with global communication insights. Our strong integrated global media coverage across print, web, broadcast and social is a big asset. The ownership of Opoint also gives us business opportunities serving industries with aggregated online news content. We are unique as we are owned by the two largest publishers in Scandinavia that require that we are at the forefront of copyright and re-distribution. We strongly believe that this enables Infomedia, Opoint and clients to put their focus elsewhere. We focus on value selling rather than product selling, and we believe in strong partnerships and networking with our clients. It’s a lot about culture and people skills as well.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Infomedia when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer?

Digital transformation of our business has been a major focus for several years and will still be. The media intelligence industry is changing and you need to be on top of new technologies to make your business as efficient and valuable as possible. It’s about serving your customers with communication insights and pinpointing business impact. During my time with Infomedia, I’ve focused on breaking down communication silos, thus equalising blogs, social media with traditional media. We are now closing in on this narrative. It’s becoming a data driven industry where you need to afford investments in technology, data science and analytical competencies.

In 2019 Infomedia acquired M-Brains activities in Sweden and Norway. In hindsight, how has that acquisition affected the Infomedia offering?

The acquisition of M-Brain brought us into new markets. We got critical mass and scale in our business and thereby the ability to further invest in products, services, technology and in our people. We now have a more client segmented offering with clear value propositions supporting needs for real time insights for crisis management, brand and reputation insights, market and competitor insights and communication efficiency insights.

What is the focus for Infomedia in 2022 and how will you get there?

We want to further consolidate and develop our position in the Nordic region within media intelligence and communication insights. We want to position Infomedia and Opoint for new buying centers. PR/Communication is our target customer group but we believe media and communication insights are of value for marketing, business development and sales as well. It’s about the retargeting of insights and our new product platform suits this. We would very much like to contribute with analytical services enlightening the climate and sustainability agenda as well.

When it comes to the actual data behind media intelligence, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

The answer, as always, lies with the client. We have seen a shift in behaviour of media consumption, ensuring more focus on metadata and raw data rather than focusing on data types or media silos. Media data is recognised as being a leading indicator in many industries and our clients benefit from that. We work with multiple data sources: panel data, CRM, and market data to name a few. So the overall trend is related to how we enable client behaviour and ensure that we can correlate data to give them business critical insights across their data and needs.

You were recently elected President of FIBEP, The Media Intelligence Association. What are the greatest challenges for FIBEP as an organisation when it comes to supporting its members?

The greatest challenge is to become even more relevant for media intelligence companies across continents. We have to face a more differentiated need from members including global, regional and local companies as well as we have to welcome a broader number of new data and technology companies with the opportunity for networking and partnerships. FIBEP was founded around a very strong networking community. Clearly COVID-19 impacted the way of networking and interacting. We have to innovate and develop a hybrid model for a global industry organization.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next five years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

I’m optimistic and believe our industry will have further growth opportunities. Delivering media analytics and communication insights is of strategic importance in a world with a more complex media landscape – not to mention a world being impacted by fake news and manipulation. The flipside of this is of course the ability to access media content, both editorial and social content. Understanding copyright legislation and dealing with media, platforms and influencers is key.

How would you like to see FIBEP develop over the next five years?

I would like to see a more diversified list of media intelligence companies from across continents. I would like as well to see FIBEP develop its ecosystem and network with selected universities and research organizations in order to position our industry supported by new innovation and science. We need to embrace networking with other industry organizations as well, within PR/communication, marketing and technology.

By Peter Appleby

“The key to social media analysis is being able to rank information in the most relevant manner”

Alexander Polonsky

Interview with Alexander Polonsky, Co-founder and VP R&D of Bloom Social Analytics, a social media analytics company in France.

Hi Alexander, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Bloom?

My background is in Neuroscience. I have a Phd in Neuroscience and a Master’s in Applied Mathematics, and I have been working in information and analysis management for the past 20 years.

At Bloom, I research. More specifically, I research algorithm design, in order to design algorithms to analyse the social media data that we collect. The process of design is a scientific process in which we define hypotheses about how we would go about solving business problems. We then create those models and options in order to test them, before refining and iterating based on the test results we receive from testing. We do this until we reach a satisfactory performance.

What differentiates Bloom from other social media analytics companies?

Our positioning is very different and we’re unlike other social media analysis companies in the sense that we focus on the quality and relevance of analysis over the speed of analysis and the spread of source coverage. We cover fewer sources but do so in far greater depth. We cover only Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Weibo, WeChat and TikTok.

Gaining access to data is challenging, but in addition there are challenges to analysis. When trying to access data via search queries there can be all sorts of problems, particularly if the intention is to statistically analyse the results of the search. Algorithmic issues must be solved, such as detecting the noise, completing the query, and detecting content that is relevant but not easily tracked with keywords. Bloom is really the only company to address these issues adequately, using powerful automated query modelling assistance. Our classification approach to data allows us to go beyond keywords.

There are two key points we stress in terms of analysis of data. One is the quality of our mathematical analysis. There are many companies that analyse social media data very superficially, and the majority of companies commit grave mathematical errors in their analysis by treating different sources as though they were the same, or using a trend calculation that is not really a trend, or performing sentiment analysis very poorly.

The other is that we analyse data in a way that goes beyond our competitors’ abilities. We analyse positions, not just sentiment. We also analyse emotions, and we have developed unique models of information importance. The key to social media analysis is being able to rank information in the most relevant manner, and counting different types of engagements in the same manner is a huge oversimplification.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Bloom, when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer?

Data access remains a major challenge for all players in the space because platforms are not predisposed to sharing. On one hand, this is understandable. On the other hand, it’s short-sighted. Twitter has shown it can be a major part of a business model, and importantly, if companies feel that they cannot see what is really happening on a social media platform from the outside and verify information for themselves, it becomes harder and harder to trust platforms that are charging for advertisements.

So far Bloom has not focused on real-time analysis. We prefer to take our time and analyse thoroughly to provide deep insights and strategic recommendations. But more and more our clients are asking us for real-time updates. We will now focus on developing this side of our offering.

We have invested heavily into our investigation capacities but we also want to develop our alerting capacities.

When it comes to the actual data behind the analytics you do, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

Access to some of the platforms is getting harder and so the best practice is to diversify and increase source coverage. We are continuously integrating new sources, but when integrating we do so in a way that goes far further than most competitors. Being able to access data on a platform can have many different levels – what exactly a company is able to access is key to its abilities.

You have recently launched a partnership with Dassault Systèmes. How will that partnership affect Bloom moving forward?

The partnership opens up a whole new sector for us: product design. We’ve already worked a little in this area for previous clients but the Dassault Systèmes partnership is a strategic alliance to launch a new offer because the main clients of Dassault Systèmes are those designing and managing different products, for example, in the transportation industry. We will be feeding these clients with strategic insights about market trends, consumer behaviour and similar information.

How do you think the social media intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Challenges to data access will certainly remain but we’re seeing new social media platforms spring up all the time, and not all of them are bought by the majors right away. This means there is a high diversity of players. Keeping up with them all will not be easy but may be easier than gaining information from some of the traditional major platforms.

Another challenge is proving the new use cases that companies are presenting. Social media analysis has addressed only part of the large number use cases it could work for. While new use cases are still to be proven, this trend of moving the industry beyond marketing and communications will continue. Our partnership with Dassault Systèmes is an example of that.

I hope that the industry will mature. At the moment it is somewhat of a Wild West and grand claims are made that are not then backed up. Clients do not generally have sufficient expertise to be able to judge the relevance of one solution over another, so hopefully we will see some standards emerge. We’re still far from that at the moment.

Can you please give an example of some surprising findings from your analytics that made a significant impact for a customer?

We worked for one company in the bottled water market. They had been putting a lot of effort into the recycling of their bottles, but we helped them realise that the consumers did not trust recycling. Indeed, consumers really wanted the re-use of plastics and the abolishing of single-use plastic. This difference struck at the core of the strategy for this large company.

We worked for another client in the prepared food industry where many companies are looking to migrate from plastic to aluminium packaging. We discovered that there is a growing weak signal of alarm about the health risks of aluminium packaging. In that sense, they may have been moving from the rock to the hard place.

By Peter Appleby

“The market for media intelligence platform solutions is already highly saturated”

Raina Lazarova

Interview with Raina Lazarova, Co-founder and COO of Ruepoint, a global media intelligence company.

Hi Raina, what is your background and what is included in your role at Ruepoint?

I have spent the last 10 years in the media intelligence space, first at Precise Media Group (UK) followed by a stint as Global Services Director at Kantar Media’s Reputation Intelligence business in the UK where I oversaw international customers and key vendors.

Prior to joining Precise, I was involved in the Business Information and Knowledge Process Outsourcing sectors, working with global companies such as Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones Factiva, LexisNexis, EBSCO.

In 2017, I became one of the founding members and COO of Ruepoint, a global media intelligence business with offices in Ireland, the UK and Bulgaria.

What differentiates Ruepoint from other media intelligence companies?

Undoubtedly, our biggest asset and differentiator is our team. We are very fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with skilled, motivated and passionate people who continue to surprise us every day with their creativity and exceptional effort.

Ruepoint caters for the needs of those customers in the market who need a “white-glove”, fully managed media intelligence service, typically combining media content from a variety of geographies and languages, and therefore requiring a blend of high-touch, multilingual skills, strong domain expertise and capable technology. The services we deliver are typically used by PR and communications teams, the C-suite and other key business stakeholders.

Increasingly, Ruepoint is working on cross-functional requirements, integrating data and seeking to draw insights from a wide variety of data sets from paid, earned, social and owned media, through market research and consumer insights, point-of-sale, and other business data. Customer expectations are constantly rising, and in all fairness, we are deliberately driving this change, as it gives us the opportunity to differentiate ourselves as thought leaders and drivers of change, delivering true value to our customers.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Ruepoint when it comes to serving your customers and developing your services?

Historically, one of the biggest challenges in our industry has been the commoditisation of the media monitoring market. It is the part of the business that is typically characterised by higher margins, which have been eroded in recent years due to pressure from SaaS providers, promising to deliver the same value at a fraction of the price.

Ruepoint’s response to this trend has been to focus on what we are best at – delivering a high-touch editorial and analysis service, leveraging domain expertise in key industries, coupled with a consultative approach to media measurement.

Do you plan to release any new solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer clients?

We constantly strive to improve the services we offer to customers by listening to what they tell us every day. Often, that involves very specific problems that require custom solutions. We bring in experts from across the organisations, from source management, through editors and analysts, to account managers to build a multi-faceted solution that answers those needs.

All customers come with different levels of knowledge. What are the most common misconceptions that your current and potential clients have regarding what media intelligence can give them?

We treat each customer with full respect, constantly trying to provide thought leadership and best practice to help PR and communications teams excel in their job and deliver demonstrable results to their organisations. We recognise businesses operate in wildly different competitive environments that largely define their communications objectives.

At the same time, I believe that demand is a function of supply and in markets where we see misconceptions about the value of media intelligence it is largely due to the services available to that market. To address a common misconception about media measurement specifically in our home market of Ireland, for example, we have invested heavily in educating the market about the value of integrated measurement in the last four years.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

As a sector, we need to constantly keep our finger on the pulse of any emerging media and data sources. I expect that private, subscription-based networks and formats such as Patreon and Substack will present the biggest challenge to the industry in the near future. Increasingly, content creators are looking for revenue generating models by publishing their work – podcasts, newsletters etc – to a very targeted audience prepared to pay for this content. How we as an industry go about monitoring these networks will be very interesting to see.

What in this industry has surprised you the most over the years?

It has been fascinating to watch the industry move from a largely “scissors and glue” operating model 10-15 years ago to a technology-driven sector using the latest cloud native infrastructure and AI technology. At the same time, customer requirements, very much helped by the efforts of industry thought leaders and AMEC, have evolved from number crunching to seeking to prove true business value. This has been an incredible journey to take part in for Ruepoint and me personally.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

If you had asked the same question 10 years ago, the biggest fear of the industry was the “inevitable” demise of print media with the rise of digital and social. That clearly didn’t happen, which only comes to prove how wrong we can be in our predictions.

I think AI will be increasingly used to aid the human analysis of big data sets, but without replacing the need for cognitive intervention.

A challenge the industry is already facing is the pressure to deliver revenue growth at healthy margins from managed monitoring and evaluation services. I understand why the SaaS model is attractive to shareholders, but I think the market for platform solutions is already highly saturated. Ruepoint is focused on leveraging a mix of high-skilled editorial resources and proprietary tech to deliver the best value-for-money services to customers where and when they matter.

By Peter Appleby