”Since fake news has emerged, people rely on trustworthy journalism to consume their news”

Johannes Burk

Interview with Johannes Burk, Director Content Solutions at PressReader, an on-demand media platform in Canada

Pleased to meet you, Johannes. Can you tell us about your background and your current position?

While our mission at PressReader is to enrich and empower curious minds by providing access to quality journalism, we see a sustainable future for creators of quality content – in part by partnering with PressReader.

As Director of Content Solutions, my scope of work entails developing new strategic partnerships that open up new revenue opportunities for our publishing partners in areas they do not specialize in. Especially, the licensing and copyright situation in the global market remains very complex and is an area of improvement, where publishers and business partners can benefit from our expertise and extensive network.

Among my favorite facets of my daily work are building and growing global relationships with licensing and media intelligence C-Suite executives and communication professionals, supporting new and existing deals with B2B partners, and developing new strategic revenue opportunities.

What makes PressReader different from other companies in this field?

PressReader’s proprietary technology makes it possible to process thousands of newspapers every single day, extracting text and images and making articles instantly translatable, searchable, and easy to read on mobile devices. Our all-you-can-read service is popular with individual subscribers and business partners alike and we’re a global leader among Hospitality, Library and other B2B channels.

Recently The Economist and PressReader announced an expansion of their strategic partnership, making PressReader the exclusive digital distributor of the weekly magazine globally in public libraries, hotels, aviation, marine and healthcare.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for you and your team?

Publishers need to utilize the available information regarding their reader’s preferences. Supporting them by providing insightful analytics and creating additional reach and readership through the PressReader platform and extensive B2B network will be an ongoing priority.

Another challenge is adding to the product lines (ebooks will soon be on PressReader) in a time of content abundance, while staying connected with the needs of our customers.

Can you give an example of an excellent client case of yours that create real impact?

The Arkansas Democratic Gazette (ADG) ‘iPad Initiative’. This was a bold experiment that won the 2020 Mega-Innovation Award. Back in 2018, the publisher of the ADG realized that his newspaper was going to lose money. Instead of cutting circulation in remote areas and decimating its newsroom as many US newspaper publishers did, ADG analyzed subscribers’ reading behaviors and discovered that thousands of them had already switched from the print edition of the paper to the Digital Replica. Hence, ADG initiated an experiment in Blytheville where subscribers were encouraged to switch from print to the Digital Replica.

70% of print readers converted to the Digital Replica, motivating ADG to launch a full-scale rollout across the state. In January 2020, ADG completed the digital conversion, transitioning just shy of 36,000 home delivery subscribers (79%) to the Digital Replica powered by PressReader’s Branded Edition 2.0 technology.

Print is not dead, but online is king. In your opinion, will both still be relevant in 5 years?

The publishing industry has been facing enormous challenges in the age of digitalization. Publishers must adapt quickly to react to different consumption habits, and many will have to offer online and print products to cater different needs and increase retention.

Print will become more and more of a luxury, but the format itself provides a complete ‘news’ to secure advertisers offering for a set period of time, something that is still valued today, and is expected to be valuable for many years to come.

Premium print sources will remain a key factor for publishers, although the format may change over the next few years. As the example of ADG shows, PressReader’s Branded Editions partners with renowned publishers, providing white-label digital publishing solution, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and El País. Readers can enjoy the feeling of the print product enhanced by digital reader-first features, offering a dynamic, unparalleled reading experience.

The market is having a shake-up. First covid, now economic instability and inflations. How did you see your market respond and do you expect a long-lasting effect?

During the pandemic, PressReader has supported its partners in the struggling Hospitality & Tourism industries. We also experienced a significant increase in new B2C subscribers, which demonstrates that Print remains among the most trusted sources. Especially since fake news has emerged, people rely on trustworthy journalism to consume their news.

While we remain cautious with our outlook in uncertain economic times, I am optimistic that the publishing and communication industry will bounce back and recover even stronger.

How do you see the industry develop in the next 5 years?

Retaining readership for publishers is a key factor to success. Major publishers are remodeling their subscription plans and digital offerings to meet the changing demands of readers. Offering new ways of accessing news and constant development is necessary to keep abreast. Data analytics and AI are going to play a huge role in analyzing reader behavior, which will help publishers offer customized content to its consumers. Finally, remote work is changing media professionals’ schedules. Being flexible to retain the talented people will be one of the biggest challenges for the communications industry.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

Twingly is a leading supplier of global news data, supplying over 3 million news articles per day from 150,000 active news sources. Read more…

“The communication industry will inevitability be more data driven and more so by first party data”

Felicia Nugroho

Interview with Felicia Nugroho, Analytics & Insights Director at Maverick, a strategic communications consultancy company in Indonesia.

Hi Felicia, can you tell us a bit about your background and your current role at Maverick?

My background is Statistics and Operations Research which has led to a career in the analytics field across several sectors. I now lead the analytics and insights team at Maverick. My role includes coming up with a vision and roadmap to build the measurement culture in the company, to adopt the best practices in measurement with our clients and to lead the measurement conversations in the industry.

We have a relatively new team that was formed four years ago to respond to the need to make transitions in measurement and evaluation. We needed to move from simply quantifying news clips to measuring what matters. I started with a blank sheet of paper as there were no guidelines and standards to follow. We had to take baby steps to upskill and educate internally and externally.

What makes Maverick different from other communications consultancies?

We are very clear about our mission, which is to make a difference for our client’s business objectives using effective communication. In everything we do, we ask ourselves: how effective is this action or campaign in helping the client or brand achieve its business objectives? We also ask how we can measure and demonstrate this effectiveness unambiguously.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Maverick?

Guiding clients to embrace uncertainty and experimentation for their campaigns and programs. It is human nature to cling to the safe and well-trodden paths in marketing communications and measurement and to want to assert total control over the outcomes of communication efforts. The truth is that technology is changing so fast that what works today may not work tomorrow. Within a few months or years new platforms will arise to replace existing ones.

The safest approach is to plan based on our insights on human nature, use the existing platforms and then monitor and track how well these plans work. If they do we need to do more, if they don’t, we need to modify or replace. Being effective while embracing uncertainty and keeping up with the fast changing-technology is the biggest challenge.

You are active in AMEC – International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication. What is the most important thing AMEC brings to its members and this industry?

For some time, we felt that PR value, a metric we had been using for 20 years since Maverick was founded, is becoming less and less relevant. We did wonderful campaigns for our clients, yet at the end of the day, the success was measured merely by the number of news clip and its AVE. It devalued our communications efforts.

We weren’t sure where to start, until we discovered AMEC and joined as a member in 2018. AMEC brings abundant of resources in a form of framework, tools, and case studies, to guide PR and communication professionals to conduct their measurements effectively.

AMEC is also a global community of professionals who are passionate about measurement and evaluation, sharing knowledge and best practices across the globe to continuously better the quality and standards of measurement and evaluation in this fast-changing world.

My role as the co-chair of AMEC for the Asia Pacific chapter, together with Deb Camden of The Communication Dividend, gives me the opportunity to lead the measurement conversations in the region and to raise awareness about AMEC, its resources, and the importance to start measuring what matters.

What are the greatest challenges to make customers understand the importance of measuring and evaluating their strategic communication?

To prove the value of what we do, we need to demonstrate how communication activities influence changes in attitudes or perception and how it contributes to the organizational goals. That means we need a transition from a single-number output metrics to having to think about communication objectives and how these support the organization objectives. That requires a change of mindset which is never easy. It needs patience and persistence.

What kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

Today, we have the liberty to choose what information or content we want to read or watch from whichever media we prefer. People have their own information ecosystems and can begin their customer journey at any given touchpoint. It would be amazing if there was data that could track this customer journey, reflecting the media customers use at each point of the journey, the content they see and how this leads to the outcome.

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

The communication industry will inevitability be more data driven and more so by first party data. This is because, contrary to early expectations, digital does not make things more transparent. Brands can get their messages out through social and digital platforms but most of the time they don’t know if anyone is paying attention or – if they do, in what changes is results. Brands need to realize that they need to commission their own studies and surveys to find out how effective their communication efforts are in achieving their desired outcomes and impact.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

Twingly is a leading supplier of global data and offers a Review Search API with over 5 million reviews per month from all over the world. Read more…

“Many things that require skilled personnel in media monitoring today can be replaced by automation in the future”

Alexander Seutter

Interview with Alexander Seutter, CEO of CLIP Mediaservice, a media monitoring company in Austria

Nice to e-meet, Alexander. Can you tell us a bit about your background and current role?

When I founded the company 23 years ago, we were in the middle of a transition from analog to digital media monitoring. The biggest challenge back then, was to see in which direction media monitoring would evolve with all those rapid changes in the market. This challenge still exists today.

To get the most out of our clients’ daily media monitoring, we must be very sensitive to the market, observe it, listen to our customers, and develop new tools together with them. Therefore, I spend most of my time on strategic planning, market monitoring, and talking to customers and IT developers to implement new tools.

What makes CLIP different from others in your business area?

Customer service and customer satisfaction have always been top priorities at CLIP Mediaservice. Our customers thank us by remaining loyal to us to a degree that is far above the industry average. Secondly, our long-standing employees ensure a deep customer relationship because the know-how around our customer needs is retained, and they don’t have to deal with changing contact persons.

We support our employees in every respect and regularly receive awards for this, for example as a family-friendly company or Top Company on employer evaluation platforms. Of course, we are very proud of this. Internationally, we also hear again and again from other media monitoring companies with whom we have been working for many years that CLIP can always be relied upon. The prerequisite for this is a structured way of working and perfect communication with customers, employees, and suppliers.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for you and your team, when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer?

In order not to waste unnecessary resources, it has become even more important to recognize which innovations are here to stay and which trends will disappear again. After all there are many, due to the significantly broader media landscape and the increasing speed in the communications industry.

Moreover, it is not easy to find relevant content since the media landscape is becoming ever more colorful and ever broad. Social media content is so extensive that it cannot be captured in its entirety. That is why we rely on suppliers who guarantee us the greatest possible coverage.

Finally, fake news is becoming a bigger issue. They distort the news landscape and are often very difficult to identify. Anyone can post content on the Internet without much effort, and the news spreads extremely fast. Often, you can’t find out the source and can’t verify its truthfulness. With analysis tools and artificial intelligence, however, this problem can be tackled quite well.

Do you consider these challenges to be global?

In Austria print media are still the most important medium and digitization is progressing only slowly. As a full-service provider, we have a decisive advantage here since we can monitor, prepare, and analyze the full scope of the media landscape.

How did you see the market for media monitoring and your customer needs change over the past years?

In the past, when I told acquaintances that I run a media monitoring company, they often used to ask me what it is. I would always answer that we get paid for reading newspapers and watching TV.
Today, that’s far from being the case!

To understand the modern media landscape today, one must collect numerous reports and select, analyze, and categorize them. The result must then also be able to be interpreted correctly and presented on a dashboard to be able to keep an eye on the market and competitors. As a professional media monitoring company, we have the resources and know-how to do this.

What is the first step to help your clients improve their media monitoring?

Our system has a very flexible structure that we are constantly adapting and developing. We can therefore respond to almost any request. Our customers’ internal systems are usually equipped to create and distribute press reviews and analyses, but not to implement new automated monitoring and analysis tools. We help them implement new techniques and create individual solutions for them, so that the existing systems can be adapted to the new requirements. In special cases we develop customized tools to facilitate their daily work and to relieve them of personnel.

What kind of data or media not currently used can be interesting in the future?

There are more and more metrics available. To get the data that is relevant to our customers, you have to filter more and more data. On the other hand, LinkedIn is not yet covered, for example. Media and platforms that are currently being tapped by comms, such as WhatsApp or Discord, will be covered in the future to flow into analyses.

Looking at the media monitoring industry in 5 years, what do you think are the greatest challenges and opportunities ahead?

Clearly: artificial intelligence and machine learning! Many things that require skilled personnel in media monitoring today can be replaced by automation in the future. The advent of Big Data combined with machine learning has paved a path that will lead to operational and business changes, enabling greater accuracy in decision making and better performance.

In practice, this means for our customers: higher evaluation speed involving larger amounts of data. As a result, more accurate analyses can be produced and relationships between different data sets can be better identified. This will contribute to optimized PR and media work for our clients.

The market was struck by the pandemic, now economic instability. How can companies use media monitoring to stay resilient in turbulent times?

Especially in times of crisis, media monitoring has become an essential tool for our customers to stay strong. It can be used to provide an overview of what’s happening in the industry, to read off future trends and moves from competitors, and to better manage one’s own reputation.

Regarding covid and war, the challenge for us was to intelligently select indirectly relevant articles that nevertheless have a decisive influence on the business model of our customers and thus create real added value. This could only be done to a high standard of quality with human proofreading, like before.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

“Reviews can help to identify points of improvement to change customer opinions”

Juan Carlos Martinez Selma

Interview with Juan Carlos Martinez Selma, CEO of Atribus, a media intelligence company in Spain.

Nice to meet you, Juan. Can you tell us about your background and what is included in your current role at Atribus?

The main roles I perform are management and coordination of all areas, from sales to marketing. A very important area in which we must put a lot of effort is in programming, for which it is necessary to promote new features and update our platform. To do so consistently, we are in contact with clients: I get into meetings with them regularly to ask them about their needs and to explore new tools that we can include in Atribus.

What makes Atribus different from other media intelligence companies?

Atribus has a great virtue, which is its proximity to the user. We provide a simple and intuitive interface so that clients do not have to waste their time on configurations or finding the right information on how to get things done. We also offer specific solution panels based on the main demands of companies and marketing teams, such as consumer insights, organic campaign analysis, online reputation management, influencer identification, and buyer persona analysis in one click.

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

Our biggest challenge is to offer the highest data quality. Our premise is the collection of data from social networks and the internet in general. They must be of value to the client according to the keyword, search, or topic that needs to be monitored.

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

Atribus Social Intelligence Technology is constantly providing updates to our collection technology. Currently, we rely on an artificial intelligence system that allows data to be collected and classified, for example, by the sentiment of the message.

What part of your current product has a lot of potential, but has not been adopted at the same rate yet by your clients?

Our image analysis product is a very potent part of Atribus and clients may not be aware of its full scope. Atribus’ image analytics technology uses the recognition of images on social networks to be able to obtain, for example, KPIs from the presence of a brand in a broadcast, video, or photo. It is a great way to extract ROI. A very interesting option for sponsors, for example.

Your platform serves several verticals. What types of clients within tourism can benefit from the Atribus platform and in what way?

Our specific social intelligence solutions for tourism are focused on both destinations and tourists. Clients can learn about the different types of tourism in the tourist destination, which will help them offer more appropriate tourism services and products, optimize experiences, and guide the communication strategy. In addition, our social listening technology allows us to extract insights from tourists which is helpful to create an accurate buyer persona.

Reviews are important for these clients. What insights can various reviews about your clients and their competitors give them?

Reviews can contribute to the perception of the tourist destination and can help to identify points of improvement to change customer opinions as well as maintain and enhance positive opinions. The opinions of the users are essential to get closer to their insights into tourist destinations but being precise requires a quantitative and qualitative analysis. This is where social listening can optimize the process. It saves costs and time, since it allows the preparation of reports with KPIs around – for example, the positioning of destination compared to the competition.

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?

Our vision for the future is focused on continuing to develop technology that allows quantitative data to be converted into qualitative data, to make it easier to understand the customer and extract valuable consumer insights.

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

Social listening is a sector on the rise since social networks and the internet became the loudspeakers of users and society. Converting social data into actionable, applicable, and automatic information for both marketing and commercial strategies has become the development model of the sector. Automated qualitative data helps to understand how to reach customers, develop new products, lines of business, et cetera.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

Twingly offers a Reviews Search API with over 5 million reviews per month from all over the world. Read more…

“Technology is king, but content is queen and she wears the pants”

Oliver Plauschinat

Interview with Oliver Plauschinat, Head of Business Development at Landau Media, a media monitoring company in Germany.

Hi Oliver, great to have you with us. Can you tell us about your background and your current role at Landau Media?

I studied business administration and wanted to do something with marketing, but ended up in the PR industry via market research. Over the last 20 years, I have worked in the field of research and analytics at various communications agencies and PR service providers in a management position. I spent almost 10 years at Kohtes Klewes – better known as Ketchum, as Head of Research. For more than three years I have been building up the new business unit C Solutions at Landau Media.

What makes Landau Media different from other media monitoring companies in Germany?

Good question, which our clients can certainly answer better. The offers of media monitoring organisations and the technologies they use are becoming increasingly similar and – from the client’s point of view, more replaceable. That is also why price is becoming more and more important.

We want to give our clients a complete overview of the published opinion about them. To get there, we monitor print titles in Germany, but we also use various content partnerships in social media – Twingly, for example. We also have a direct partnership with Twitter to guarantee our clients a high level of coverage in social media, which is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Landau Media, when it comes to serving your customers media intelligence and developing your offer?

For media monitoring it is the timely monitoring of traditional media, especially print. The evaluation process is technologically more complex and time-consuming than the crawling of online sources. Even more challenging is the licensing situation for the digital processing and distribution of print media in Germany. On average, clients in Germany pay a minimum of 3.60 euros in licences for a print article in their press review – that is over 70% of the total costs. This inhibits product innovations in Germany and large companies in Germany are considering cancelling press reviews completely or focusing only on editorial summaries. Landau Media has signed independent licence agreements with almost 2,000 publishers over the past 10 years to be able to offer our customers an alternative, attractive licensing model.

As for analysis services, the biggest challenge is to produce analyses faster and more efficiently. To achieve this, manual analysis work must be reduced. The integrations of AI technologies such as entity recognition, NLP, and machine learning are also major challenges.

Are you planning on releasing any new technology-based solutions that will improve your services?

We consistently use a hybrid intelligence approach when we implement new technologies. We ask ourselves how we can achieve better results from the interaction between humans and technology such as AI. It’s important for us that the combination achieves results that neither humans nor technology alone can achieve. We are currently testing how we can automatically create press reviews from a combination of human and artificial intelligence.

What are the most common misconceptions that customers have when it comes to media monitoring?

They believe that we can provide them with all information and data in real time and almost free of charge, because they use Google to get free, quick information. They don’t understand, for example, why we can’t monitor LinkedIn automatically or why online news can’t be delivered behind a paywall.

I want to describe a second big misconception with the well-known quote: “A fool with a tool is still a fool”! According to Scott Brincker from chiefmartec, there are already almost 10,000 communication and marketing tools. What is missing is the empowerment among clients to work with these tools and to interpret the data and key performance indicators from countless analysis dashboards.

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?

The deeper integration of owned media and data into the monitoring and analysis process is important for our clients, but I see a greater potential in the use of search data in the future. By analyzing user and search intentions, via Ubersuggest, Searchmetrics or Keyword Tool, we can gain useful information on topic interests and developments, which we can compare and link with discussions in social media or with media coverage.

I would slightly modify the quote of content marketing: “Technology is king, but content is queen and she wears the pants.” What I mean by that: how great is the best AI if you don’t have media content to monitor and analyse automatically?

What big challenges do you see coming up for the media monitoring industry in the next 5 years?

Everyone in the communication industry is talking about big data and data-driven communication and what new opportunities will arise. I am also fascinated by this, but I also notice how access to information and data in the digital world is becoming more and more limited. To name just a few examples: we receive less and less data from Facebook and Instagram, and one of the most important business networks, LinkedIn, cannot be accessed for any data at all via API.

By Anna Roos van Wijngaarden

“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