“The change of mindset around privacy will be a big challenge”

Patrick Charlton

Interview with Patrick Charlton, CEO of Buzz Radar, a social media intelligence company in the UK.

Hi Patrick, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Buzz Radar?

I used to be a racing driver, which was a lot of fun when I was 20, but I crashed too much and ended up having to go to university, where I did computing and management but became obsessed with everything to do with radio. I talked my way into a job at the BBC and ended up on BBC Radio 4 and was put on a show called Loose Ends. My job was to book all of the talent for the show, which gave me a lot useful contacts and I became well known with music bookers.

Then in 2007/2008, using those contacts, I created an online music TV show. Rather than having judges on it, the rankings were determined by an algorithm that I built with some friends that looked at MySpace comments and views, a bit of Twitter, YouTube plays and stuff like that. We created this thing called the Buzz Chart, which is where Buzz Radar came from.

I ended up selling the technology and format to Red Bull and then found myself without a job, so I became the head of production for a social media agency called 1000Heads. There I became global lead for Nokia and Skype’s early social media efforts, so we were spending loads of money doing really cool things and our job was to measure it to see how effective it was. There was really only one tool to measure that. It was super clunky and we needed something a lot more visual for marketers to get their heads round, so we built Nokia a custom command centre, and it was so popular and went down so well that lots of other agencies started asking for it.

From that I started Buzz Radar. We built our first command centre for Marks and Spencer’s and we ended up, very quickly, working for Nike, Samsung, Sony, Twitter, doing a lot of really cool social media real-time data visualisation.

In 2014 we were one of the first companies that Google Ventures Europe approached, but we’ve always been very keen on using the revenue we generate from customers to grow and develop. We keep things deliberately compact and efficient. We work with 75 really interesting companies and my role as CEO is empowering our team of about 15 people to do really awesome work and solve really difficult problems for our clients that other people struggle with.

What differ Buzz Radar from other social media intelligence companies?

99% of social media listening tools are designed for analysts to extract insight out of to write reports. Buzz Radar started to create a real-time listening platform that was very visual, and rather than working with engineers and data scientists, we worked with graphic designers and marketers and really looked at the problem of ‘what are the things that need to be understood by the C-suite immediately’.

We made that super visual and super easy to understand. Our job is to create digital transformation by making the visual side of insights very engaging and wake up a wider audience inside organisations, to solve much more tangible real-world problems.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Buzz Radar, when it comes to serving your customers media intelligence and develop your offer?

The change of mindset around privacy will be a big challenge for us, especially the way that customers and social media networks are slowing the flow of data down since the Cambridge Analytica scandal. We need to think how to provide useful information while staying inside and being compliant with GDPR and how do we create a morally correct but useful service.

Generally the challenges remain the same. Having the intelligence is really great but what do you do with it? How do you turn it into actionable insight and getting people to focus on the technology, the people and the process? How do we empower organisations to do useful things with insights and social listening?

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

At the moment we’ve recently launched AI Audience Analysis. That’s where we’re psychometrically profiling audiences on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram – anywhere there’s publicly available info on a person. If they talk about a brand or product we’ll look at all their posts and profile them – within GDPR limitations.

We can take a social media profile and break it down into 50 different personality components and get an incredibly accurate read on a person or a group. That allows us to create much, much better content strategy, because we can compare it with the content that’s being published by a brand, so we can figure out how well that content is resonating, or will resonate. So that’s an incredibly powerful piece of technology.

Can you give an example of a client of yours that have used audience intelligence with great result?

One of our big problems, historically, is being tied to stringent NDAs but I can talk about a pharmaceutical company in the HIV / AIDS medication space. They wanted to understand the HIV treatment audience.

One of the jobs was to use AI Audience Analysis to understand how many healthcare professionals were out there who were forward thinking innovators. We managed to identify a group of early adopters and look at their other key personality traits to help them develop a campaign that targeted that audience.

The other part looked at patients and understood what a big focus was for patients. What that allowed us to do was to give the data to them, so they can go to senior management and say ‘this isn’t what we think, it’s what we know’. That gave them the authority and agency to go and change some of the core content strategy for the brand.

We were able to take the company from fourth largest brand, socially, in the market to the number one. We really transformed them by creating these audience insights, profile the audience, and understand what content will resonate with the audience.

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

We only just started with Reddit, and we want to get into more specialist, niche, databases. One of the cool things about Buzz Radar is we develop functionality specifically for individual clients if they need it, so for example if they wanted us to integrate to a new network or create a new visualisation, our team will go to build them if we can’t within our existing platform. That gives us the ability to look for different data sources and plug them in quickly for new projects or proof of concepts.

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

There’s been a huge amount of consolidation in the industry and there are a few big players. Some of those big players have oversold and underdelivered, and there’s been a much too large focus on technology rather than people, process and technology. What that’s done is create a fatigue in the industry from marketers to social listening, but to technology in general. Frankly we spend a lot of our time picking up the pieces from the bigger companies who oversell and underdeliver.

What we see happening now is a move away, as the industry matures and the marketers mature with the tech, we see a much smaller focus on the tech and a much bigger focus on what can be realistically delivered, what actionable insights there are.

I think the industry will be more important. As GDPR clamps down on cookies, cookie technology and ad tech, looking for data in other places will be more important. We’re seeing marketers move away from expecting tools to be magic bullets and I’m hearing less stupid words like compumagical.

There’ll be more focus on the human element. As AI does more heavy lifting, it’ll give analysts and experts more headroom and space to get out of PowerPoint and spreadsheets and move towards finding insight, actions and recommendations.

By Russell Hughes

“The main challenge will be the use of data considering privacy rules and terms”

Theofilos Argyriadis

Interview with Theofilos Argyriadis, CEO of Clip News, a media monitoring service based in Greece.

Hi Theofilos, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Clip News?

We established Clip News in 1992, in a time when “monitoring” and “clipping” were almost unknown services in Greece. Of course, back then monitoring and clipping services included only print media. I have worked at every stage and post of a small monitoring business, such as the clipping department, sales, manager. Today, almost 30 years after the establishment of the Clip News SA, my official role is President and CEO. My responsibilities mainly focus on the company’s development in terms of new products, new IT technologies such as the implementation of machine learning solutions and AI, as well as the inter-connection of Clip News with other companies and the participation in European programs.

Having founded Clip News almost 30 years ago, what are you most proud of over the years?

I believe what I am mostly proud of is the people that have grown along with the company all these years. The people are our main asset and we try to give them all the necessary skills to develop and implement their own ideas.

What differs Clip News from other media intelligence companies?

Competition in Greece is not particularly aggressive. We know what our competitors offer and we are well aware of the market conditions. I could maybe say that our high-level services and an excellent customer service department surely differs us from other companies. We take care of our subscribers and we meet all their needs. We foresee and suggest solutions, given our long expertise and familiarity with the publicity of each subscriber. We know how to respond and handle any crisis our subscribers may face.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Clip News, when it comes to serving your customers media intelligence and develop your offer?

At Clip News we focus and strongly believe in services that add value to the monitoring services, especially with the use of all the metadata available in each piece of information we handle. We strongly feel that the excessive information available nowadays does not make sense and to this end we offer added value services such as analysis services, reports, Executive Reports from specific or all media types. I strongly feel that it is our job to train subscribers in order to better understand how we can help them. It is quite difficult to communicate all of the services we are able to provide to a company fast enough, due to stereotypes in the market. Our services have quickly evolved with the help of technology and the expertise of our employees and we can provide assistance to our clients on multiple levels. As a result, our biggest challenge is to transfer our knowledge and gain the trust of our subscribers. Fortunately, we manage to do so.

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

We are about to release a clustering feature for media clips from all media sources that will be carried out through machine learning. As a result, our subscribers will really have less clips to go through. Clustering will reduce the cost of other services, such as reports and analysis. We will also focus on tagging the clips, for our subscribers to understand the big picture of their publicity. Furthermore, we are correcting the automated sentiment of clips, which unfortunately in the Greek language has a success rate of up to 80%, compared to the English language (95%).

We are also launching reporting and analysis services based on KPI’s including several metrics, for both print and online monitoring services. To this end, our subscribers can have a complete view of their publicity and track their weaknesses and strengths in each media source. Practically, all these tools can create a publicity strategy based on reliable data.

As active in Fibep, The Media Intelligence Association, what do you think is the most important such an organization can bring to its members?

FIBEP is an association of members with the same principles, services and anxieties. Apart for the obvious (sales between its members) FIBEP is a remarkable association that makes use and communicates the expertise of each member. Keep in mind that FIBEP includes members that have a history of 100 or more years, as well as newly founded companies from across the world. This exchange of knowledge can only benefit each FIBEP member.

I believe that co-operation is the key for the future of media intelligence companies. The volume of data will increase any company, no matter its size, will not be able to respond easily. Media intelligence companies need to find a way to co-operate more substantially towards a greater goal and not based on short-term financial results. We need to claim our place in the future and be ready for in order to evolve to significant market players. FIBEP could design such a prospect and transfer the long-term profit to its members and design tools that will make co-operation easier and faster.

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

The main challenge will be the data and the use of data considering privacy rules and terms. The questions that will be posed in order for the data to be able to provide answers. In the coming years I believe that there will be changes that mainly concern a more structured way to use data. Our services will change and media mentions or clips will no longer be important. The importance will shift towards services that are based on metadata, trends and analysis services. Media intelligence companies ought to quickly adjust to the new reality and provide services with truly added-value.

By Russell Hughes

“Today more than ever it is important we stay in contact with our customers”

Marina Bonomi

Interview with Marina Bonomi, CEO of Mimesi, a media monitoring and intelligence company based in Milan, Italy

Hi, Marina. What is your background and what does your role at Mimesi include?

I’m the CEO and shareholder of Mimesi, a media monitoring and intelligence company based in Italy. My role is in running the company in all aspects and shaping the company’s strategy for future growth via a planned business strategy. Within my remit is a particular focus on copyright issues and relationships with publishers.

All of my previous positions and interests have been based in the digital industry. I graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Milan and have been an Associate Professor of Digital Marketing at the same institution and the CMO VAS at Vodaphone Italy among other roles.

What is Mimesi’s core service offering and what is the company’s differentiator?

Mimesi monitors print, web, social media, radio and TV, and it offers accurate analysis of clients’ media presence and its reputation.

It was founded in 2001 and stood out in the Italian market as it was the only operator offering a media monitoring service entirely based on the digitalization of articles.

The company has introduced various innovative technologies into the Italian market. We have launched website monitoring, introduced a mobile app for the consultation and management of online revenues, created our own Mimesi360 platform for cross-media analysis of company reputations, and more.

What are the challenges Mimesi must overcome to provide sound media intelligence to clients and develop its value proposition?

The Italian scenario is changing rapidly. For example, new regulations on copyright will modify the rules of our market. As a company, we have to show that we are ready to keep offering relevant services to our clients. We believe that although print will remain significant, it will decrease in importance, so our value proposition will have to be more ‘media integration’ based. We will become more focused on media integration with a platform that is able to provide content in the correct manner, giving the proper value to the distinctive features of every media.

How has the arrival of COVID-19 forced Mimesi to adapt, and what are the long-term changes the pandemic will make to the media intelligence industry?

Mimesi has three operational offices on the Italian territory; Milan, Parma and Forli, all areas severely affected by the pandemic. As soon as we understood that there would be restrictions on work and travel we urgently set to work to organize smart working for the entire company.

Our activities concern the daily monitoring of almost 2000 media organizations and as many web sources, plus dozens of television stations. This required sophisticated software and dedicated hardware. We supplied all the necessary hardware to our staff for remote working.

We established two priorities: our employees’ health and the business’ continuity, which have driven our approach during lockdown. Mimesi has efficiently maintained services, commercial and marketing activities. We have provided our media monitoring services without severe activity reduction

I believe that Italy, like other countries, will face economic difficulties, following the pandemic. MMOs will be impacted. Today more than ever it is important we stay in contact with our customers to understand their changing needs and adapt to the new scenario.

What part of your platform has the greatest potential but have yet to be fully embraced by your clients yet?

We think that our social media service has still untapped potential for growth, considering the high usage of social media in Italy. For example, Italians use social media for an average of two hours a day and one out of three Italians has at least seven social media profiles.

We think this because there are few Italian companies that use social media as part of their marketing strategies. More than 80% of companies have at least one social media account but their use is still superficial and sporadic. Less than half of the companies in the study say they use Facebook with a strategic, coordinated and continual approach.

Are there any emerging trends in media intelligence being driven by customer demand?

Research we published in April showed that over 14 million conversations have been generated globally using the hashtag #covid19. Of these, almost 300 thousand happened in Italy alone. Freedom and simplicity in the use of social media have allowed for the creation of huge sheer amounts of indiscriminate, uncontrolled information.

During the first phase of lockdown in Italy, communication from institutions was extremely fragmented and companies were looking for information to understand how to behave and what kind of procedures to apply.

We intercepted this need with a specific monitoring service, which allowed our clients to understand what measures other companies in the same sector were taking, which sectors were most affected, what were the measures put in place by the government to help companies and how customers were reacting on social media channels.

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

We need to be ever more relevant – constantly developing new ideas and adopting technologies to keep our platform evolving. The platform, now an information service in use by the communication or marketing department, must become a support base for our business decisions.

Enriching the knowledge base and extrapolating value from the multitude of data present on all media is our present and future goal.

By Peter Appleby

“The need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than ever”

Martin Lyster

Interview with Martin Lyster, CEO of Agility PR Solutions, a media intelligence and solutions company based in Ottawa, Canada

Hi, Martin. What is your background and what are your duties at Agility PR?

My background is originally in finance and accounting. I’m a data junkie at heart. In 2003, I co-founded a media analysis firm in Ottawa, Canada, and built that business into the country’s leading media intelligence company. We sold the company in 2014 to Innodata, which remains Agility PR’s parent company. Following the sale, we made a series of acquisitions that built Agility PR’s capabilities for the full PR lifecycle.

My daily focus is on taking our product to the market. Agility PR punches above its weight in terms of our capabilities for our size. We receive superb feedback from clients on websites like G2 and have a growing reselling business.

Today, Agility PR has an enviable platform and suite of workflows and tools across our product range. We have several thousand clients around the world and now employ hundreds of people globally.

What is the added value that Agility PR provides its clients in the PR and marketing sectors?

On the media targeting side, Agility PR is one of the very few companies in the industry with a global media database that is fully integrated with a Big Data media intelligence platform. Our AI-powered technology gives us the ability to make the connection between journalists and the content they publish in real time, so that we can identify emerging trends to put PR and marketing teams in contact with them. This precise approach is the most effective way to target the media but is only possible via the application of our media monitoring solution together with our media database.

Which services propel the growth of Agility PR?

Agility PR covers the entire suite of the PR lifecycle. This includes media outreach, whereby we identify the key journalists covering a particular industry and set a workflow on how to engage with them, share content, and amplify the client’s content with that media. Content is then published, which requires media monitoring.

We divide the company into two main areas: outreach on one side, monitoring, analysis, and intelligence on the other. These two sides are split evenly in terms of business activity and complement each other well.

In what ways has COVID-19 demanded adaptation from Agility PR?

COVID-19 has had a serious economic impact globally. Yet it has presented Agility PR with a tremendous opportunity and we have seen our metrics grow. On the media intelligence side of the business, some of our largest clients have become very proactive around how their business is reflected in the media. Some of these businesses have been deemed ‘essential services’ during the crisis and therefore have an increased need to understand how their business is seen. In parallel to this is the public’s opinion and concerns.

On the outreach side, we have never been busier. Our clients are sending a significant number of news releases through Agility. Month after month we have seen increasing utilization of our tools. Between March and April, the number of press releases sent out via Agility PR Solutions’ tools grew by over 30 percent, while the outreach via the Agility platform has increased 60 percent since January.

What are the challenges that confront the industry today?

The print media industry is going through a lot of changes but the COVID-19 crisis has sped this change. But the need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than it ever has been. The public is consuming – depending on the metrics you’re looking at – between 60 and 300 percent more media than at any earlier time. We deliver vital insights from that consumption and turn it into intelligence for clients.

Agility PR’s media database is the premier database in the industry and this is because of the workflows we have in place. Our team is working flat out because, with the pandemic, journalists’ contact details have changed. Maintaining that communication bridge is important for everyone.

What are the technology-based services that Agility PR hopes to bring to market, and what is the problem being solved?

One of the main themes in our sector is PR attribution, but as of today, there is no real PR attribution method that provides clients with a clear understanding of how content drives business. This is an area we are looking at, and while there are quick wins to be had, that is not the direction Agility PR will move in. Instead, we will look to generate insights from our client suite intelligence to help clients understand the impact of content in measurable terms. These terms differ: for one client it may be revenue, for another, blood donation. Through our data-rich approach and analysis, we can build the whole picture for our clients.

How can Agility PR increase the quality of the insights its services already offer clients?

We feel we are just scratching the surface in terms of the audience intelligence and targeting intelligence can provide. We have already brought these two ends together, but adding a level of predictive analytics will give our clients the opportunity to target the media more accurately, in scalable and precise ways, compared to the traditional approach. We have our database ready, but by linking it to client-side data, we can truly create a predictive solution. We have an exciting roadmap for these developments.

By Peter Appleby

“The biggest challenge is to master both the AI technologies and the processes of valorizing them”

Viet Yen Nguyen

Interview with Viet Yen Nguyen, CTO of Hypefactors, a PR automation software company in Copenhagen

Hi Viet, what is your background, and what is your current role at Hypefactors?

My academic background includes a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science from the University of Twente, and a PhD in Computer Science from the RWTH Aachen University.

I started my career in R&D for the European space industry. I took part in technology transfer projects where we applied recent theoretical advances from academia and demonstrated their applicability to upcoming spacecraft missions. Later on, I joined Fraunhofer, a German research organization where I participated in projects of similar nature in automotive, autonomous farming and the energy sector until I moved to the private sector.

Today I’m the CTO of Hypefactors, a SaaS doing reputation and media tech and helping brands and companies do that more effectively. H&M, parts of the United Nations, Volkwagen, Stark Group (a construction industry) and Sampension (pension funds) are some of the clients in our portfolio.

What responsibilities does your role carry with it?

Our company centers on four segments: data, AI, web and mobile. I drive all four from an engineering and product development perspective end to end. This includes day-to-day operations, as well as new business strategy planning and alignment.

What differs Hypefactors from other reputation & media automation software companies?

Hypefactors is a simple all-in-one solution for reputation and media management. This is incredibly important because many competitors are only point-solutions. We see that prospective users are dissatisfied with using dozens of different tools. They prefer to use only one that allows all aspects of their workflow to be simple and integrated.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Hyperfactors when it comes to offering your customers analysis and developing your offer?

Throughout the years, we have become strong in multilingual and global analysis using machine learning and big data. We are extremely pragmatic in tackling those challenges, and we are used to making tough choices. Therefore, like academia, the majority of our effort goes into supporting significant use cases. Improved support for low-resource languages like Dzongkha or Welsh has shifted to the future.

What are the best applications of AI for the PR industry, and how does it benefit your customers?

We have over a dozen AIs in production, seeing a million requests per day for various purposes. Our reputation in AI is very user-visible; we assess whether the client’s brand, product or spokesperson is perceived as positive, neutral or negative within the context of a text. It’s trained to not only recognize sentiment, but also facts and cultural aspects that impact reputation. This is a step up from commonly deployed generic sentiment AIs.

The reputation is one single dimension that impacts all other parts of the business. A reputation peak is typically paired with supercharged KPIs on marketing, sales, financial and recruiting.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions?

We’re constantly improving the integration between our product features, as well as adding more media data and machine-learned information enrichments.

Our systems are on continuous deployment; our roll out strategy is to release incremental changes at least once a day. When you compare the changes on a day-to-day basis, the impact is minor. However, when you consider the accumulation and compounding of these benefits over a longer duration, let’s say months, the difference is night and day.

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

I find it incredibly exciting to be in this industry at this time as there’s so much ground to cover. Take for example language — it’s been a fundamental barrier between people and cultures. AI and big data are breaking these barriers down. Today, thanks to ML translation, we can instantaneously read and understand the gist of articles posted in countries whose languages are completely foreign to us. This is especially important for multinationals, like H&M and Volkswagen. The same result was not tractable two decades ago.

In general, I think there’s a lot of time saving ahead for us by automating repetitive aspects of the work, like reporting and data curation. This enables our clients to spend more on the creative and strategic aspects of reputation and media management.

The biggest challenge is to master both the AI technologies and the processes of valorizing them: the execution. This is not the kind of execution traditionally seen in most businesses because you cannot apply tactics from engineering, financial, sales, and marketing management nor principles from any other business dimension to implement and apply AI in a successful way. In fact, it’s closer to attaining scientific excellence than to driving business ROI. The people mastering this holistically will make waves in the years to come. At Hypefactors, we are heading this wave with our talented team.

By Renata Ilitsky

“With increasing volume, listening and analytics will be all the more important”

Sameer Narkar

Interview with Sameer Narkar, Founder of Prudence Analytics, with the social listening and analytics platform, Konnect Insights.

Hi Sameer, what is your background, and what is your current role at Prudence Analytics?

I started as a software developer about 15 years ago, and now lead the team at Prudence. Everyone knows us as Konnect Insights – a social listening and analytics platform. My role at Konnect Insights is head of product, and as founder, I oversee other functions, such as Marketing and Sales.

As the founder of a growing company like Prudence Analytics, what are you most proud of thus far in the journey?

We are happy with the fact that Konnect Insights is the leading product in the social listening space in India, and we are slowly entering other markets. Our users love our data, the user experience and the great dashboards. Nothing makes me more proud than seeing a happy customer.

What differs Konnect Insights from other social listening platforms?

We offer an all-in-one tool that allows our customers’ marketing, customer support, analytics and PR teams to all use one software. The unified dashboards make life a lot easier for the whole organization. Apart from this, our dashboards and BI tools are the best in the industry.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Konnect Insights when it comes to offering your customer analysis and developing your offer?

I won’t really call them challenges, we see them as opportunities. We know it is a fast changing world of social media and analytics with new changes happening at the social platform level as well as API changes. We have to keep abreast of them, and, at the same time, update our users on the changes.

The other important aspect is to keep innovating and bringing in new features and improvements in the current offering. We love to do that, and we are always excited about achieving excellence in our offerings.

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

The Business Intelligence (BI) solution that we launched offers the capability of creating charts with any combination of columns and filters, which is one of the most advanced solutions that we offer in addition to our dashboard’s functionality. We are thinking beyond social listening tools and making them a complete digital marketing suite with all possible integrations, and then offering the power of dashboards and Business Intelligence tools.

Which of your current products do you believe has a lot of potential, but hasn’t been adapted at the same rate as your other offerings by your clients?

We offer integrations with many CRM systems, such as Freshdesk, Zendesk and Microsoft Dynamics, as well as chat applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams. This has only been adapted by a few of our customers. We offer APIs for various integrations and would love to have a lot more use cases.

Which social platforms do you see as having the most potential in the future?

Instagram is the present as well as the future. I know a lot of marketers believe TikTok is the next big platform, but I still want to wait and see.

How do you think the media monitoring and social media analytics industry will change in the next 5 years?

The need for monitoring and listening will keep on growing. There is a gold mine of information available on the web and social media. You get your customers’ feedback with so much ease with tools like Konnect Insights, and you can respond to them within minutes. You can make data driven decisions, change your offerings and know what is working for you and what’s working for your competitors with ready-made dashboards, while performing industry analysis at the same time.

With increasing volume, listening and analytics will be all the more important. We are talking about this at a time when the world is witnessing a pandemic like never before in 100 years, and what we have seen is brands using analytics and social listening to make informed decisions. Big data and allied technologies such as NLP, Machine Learning and AI are going to play a major role.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The need of identifying automated content will become pressing”

Tom Avramis

Interview with Tom Avramis, co-founder and Managing Partner of DataScouting, a software company that provides solutions in media monitoring.

Hi Tom, what is your background and what is included in your current role at DataScouting?

I have worked as a programmer and project manager for over 15 years on various projects and for the last 10 years on media monitoring software. At that point, I decided to found DataScouting with my partner to promote our software to a broader part of the market. Currently, I am the Managing Partner of DataScouting and I overlook most operations in the company, but my passion is to advance our research division to utilize cutting edge technologies in our software solutions.

What differs DataScouting from other technology companies that focus on media monitoring?

DataScouting is a software company that provides intelligent software solutions to media monitoring companies and organizations. We offer our clients cloud and on-premise software solutions for monitoring news and advertisements in broadcast, online/social and print media, including a reporting and delivery dashboard. Our MediaScouting suite is a turnkey solution that fosters the daily production of media monitoring companies of any size.

We are not data aggregators and we do not provide media monitoring services. All our software solutions are built for the cloud, but, depending on the customer use case, they can also be installed on the customers’ premises. We follow an open architecture paradigm, providing our customers with access to APIs, file structure, and the database.

Our software streamlines the daily workflow of all media monitoring companies by allowing companies to minimize the use of human resources typically involved in repetitive tasks that use technologies, such as speech recognition, audio matching, optical character recognition, face/logo detection, text analytics, machine translation, etc.

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?

One of the latest additions to our software suite is a completely new module for advertisement monitoring in broadcast and print.

We are currently working on a major update to our user interfaces with new functionalities, such as dynamic updates, extensive audit and logging dashboards, machine learning enabled visualizations, and new multimodal clip browsing interfaces.

You have done some work with image and video analysis; how far have you come in that area in terms of research and what are you aiming to achieve?

We have created several modules related to image and video analysis that have been integrated into our systems. Examples of these include face, logo, object recognition, and news ticker extraction. One thing that these technologies have in common is the use of machine learning, and, specifically, deep learning and convolutional neural networks, which have revolutionized the field of artificial intelligence in the last few years.

Our face and logo recognition models provide results similar to human accuracy, solving problems that would otherwise be impossible to solve, or, at the very least, require significant human effort. Our goal is to finetune our existing machine learning models using knowledge transfer and minimal human feedback, making them easier to use and more adaptable to changes.

You provide media intelligence software solutions to government bodies. Do they require different solutions than other clients; and if so, how do you work with them to provide that?

Government organizations have similar needs to media monitoring companies, but the solutions we offer them are somewhat unique. For example, media monitoring for government bodies usually focuses on a narrower scope of topics than other companies; additionally they operate in smaller teams and need to work in real time, which requires more software automation. Government organizations have strict security and integration requirements, which other companies typically don’t. Finally, government bodies are interested in compliance monitoring, usually for broadcast media, to check for things like quality compliance with regulations of the aired content.

What type of data or media not currently used for media monitoring today could be interesting to utilize in the future?

Media monitoring started as a service-based on-resource scarcity because it was impossible to read and assess news in all the newspapers and magazines in a given country. Today, media monitoring is based on identifying relevant data as quickly as possible and providing actionable information that allows clients to make knowledgeable decisions.

In the near future, automation, cloud, and machine learning adoption will definitely increase. Additionally, the media intelligence industry will face new challenges as new media formats will appear and automatic content generation will become more common; thus the need of identifying automated content will become pressing.

By Renata Ilitsky

“As more sources become available, the need for professional media monitoring will increase”

Mark Reisz

Interview with Mark Reisz, CEO of Media Info Groep, a Dutch media monitoring company.

Hi Mark, what is your background, and what is your current role at Media Info Groep?

I joined Media Info Groep as a full-time employee right after getting my degree in Business Economics from Erasmus University. I was a second-generation employee in our family business, of which I took full control in the late 90’s.

Currently, I am responsible for all the companies in the group in Almere and Jakarta, especially making sure that all short and long term goals are met. Together with the managers of the various departments, I set the strategic goals. I also take part in the development process of various software solutions.

Having served as CEO for Media Info Groep for over 20 years, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our transition from a traditional MMO where everything was done manually to a fully automated production process where people are still important for selection.

The acquisition of three competitors in the Dutch market is another proud moment that proved that our decision to focus on our quality of services was the right choice. Ever since that moment, focusing on quality has been one of our top priorities.

Additionally, our ability to adapt to the ever-changing market needs and requirements makes us proud.

What has been the most challenging time for Media Info Groep, and why?

We have faced and continue to face many challenges in our history, which spans over 100 years. Recent economic crises were challenging, and the current COVID-19 crisis put additional strain on the production process. However, due to our established processes, we were able to let all our employees in Almere and Jakarta work from home without any disruptions.

Another challenging time we faced was the introduction of copyright fees in the early 2000’s. Customers were reluctant to adhere to the new situation, and we were faced with a high decline in our customer base. Over the years, clients have come to understand the reasons for copyright fees, and the situation is back to normal.

In conclusion, we can say that this millennium has brought with it the greatest challenges so far. Keeping up with all the technological challenges makes life very interesting.

What differs Media Info Groep from other media monitoring companies in the Netherlands?

Media Info Groep is the only true MMO in the Netherlands. We have all the sources in house – we process all the papers (PDFs), gather web content, monitor radio and television, and do our own social media monitoring. Other MMOs only focus on web or social and buy the other sources from us.

Furthermore, we differ from other MMOs because we have actual people choosing the final selections for articles. The search engine does the initial selection, but those results are narrowed down by people before being shown to the customer. Therefore, we can make much better selections than those done automatically; even using sophisticated search engines can’t beat the human mind at this time.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Media Info Groep when it comes to offering your customers analysis and developing your offer?

The main challenge is getting the customers to understand their own needs and requirements. Media analysis is not an on the shelf product, it’s custom made for every individual customer. AMEC’s frameworks help guide the customer in this journey and quickly sets the requirements. In the end, there is the final challenge to match the offer to the budget, which is probably the biggest challenge in the process.

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 are constantly introducing new offers for our customers. Recently, we added logo detection and voice recognition to our portfolio of solutions.

Although our customers don’t always actually see the work we do to improve our offerings, they certainly notice our constant progress and appreciate the improvements in our processes, which allows us to provide better services in less time.

From your experience, is there a particular case you can share where media intelligence truly made a crucial difference for a client’s business?

I cannot get into specifics on an individual client basis, but we know that media intelligence has made significant differences for customers’ businesses many times over.

For example, a car manufacturer was promoting a particular model as the ideal car for women; however, after the analysis of all the media coverage, it turned out that there was only attention focused on performance and handling aspects in the media, which are typically topics not interesting to most women.

Media intelligence has also led a major bank to reconsider its position as a sponsor of a major sports team as a result of the findings of our analysis. It turned out that there was a mismatch between the values of the bank and the values of the sport.

With the current situation regarding the coronavirus, what would you advise your clients in regards to getting the most benefit from media monitoring?

The pandemic doesn’t change a thing about getting the most out of media monitoring. The most noticeable change is the way people get their news – Dutch publishers currently see a spike in the number of online subscribers.

In what ways has the coronavirus affected your business?

Our top priority was to keep all our employees safe and healthy. Without any disruption to our production process, we managed to get our entire team to work from home within a few days.

Unfortunately, several customers needed to terminate our services because they faced turnovers due to all the restrictive measures in the Netherlands. On the other hand, we have gained new pharmaceutical and medical customers. Overall, we see a decrease in sales, but we are still standing strong and have no need for government support.

Publishers are also hit hard by the crisis, and we see a steady decline in the number of pages and articles disseminated.

How do you think the media monitoring industry will change in the next 5 years; and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Media monitoring will become more and more dependent on new technologies. As more sources become available, the need for professional media monitoring will increase. The next generation of challenges is already looming – face, logo and voice recognition are just a few of them. Google and Apple are already offering services in this field, but to transition this into a viable product for large-scale demand causes many sleepless nights for our developers.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Social media will become even more prevalent at the expense of offline media”

Michalis A. Michael

Interview with Michalis A. Michael, CEO of DigitalMR, a tech company in AI powered data analytics in the UK.

Hi Michalis, what is included in your current role at DigitalMR, and what is your background?

We are a remote first company, so even before the pandemic, we only worked from the office once a week, with the rest of the days spent working from home. I start my mornings dealing with the most pressing tasks. Afterwards, I provide my daily slack update and read everyone else’s, which is followed by two daily stand-up calls with the teams. After that, I focus on my main job responsibilities, sales and fundraising.

My academic background includes a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the TU Berlin, multiple executive education courses/seminars at Harvard Business School and one at LBS.

What makes DigitalMR different from other social intelligence companies?

Three things which make DigitalMR different from other social intelligence companies; the first being our higher accuracy for sentiment and topic annotation in any language.

The second feature that sets us apart is our hybrid team, which consists not only of software engineers and data scientists, but also market researchers/insights experts. Our solutions are for the market research industry mainly, which is why we need to have researchers talking to researchers.

Third is our proprietary machine learning model for emotion annotation, and our deep learning capability to analyse images by creating a textual caption, extracting text and identifying logos as a result of a strong R&D DNA.

The most important thing about social intelligence is to know the accuracy of annotation of machine learning algorithms and being able to gauge how to make decisions that will be beneficial as opposed to harmful. After all – garbage in garbage out no matter how beautiful the dashboard for data visualization is.

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 have recently developed and released a new composite metric called the Social Brand Performance Evaluation Score (SBPS). This is a metric from zero to one which combines buzz, net sentiment score and engagement metrics among other proprietary metrics. For the first time ever, this enables brands to benchmark their campaigns against any competitor or best in class.

From your experience, is there a particular case you can share where media intelligence truly made a crucial difference for a client’s business?

A telecoms provider was able to find explanations of the Net Promoter Score fluctuations in their monthly tracking survey by correlating it with our trademarked Net Sentiment Score. By doing qualitative analysis of what was actually posted online, the company was able to understand why NPS was fluctuating up or down.

What data or media in regards to consumer insights and social intelligence that is not used today could be interesting to explore in the future?

WhatsApp messages/groups with permissions, other peer to peer communication networks, Snapchat, and in some cases, the Darknet because clients are asking for them.

How do you think the media monitoring industry will change in the next 5 years; and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Social media will become even more prevalent at the expense of offline media. The challenge is the behaviour of data owners, such as Twitter and Facebook.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Tools for voice to text transcription will be more and more indispensable”

Lucie Geislerová

Interview with Lucie Geislerová, Chief Business Development Officer at Newton Media, a media monitoring company with head office in the Czech Republic.

Hi Lucie, what is included in your current role at Newton Media?

I have been with Newton Media altogether for 15 years, and I have to admit that I have one of the most interesting roles in the whole company. I am responsible for international business, which means I get to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world. It’s not just a brief meeting either, as I focus on establishing new relationships and partnerships for long term cooperation.

How does Newton Media differ from other media monitoring companies in your region?

Newton has the unique advantage of having its own branches in 10 countries across our region. Some of them, like Prague or Zagreb, have their own technological research centres, and all branches can share the newest tools. This allows us to offer our customers tailor-made solutions using top industry features. Also, we can proudly say that we have deep knowledge of the media landscape of 10 European countries, which goes far beyond standard media monitoring services.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Newton Media when it comes to offering your customers analysis and developing your offer?

From an international perspective, it’s definitely data availability and metadata consistency.

Operating in 10 countries; what are the greatest challenges when it comes to offering comprehensive products and services throughout the region in such diverse markets?

It is said that unification brings a synergy with it, which is the truth in our case too, but only up to a certain level. It is my experience that the specifications of each market are very important when offering a comprehensive product. Also, I learned very early on that the diversity in our markets is actually the key to our success.

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?

I think the current situation shows us that quick help is priceless. We saw many companies doing great things when facing Covid-19’s effect on the whole world, and I’m very proud to say Newton Media did not stay behind the others.

One thing we are very proud of is our creation of a web app for deaf people that puts together the most important information from audiovisual sources and offers automatic subtitles thanks to our very own speech-to-text technology.

As the situation is constantly changing, TV stations do not have the time to provide a sign language translator for all of the news, which means people with a hearing disorder are at a disadvantage. However, our free web app allows them to stay current with the news; plus the service is free.

Currently, copyright and licensing for data used for monitoring differs a lot depending on region and type of media. How do you believe changes regarding copyright will affect data that is used for media monitoring in the future?

I am sure that the journey of finding the balance will continue, and the solution of using premium licenced sources will coexist with the solution of using free data. There is a market for both.

What data or media that is currently not used for monitoring could be interesting in the future?

In my opinion, we are about to see a rise in the importance of consumer data, even in our field. There is huge potential in connecting it with media content analytics. Also, tools for voice to text transcription will be more and more indispensable due to the trend of audiovisual content being published on different platforms. And I cannot forget picture detection, which is evolving rapidly.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5 years?

By coincidence, this interview is held during a very turbulent time when coronavirus is spreading quickly and unpredictably across the world. We face something that has never happened before on such a scale. It is frightening and limiting at the moment, but it is the beginning of a new era in the whole world, including our industry. It is a chance to discover a new way of working, to develop new services, and create new types of analytics. We have to listen carefully to the needs and wishes of our clients and be even more flexible.

By Renata Ilitsky