“Those that focus on providing highly comprehensive and reliable data will excel”

Todd Murphy

Interview with Todd Murphy, CEO of Universal Information Services, a media intelligence company in Omaha.

Hi Todd, what is your background, and what is included in your current role at Universal?

I grew up in the media monitoring industry as my father had purchased a press-clipping bureau in 1959. I started developing broadcast monitoring solutions in 1983 while in junior high school.

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in Communications and minored in Psychology. I didn’t plan to come back to the company business, but I saw an opportunity related to data mining and retrieving information from content databases, aggregators.

I came back in 1991, and started developing solutions for TV, radio and Internet monitoring and measurement; Internet monitoring turned into web monitoring in the late 90’s. I have seen a lot of growth from our company and had a lot of fun creating new solutions for our clients. Although I bought the company from my father a few years ago, he is still involved with our work. I am the CEO, but Jim Murphy retains the President’s title. He still comes in to work every day!

As CEO, I tell most people my current role mostly involves knocking down hurdles for my team. Removing hurdles lets my team move more quickly. I also focus on research and development of new services for our clients, as well as developing strategic partnerships and opportunities.

What differs Universal from other media intelligence companies?

Our two main competitive advantages are content and accuracy. We are the only ones that are comprehensively tracking all media types and using valid analysis methods to create highly reliable measurement data.

In contrast to software as a service vendors (SaaS), we get all the newspapers articles, TV and a large cross section of radio across the country.  Along with the traditional media, we’re also monitoring web and social content. Together this makes us unique because we have the ability to track all the content, and not just a portion of it, then analyze the full sample as needed.

Our analysis team can go in and look at the resulting data and then pull true insights out of it. Our approach follows a methodology that is accurate and replicable. In this way we avoid semantic errors, like those found with automated sentiment analysis, and we can deliver much more reliable insights.

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

Our biggest challenge has been re-educating customers coming from our competitors. Over the last 4-5 years, we have had to “re-program” customers who have used other services because they have often been mislead about what “complete coverage” means, or what “real PR measurement” includes. Automated measurement tools are very inaccurate. We let our technology do much of the heavy lifting, then our trained analysts provide the reasoned insight needed to fulfill an exacting order.

We have to tell them what it really means—TV monitoring isn’t only monitoring a TV station’s website, but actually monitoring what’s broadcast in addition to the website.

Earlier this year, you released Alpha Clips, a service that tracks article origin of shared news stories. How does that service work, and how have your customers received it?

Alpha Clips identifies the first point of entry for a story, where and how it broke. It tracks feeds from press clipping content and web content on a 24-hour cycle. We can show our subscribers the story’s true origin, and whether it was published or digital.

We are able to pull that information into our system, and, based on timing, identify which story was released first, thus identifying the alpha clip.

For example, if Los Angeles Times released a story to commonly owned outlets, it could appear in dozens of newspapers across the country. Our software will identify it as the same story, and the alpha clip will label it as a +1 or +30 (depending on the quantity of outlets that ran the story). This reduces the text our clients have to read because artificial intelligence uses journalistic rules to pull out the key elements of the story.

The benefits of Alpha Clips is the ability to show the origin of the story, save customers time by summarizing it and reducing content volume our PR and corporate clients have to go through by clustering the same story rather than identifying it as a series of repeated stories in a report.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services for your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

This January, we plan to take a big step in relation to our media measurement services. We have created a more interactive and dynamic process for our customers when it comes to the graphics and insights we offer them.

While I was at the international congress in Copenhagen, FIBEP, I realized that being able to provide our users with more support should be our focus for 2019. In line with that, we’re going to offer additional consultative services with our services. We will provide our customers with strategic insights that will help them move their outcomes in a positive direction in relation to their goals.

We’re not going to offer PR strategy, but we will suggest what customers can do to improve their outcomes based on what we know and can show them.

All clients have different levels of understanding how media can be analyzed; what is the most common misconception that your clients have?

What are valid results?
What is reliable data?

Clients who came from a software as a service (SaaS) environment that didn’t provide a lot of support, but shifted the work to the customer, have the biggest misconceptions about those questions.

Those customers often aren’t prepared to structure a focused search strategy or objectively look at data results according to a sound methodology. They may have invested a lot of personal time and money into a campaign, and subconsciously be “looking” for outcomes that may not exist.

We try to deprogram them, if you will. We provide our clients with complete transparency of our methodology and earned media results. We want our clients to see how we arrived at their insights, rather than hide them behind server code.

With the experience you have in this industry, being with Universal for 27 years, what changes have been the most unexpected over the years?

It’s been most surprising to see the largest organizations moving away from a model that focuses on customer service and support. That has been to our benefit, which is where all our growth comes from these days.

Customers have always needed support because they’re busy and shifting work to them makes their jobs even harder. Why haven’t my peers used technology to make information more easily consumed? That is what we focus on.

With your great experience, is there a specific mouthwatering case that you know of where media intelligence has played a crucial role for a client? If so, what case was that?

I’d like to think everything—without mentioning specific clients, certain crisis management clients that would involve mass shooting situations in public places have benefited from our services. We have been able to assist them in real time by tracking and reporting the way news is shared and delivered so that our clients can understand if the media is getting facts out correctly.

We have also helped school districts avoid hiring a new superintendent who should never have been around children. We uncovered media exposure that indicated that the candidate wasn’t a good choice for the position. This information was only found due to media intelligence services—because the person was never prosecuted, a criminal background wouldn’t reveal this information. We saved the district a possible PR nightmare and prevented them from wasting a lot money.

Currently, copyright and licensing for data used for monitoring differs depending on the region and type of media. How do you see changes regarding copyright as affecting the data that is used for media monitoring in the future?

I’m optimistic that in the U.S. we still have the opportunity to do it right. Globally, we have examples all along the continuum—from dysfunctional to fully functional.

The difference in the U.S. is that we have so many more media outlets that it makes it cumbersome. There is opportunity for us to do it right because we haven’t done anything comprehensively, yet we have the chance to.

Content owners and users have to be amicable with each other because they’re in the same boat. There is not one media outlet so valuable that they can charge high licensing fees, because now clients can just get their content elsewhere.

A more common playing field is good; and opportunity to get comprehensive copyright licensing solution for the U.S. is possible. I am optimistic the U.S. can do it right.

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

All types of data. We’re in the early stages of working with previously ignored data to overlay with media intelligence and measurement tools, creating better predictions and outcomes, such as:

● demographic data
● psychographic data
● financial data
● weather statistics
● event and crowd metrics
● behavioral modeling

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

Those that focus on providing highly comprehensive and reliable data will excel. Those that are only sampling a small portion of content or those who are solely relying on software as a service will compete at the bottom for low priced clients who may not care how accurate the information is.

Those who can’t afford to miss a story or put an incorrect chart in front of their CEO are my clients, and where the growth is.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Delivering a combination of consultancy and insights is the greatest challenge for the next years”

Rinske Willemsen

Interview with Rinske Willemsen, CEO of Clipit Media Monitoring, the Netherlands.

Hi Rinske, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Clipit?

After getting my master’s degrees in Business Communication and Business Administration, I have been working in the media & publishing business and marketing management for 18 years. Since 2013, I have been the CEO of Clipit in the Netherlands, a media-monitoring agency located at the university campus of Nijmegen.

What differs Clipit from other social media monitoring companies in the Netherlands?

Our aim is to unburden our customers in their goal to make media attention transparent. Therefore, we work closely with PR (and marketing) communication specialists from corporate organizations and PR agencies to make their work easier and more efficient. We are proud to announce that the service and support provided by our media analysts with specialist media intelligence knowledge has been awarded a 9 out of 10 rating by our customers.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Clipit when it comes to serving your customer monitoring and analysis, and developing your offer?

This year we have expanded our portfolio with data-driven insights. Through a more commoditized media monitoring solution, we offer more in-depth analysis and insights to our customers. We have just started this new division, so our main challenge will be to integrate this new solution into the existing business and convince our customers to appreciate the value of (big) data.

Have you recently, or are you planning to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services for your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

Clipit is a founding partner of NPSlab, which predicts the net promoter score (NPS) of an organization by combining traditional market research results with media monitoring data as input for an algorithm. NPSlab is a co-creation of market research agencies Etil and Clipit. Machine learning helped us discover a correlation between the results of questionnaires and big data from media monitoring analysis.

Combining the two can generate real time insight into the extent to which customers will recommend the organization and is an indicator of future returns. The resulting real-time NPS enables organizations to make adjustments right away to improve customer loyalty.

All clients have different levels of understanding how media can be analyzed; what is the most common misconception that your clients have?

That PR-value is a metric that registers how much you have earned on a campaign or in brand reputation. It’s not; it’s an indicator to compare different campaigns, periods or to benchmark several brands and learn from these comparisons in order to optimize your campaign or strategy.

With your experience in media intelligence, is there a specific mouthwatering case that you know of where media intelligence has really played a crucial role for a client? If so, what case was that?

We conducted media intelligence analysis for a very successful campaign for Bavaria (part of Swinkels Family Brewers’) #Carnavalvrij (day off for carnival). We integrated and analyzed all paid, earned and owned data streams and cooperated with all agencies involved. We measured to which extent the initial campaign goals were reached and we generated valuable figures and insights for the client and translated them into clear and applicable conclusions and recommendations, which the client will take into account for future campaigns. All analysis results were presented as a management summary in an online one-pager format.

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

We have noticed that PR and Communication departments often use media monitoring data only to a limited extent. However, once you understand the potential of combining monitoring data with other data streams, a wealth of possibilities opens up in terms of measuring the effect of your efforts on your business objectives.

We already offer and implement (real-time) dashboard solutions in which different data streams are linked, such as Google Analytics data, customer effectiveness, net promoter scores and sales figures.  We help our customers with the interpretation of these different types of data and offer the correct insights.

Who is your dream client, what would you focus on, how would you like to work together, and what results would you aim for, in the best of worlds?

My BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is to deliver overview as well as insights to every impactful brand all over the world, to be their consulting partner in branding strategy and reputation issues. The first step of realizing this dream is within the Netherlands.

You have been invited to speak at the FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress on October 2nd in Copenhagen. What will be your topic?

I’m very delighted to be invited and within the theme ‘Communicating Media Intelligence,’ I will speak on the importance of data visualization in big, big data analysis.

How do you present such an amount of analysis results in a clear overview to the client? With the media intelligence evaluation of the successful Bavaria Carnival free campaign, we managed to cover the best insights and respond to the main question in an interactive one-pager format.

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

Privacy laws will further restrict the availability of social media data; therefore, it will be challenging to offer more than an overview of media mentions. Delivering a combination of consultancy and insights is the greatest challenge for the next years.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The online risk landscape will change beyond recognition in five years”

Adam Hildreth

Interview with Adam Hildreth, CEO of Crisp, an online safety company based in Leeds, UK.

Hi Adam, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Crisp?

Crisp was inspired by the need for better protection for children online. My first company, Dubit Ltd, was a virtual world and chat room for kids, which I started with a group of school friends, aged 14, during the dot com era.

We built Dubit into a successful digital youth marketing platform and had globally recognized brands advertising with us, but keeping young users safe through content moderation was costing a fortune.

In the early 2000s there were no laws to protect children online, so I worked with the UK Home Secretary and the child protection taskforce to establish laws to protect young users from online grooming.

As the amount of user-generated content that posed a risk to young people and brands was increasing, I left Dubit to set up Crisp, so we could create tech that would solve the problem of toxic, illegal and brand-unsafe user-generated content online. Given my experience with Dubit, our first market was protecting children in online games.

Today, Crisp is a global company protecting some of the world’s biggest brands, kids’ games and social platforms from the riskiest of content. As CEO, I’m always looking for new opportunities to grow Crisp further, whether that’s by finding a way to protect our customers from emerging risks or keeping up with world events to spot trends that could become a risk. I tend to split my day between meeting customers or with various parts of the business and working on business strategy, developing opportunities and writing pitches.

What differs Crisp from other social media risk companies?

As social media grows, so does the risk management industry, but what sets Crisp apart is our focus on preventing brand crises.

We don’t simply identify a risk using a keyword filter; instead we use human intelligence to seek out subtle risks and toxic themes in pieces of user-generated content and alert our clients to the high-impact risks that they really care about so that they get the earliest warning possible about an impending PR issue.

We achieve this by continuously innovating and ensuring that whatever we create is produced for good and will ensure we provide our clients with the best-quality service.

Our team of engineers are recruited for their problem solving skills, creative thinking and ability to push technology and AI to its absolute limit.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Crisp when it comes to managing your customers’ risk and developing your offer?

Simply, we have to keep ahead of the risks and stay ahead of the game. Every day, we identify new threats from bad actors, and every day it’s an ongoing battle. The type of risks which we concern our customers with range from inflammatory influencer comments and physical threats to their offices and outlets, to cries for help and identifying child sexual abuse material. This content has real-life impact on people’s jobs, lives and wellbeing, so we can’t let any harmful content through for the public’s view.

To ensure we achieve this, we are always evolving our technology and our capability to protect our customers online, but the risks online are also evolving, as are the impact they can have on a client’s business. This means that one of our biggest challenges at Crisp is innovating fast, without breaking anything!

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? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

Whether we’re monitoring for a certain risk or not, unsafe content still exists online somewhere, and our clients can still be hugely impacted by it if we do not identify it. So we are developing our capability to detect new and emerging risks as they happen.

To give you an example, the Shiggy #InMyFeelings challenge that trended on Twitter and Instagram in July encouraging people to get out of a moving car was a dangerous new risk. No brand or platform would have wanted to be seen supporting this challenge by having user-generated content relating to it appearing on their channels. When our AI first started picking up chatter of this trend across dispersed online sources, we investigated this information, understood the impact that such a dangerous challenge could have on a number of our clients’ brand reputations and implemented systems. We did all this to ensure we were able to alert them within minutes of Shiggy-related content appearing on their pages.

As every client is affected to varying degrees by each risk, we believe that uncovering risks that have never been seen before is the most effective way of providing our clients with the very best online protection for their brand.

Can you share a specific story about when you reacted early to a severe risk situation, and the impact it had on your client?

We react in minutes to every piece of risky content. For high priority risks which we know could have serious consequences for our clients, we verify that the threat is credible and alert our customers (by phone, text or email) within minutes – we put a 100% guarantee on this!

Our fast reaction and early warnings give clients the best chance of successfully protecting their brand from a PR issue. This could be activists attacking the brand, executives embroiled in a scandal, or viral complaints about a product defect.

Recently we alerted a fashion brand to the fact that the image on one of their new garments was causing offense to veterans on social media. As soon as we identified complaints about this particular garment, we notified the brand so they could pull the clothing line before it offended more customers and allowed them to implement their crisis communications.

Your business has grown quite rapidly over the last couple of years; what are the greatest challenges for a company when growing at such a pace?

Our company has grown so fast because everyone in the company – from the top down – has an agile mindset. This is what keeps us innovating and turning problems into new opportunities; so one of our challenges has been recruiting people who are comfortable working in this fast-paced, ever-changing environment.

Another challenge we’re facing is one that many high-growth companies suffer, and that is ensuring consistent communication. As priorities and company goals evolve so quickly, keeping every one of our 100+ team members on-message and up-to-speed is a daily challenge.

Is fake news or fake sources a big issue for the social risk management that you do? If so, what are the challenges for the risk management for your customers and how do you cope with it?

Our big-name clients are concerned about their brand being associated with fake news stories and the PR implications of misleading their customers in some way. Despite the topic of fake news actually being discussed less online, it is such a volatile topic that could pull brands into a crisis at any time through no wrongdoing of their own.

Earlier this year I provided evidence to the UK House of Commons Select Committee about how fake news can be solved and for our clients. We are working with the latest technology to help identify possible fake news and alert them to it so they can act quickly to set the record straight.

Social media risk management, compared to, for instance, traditional social media monitoring, demands much higher coverage of sources to detect “flares” that can become a potentially huge risk. How do you make sure that you cover all media sources?

We search for risks which will have an impact on our customers’ brands. To do this, we monitor a wide range of platforms, including all the major social platforms, review sites, forums and news sites.

If a negative piece of content is starting to gain traction, it will appear in our monitoring. This means even if a whistleblowing employee publishes an exposé on a blog with only a handful of subscribers, as it starts being shared and therefore becoming a risk to the implicated brand, we will pick it up in minutes and assess the potential damage it could have on our client’s reputation.

We also monitor the dark web for some clients where counterfeit goods, grooming and abuse are an issue for them. It’s best that our clients do not search the dark web themselves, so we do this for them safely.

When it comes to the actual data behind the social media risk management that you do, what kind of data or media not used for your analysis today may be interesting in the future? 

One area that’s becoming increasingly important is video and the associated speech contained within them. Video is so prolific on social media now that it’s important for technology to be able to identify risks within spoken words.

What new social media threats or risks have started, or are about to emerge that you think can have a great impact in the near future?

Everyday new risks are emerging. One of the most worrying ones we’re seeing at the moment is a surge in challenges, like swallowing Tide washing powder pods. Recently, the Momo challenge which encourages self-harm or suicide, is thought to have claimed two lives. Not only would no brand want to be associated with encouraging these types of challenges, as they started to gain traction, we would alert brands where related content appeared on their channels.

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

We’re already seeing some unexpected ramifications of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the UK, like attacks of people requesting their data, and these will continue as companies fall foul of the regulations and users find loopholes to exploit.

There will also be interesting challenges and debates as laws try to keep up with social media evolution. The debate about who is responsible for policing social media is a case in point that is on-going and will be for the foreseeable future.

Another challenge which we are already seeing is consumers expecting faster and faster engagement with brands. If a customer asks a brand about product availability, they expect a response in minutes, otherwise they will open a new tab and shop elsewhere. However many brands congratulate themselves on responding to customers in 24 hours. This demand for social media interaction also means that moderation teams need to react faster to calm disgruntled customers and manage enquiries.

How do you envision Crisp will change and develop over the next 5 years?

Crisp is already growing massively year-to-year, and that is set to continue through substantial organic growth from investments in our sales and marketing efforts. Over the course of five years, the online risk landscape will change beyond recognition from what it is like now, so we will continue our ongoing investment in R&D. We think of ourselves as agile innovators and cannot leave brands, platforms or vulnerable users open to any risk, so as online risk evolves, so does our technology.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The human factor is the biggest challenge at the moment.”

Florian Laszlo

Interview with Florian Laszlo, Secretary General of FIBEP and CEO of Observer, a leading media intelligence company in Austria.

Hi Florian, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Observer?

I studied law and held several positions in communications and event management, and then started at the family company, Observer. After a while, I became part of the executive team, and since 2013 I’m the sole CEO of the company.

As we are a rather small company, my role is quite diverse. I lead the key strategic product development and marketing; it’s a 360 degree role as is usual for executives in smaller companies.

What differs Observer from other social media intelligence companies in Austria?

We are the media monitoring company with the longest and best track record. If you count forums, we have been doing social media monitoring since 1999. We have been monitoring platforms since 2008 or 2009 on a regular basis with different tools to compile analysis for our clients.

We developed our own scanning and spidering technologies, but we use different suppliers so we can combine the feeds to the most optimal outcome.

Observer has been around for a very long time. How has the company been able to stay relevant through different trends over time?

My company is 122 years old and has been doing media monitoring since the beginning. You see that new trends seem to be really new if you look at them from a close range, but if you take a few steps back, they’re not so new, they’re just an aberration of the same thing.

I think that the human way of communicating and engaging with each other didn’t change over the years that much. I think that the development of the media industry will go way slower than you would expect if you see what new types of media are being developed. On the basis of human communication, it stays the same, regardless if it’s on Facebook or on a handheld device, it’s still human communication. The big question is how to create a business model that’s adapted to the changing landscape, but still takes into account the relatively unchanged basics of human communication.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Observer when it comes to serving your customer analysis and developing your offer?

The biggest challenge is that while we get access to data from the platforms, mainly Facebook, the data has been reduced in depth several times. That poses an issue that we have to deal with.

Another challenge is getting the clients to understand the relevance of what we’re doing so they don’t just think that we have cool analytics, but truly understand the necessity of our work for their daily decision making.

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

I do not see any new solutions or technology coming around. We have to optimize the existing tools and approaches. The next challenge is on the side of implementation; we still see large limitations that technology and artificial intelligence has in delivering results that are final and can be sent directly to the client. The biggest challenge is the compilation of relevant and understandable results; the human factor is the biggest challenge at the moment.

All clients have different levels of understanding how media can be analyzed; what is the most common misconception that your clients have?

The biggest misconception that clients have is that gathering and analyzing data is easy, and the second misconception is that they feel that the data just falls out of the machine. That is not the case and can leave clients quite unhappy because they expected something different and are not satisfied with the result.

Clients often feel this process should be quite cheap or completely free, but social is actually much more expensive than some old school things because there is so much work involved. Data access alone involves three figure sums, which definitely doesn’t meet the expectation of the clients.

With the experience you have in this industry, being with Observer for the last 17 years, what changes in the industry have been the most unexpected over the years?

I would not see unexpected changes—as technology progresses, humans are sticking to their known behavior and perhaps will never change at all.  The big difference is seen between perception and practical life concerning the importance of social media. The clients still see print, radio and television as relevant, while everyone is talking about online and social.  The difference between the quality of a PDF document and a link, and the difference between seeing a physical result or visiting a website, is the important thing, and seen as more valuable and priceworthy, which leads to less price sensitivity there.

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

We are probably looking at much less data that we can access in the future than right now because the access will be reduced and limited as platforms are more reluctant to share data, and there is the legal issue of privacy. With less data from social media, the importance of analyzing the data that we get is also rising.

You are the Secretary General of FIBEP, which is heading towards the 50th FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress in Copenhagen in October. What are your expectations for the event, and what do you think will be the hot topics and discussions there? 

The hottest topic will be design, specifically user interface and experience. As we have so much data, but no one can digest it, you need analysis that compiles it into digitized form and processes it to make it understandable to get insights. Getting more data is not the important thing, it’s more about getting smart and relevant data that can be extracted from the large number of data volumes we can access.

The second aspect of the event is to meet and network with colleagues from around the world. We share our experiences with each other so we can walk away from the event more informed.

What are the greatest challenges for FIBEP as an organization in the near future when it comes to supporting its members?

The challenge is the same for all organizations, which is staying relevant in the changing landscape and providing relevant information to members. I’m not doubtful that the challenge will be met easily in the future.

Since we don’t send out data, but make human contact and meeting possible and interesting, I’m sure it will become even more relevant as the world grows together and the media markets develops, making it more important to share insights.

FIBEP shares a lot of members and interests with AMEC, International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication. How would you describe the relationship between the two organizations today and in the future?

We have a very positive relationship with AMEC because we work together on many projects and will continue doing so. We have two different strongholds—AMEC concentrates on the valuation part, while FIBEP has the historic base in data gathering and processing, which was called monitoring once. It’s about data as a first step, and the second is analysis; no data means no analysis. That is the reason many of the members belong to both organizations, so that they can discuss analysis and evaluation.

How would you like to see FIBEP change over the next 10 years?

I would say it will change and needs to as the industry changes, but as I don’t know how the industry will change, I can’t say how FIBEP will. Predictions are a lot harder than in earlier times, so the solution is staying agile and adapting quickly. What is obvious is that the growing professionalization of the industry and corporate structures leads to a more professional structure of the association in general; not so much pro bono work and not so much interest of young professionals in doing that.

Members expect the same from the association as you would from a professional workshop organizer, that is the general change in Western society that affects FIBEP, and the organization needs to be flexible to adapt to what industry trends will bring.

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

I think the industry will grow in importance and will see new competitors coming into the field from consulting. We will see the move from monitoring and evaluation to insights and to consulting. For example, bookkeeping was once a simple service, and now the Big 4 are doing consulting on a quite consistent and high level, and they still do bookkeeping themselves as well.

That will happen in the media industry as well, so we will add on consulting and we will be much more competitive with classic consulting companies who will try to cover our special areas as well.

The greatest challenge is new competitors with a different background; the successful ones will move up the food chain from providing limited and specific services to broader consulting roles, as that is what the market expects and where the outsourcing trends will lead to.

Look what happened to companies that offered map services when Google Maps started doing it for free. Someone can say they will compete for free, making it a big threat to others.

By Renata Ilitsky

“We can no longer successfully do our job without the help of automation and artificial intelligence.”

Judy King

Interview with Judy King, Director of Innovation at BBC Monitoring, UK.

Hi Judy, what is your background, and what is included in your current role at BBC Monitoring? 

I joined BBC Monitoring as a researcher in November 1999, following two years teaching English in rural Japan. And I have been there ever since, apart from a brief stint working at the BBC News website.

After 18 years, I really understand what makes BBC Monitoring tick. And this is hugely beneficial in my current role in which I head up the innovation team. Our work is very varied. On any one day we could be running a pilot to try out a new tool with one of our regional teams, collaborating with the BBC’s NewsLabs team on language technology prototypes or advising other BBC teams on using Agile ways of working in the Newsroom.

What differs BBC Monitoring from other media monitoring companies?

Many companies in this area are tech firms using AI and machine learning for brand monitoring purposes. We are quite different. We don’t only rely on technology and algorithms to find relevant information.

We employ highly-skilled, multi-lingual journalists who have a deep understanding of the media environment they are covering. This enables them to navigate through the ever-growing number of sources to spot trends and find the stories that matter.

We have a long history of reporting on developments from the world’s media. We have been doing this since the Second World War after all! And we are able to draw on this deep archive to enable our users to make sense of the present.

What are the possibilities and benefits of automation of the editorial workflow?

BBCM’s role is to understand and navigate media ecosystems to find news, spot disinformation and give context to events. Not just one, but many ecosystems, in many languages. And it is changing fast. Gone are the days when you could watch one state TV station and read a couple of newspapers to know what is going on in a country. We can no longer successfully do our job without the help of automation and artificial intelligence.

We use tools to help us keep across social and online sources, but for broadcast media it is much more difficult. There are huge benefits for our journalists to have access to speech-to-text transcripts of the broadcasts they are watching – in the vernacular language. This would enable us to keep across many more TV sources, find the information that is relevant to our users and spend more time adding context and insight to the output that they are producing.

What are the challenges of automation?

I think that the main challenge is how to fully integrate automation into the journalists’ daily work. If we were to just bolt it on as another tool available for people to use, without considering the entire workflow, we would not be able to realise all the benefits that introducing speech-to-text and other automated technology could bring.

What would your advice be on how to meet those challenges?

I think it is all about piloting and getting the technology into the workflow as soon as you can.

Of course, you also need to set the right expectations with journalists. The quality of the transcript will not be perfect and you should be clear about that from the start.

But if you can get the technology in front of journalists – even if it is not perfect – then they can start to experiment with how the automated transcripts can help them produce even more creative and original journalism.

When it comes to introducing automation of the editorial workflow, what next steps will we see in the near future that will improve it even further?

I haven’t seen any speech-to-text technology in any language that is perfect (getting people’s names right, for example, is extremely difficult). But there is a lot of focus on language technology at the moment and it is improving all the time. Even now the accuracy of the transcripts can also be improved if coupled with other technology, such as face recognition and speech recognition.

There is currently a lot of discussion about “fake news.” What do you think about the balance in the discussion between the focus on fake news compared to real news (where all facts are correct in)?

It is an extremely complicated picture. In many cases it is unclear whether what we are seeing is misinformation, which you could describe as the inadvertent sharing of false information, or disinformation, which is the deliberate creation and sharing of false information.

Our journalists are highly skilled at verifying what they see on the media they are covering. In some cases, what they see are efforts by media outlets not just to mislead and misinform, but sow confusion, undermine public trust in the media, create the impression that you can’t get to the bottom of things – that there is no truth, no facts, just opinions.

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

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service to our customers. We recently introduced a new “fake news” tag onto our website to enable our users to more easily find articles on disinformation and propaganda. We are about to make improvements to our search functionality, to guide our users even more smoothly through our news and reference content, enabling them to quickly get to the information they need.

When it comes to the actual data behind the analysis that you do, what kind of data or media can be interesting in the future that you do not use for your analysis today? 

In the future I envisage us doing a lot more big data work, analyzing trends and how they develop across time. For example, capturing a broader swathe of media content than we are currently capable of analyzing and using it to find stories hidden in the data. We would also want to integrate this with our vast archive of monitored media output, which dates back decades.

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

If, in the coming years, technology companies continue to make leaps forward in automation and machine learning, transcription and translation will become reliable. I think that will bring the biggest change to the media monitoring industry.

But even if the language technology does improve considerably, non-specialists will still need help to navigate the increasingly complex media environments around the world. BBC Monitoring will continue to develop a reputation as source specialists, guiding our users to what matters to them.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Increasing access to digital intelligence for entire organizations is our biggest challenge”

Prerna Pant

Interview with Prerna Pant, General Manager at Circus Social, a social listening and analysis company based in Singapore

Hi Prerna, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Circus Social?

You could describe me as a storyteller; I started telling stories for brands very early in my career – and I have continued to do so till today. I’m a Co-Founder and General Manager at Circus Social. My role includes business development, operations, marketing and client management – and spans across all our products and offerings.

What differs Circus Social from other media intelligence companies in APAC?

To start with – we’re a company that was built ground up by marketers, for marketers. Too often we find that solutions are made for marketers by those who have not walked in those shoes before – and we wanted to change that. Secondly, we’re an Asia-first martech company. We were born and bred in Asia – meaning that we specialize in the APAC region in terms of language, sentiment, source and local coverage throughout the region, including Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Korea and more, and have a local grasp on culture and online behavior.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Circus Social when it comes to serving your customer analysis and developing your offer?

I think we face many of the same challenges that our competitors face in terms of data access, features and innovation. But personally – I believe the biggest challenge for us lies in increasing access to the world of digital intelligence – and taking it from the marketers’ ecosystem to the entire organization.

If any, what specific needs are there in your region for media intelligence that you think may differ from the rest of the world?

The greatest one is localization; this goes far beyond just language and platforms. The way in which consumers share product reviews on Pantip in Thailand is massively different from how Koreans behave on Naver, and it is the job of digital intelligence companies to identify and capitalize on this for our clients.

Do you find the region diverse in the sense that it is challenging to offer comprehensive products and services throughout the region? If so, in what way?

Each market comes with its own challenges, but I think that’s what makes it more exciting to work in this region. We have to keep learning, keep innovating and continue to challenge the status quo in each market. The initial entry into each market is typically the one we have to get right first, and once the foundation has been laid, it’s essential that we don’t drop the ball and continue to offer solutions that match the needs and nuances of each market.

Can you provide a specific example where one (or more) of your clients has made changes based on the insights or analysis you provided them? 

There are many capabilities that our platform, 20/Twenty, provides, ranging from crisis monitoring and campaign tracking, to consumer behavior and insights. I’ve found that getting that right from the very beginning and being a partner to your clients instead of being a service provider is what makes that difference.

We’ve worked with automobile brands that found that crisis situations were growing differently on social platforms vs. media sources – identified through custom features on 20/Twenty that allow you to track trending content by source type, spikes in conversations and specialized data tagging – and hence, they could easily measure actions and address problems once discovering this.

In a completely different setting, we helped an Asian supermarket understand why ‘mommy shoppers’ were declining rapidly through social listening on parenting forums and review sites. The main reason was that the width of the aisles in their grocery stores was too narrow to fit a pram – and hence aggravated mothers were dissuading others from shopping at their outlets.

The applications are obviously endless – it’s about getting to the insights quickly and more effectively.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add on to or improve services you offer your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

We have a lot of exciting features from a tech standpoint that will position us to be the leaders in viral content predictability and influencer identification. These are based on client requests and feedback, as is much of our tech roadmap.

When it comes to licensing content for media monitoring in your region, which countries are the most progressive and which are lagging behind?

Although we see this changing rapidly, markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia are certainly more comfortable and advanced with licensing data properly. This is feeding into other markets, such as Myanmar and Vietnam very quickly, and with early adopters setting the standard that new markets can follow.

Which social platforms are the most important to your clients, and which ones do you see as having the most potential in the future when it comes to gathering relevant information for your customers?

The importance of platforms changes by client, use case and industry; however, I also truly believe that you can’t ignore any of them today as conversations and people are very interlinked. For example, if your use case is reputation management – you must realize that a crisis can break anywhere, anytime. Similarly, I also always tell my clients that campaign periods aren’t the only time that consumers talk about you – it’s important to be ‘always on.’

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media that you don’t currently use for media intelligence today, can be interesting in the future?

Expanding on image and video recognition and applying that to a variety of platforms is certainly interesting for us. We also see great potential in audience segmentation and predictive technology.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The analysis of the unstructured part of EHR will represent an essential contribution to advances in drug safety and effectivity”

Jose Gonzalez

Interview with Jose Gonzalez, CEO of MeaningCloud, a text analytics company based in New York City.

Hi Jose, what is your background and what are your responsibilities in your current role at MeaningCloud?

My background is in the field of Artificial Intelligence. I hold a Ph.D. from the Technical University of Madrid, where I entered as an assistant professor and researcher at the AI lab of the School of Telecommunication Engineering in 1985.

Years later, in 1998, I founded my first startup, Daedalus, along with other colleagues. We were developing and struggling to sell AI solutions twenty years ago, mainly in two areas, natural language processing and data mining. A good part of our activity consisted in developing our own technology, with the financial support of national and European research programs.

By then, we were dedicating 25% of our revenue to R&D. However, marketing and selling these solutions was tough. The game changed for us when we started deploying our text analytics solutions as a SaaS business on top of AWS in 2011.

Finally, in 2015 we decided to create a new company (MeaningCloud), incorporating new investors, merging Daedalus and starting a subsidiary in the US. My role as CEO of MeaningCloud involves managing every area of the company, from the technical product roadmap and HR, to business development and to finance.

What differs MeaningCloud from other text analytics companies?

There are a few differentiating elements in our offering; the first one is our deep semantic approach to truly “understand” and interpret any piece of text, extracting not only facts and sentiments, but relationships, beliefs, desires, and intent. It means that we rely on a linguistic approach, complemented with machine learning (including deep learning) to build base models and to generate candidate rules for human curation. This linguistic approach is essential to work in high-value information discovery scenarios, where precision is a must.

The second differentiator is what we call “vertical packs.” It means off-the-shelf industry-oriented solutions to address typical business or industry use cases.

The third one is customization; in Text Analytics, one size does not fit all. Therefore, we empower our customers to add their own dictionaries, classification schemes, and sentiment analysis rules.

MeaningCloud is originally a Spanish company, but opened an office in the US a few years back. How has that affected your business?

Three years after incorporating MeaningCloud in the US, we are getting 80% of our revenue out of Spain. Our most valuable customers are in the US. The movement has deeply affected every aspect of our work, starting with the motivation and the renewed ambition of our team, who feel like they are playing in a different league. We have made a special effort to recruit people from abroad, almost reaching 25% of non-Spanish nationals in the company.

What are your greatest challenges ahead for MeaningCloud when it comes to serving your customer analysis and developing your offer?

Our most valuable customers look for the extraction of very specific insights from any information source. The ability to develop tools to carry out this process for a particular purpose, with the required coverage and precision, and within acceptable time and costs, is our most important challenge today.

You work a lot with the pharmaceutical industry; can you please share what you do for them and how their needs differ from other industries when it comes to text analysis?

In pharma and healthcare, we address some general problems from the vantage point of having integrated and developed along the years a good amount of multilingual resources (medical terminology, thesauri, clinical codes) and tools to understand the health language. For instance, we have in place market intelligence solutions to unveil opportunities and threads in real time from digital sources.

A second area is pharmacovigilance (also called drug safety), the practice of monitoring the effects of medical drugs after they have been licensed for use, especially in order to identify and evaluate previously unreported adverse reactions. We apply text analytics to identify episodes of interaction between drugs, adverse effects, etc., from reported cases, specialized forums or scientific literature.

The third area is what we call “Voice of the Patient” analytics, a specialization of the more classic “Voice of the Customer” analytics, that we have been carrying out in retail, banking or telecom industries.

A promising new area that is currently under development is around “Real World Evidence.” RWE is information on healthcare that is derived from sources outside clinical research settings (the clinical trials carried out to obtain drug approval), including electronic health records (EHRs), claims and billing data, product and disease registries, and data gathered through personal devices and health applications.

Automatic analysis of such sources allows us to know how specific drugs perform within different population groups, in patients showing differences in disease severity conditions that require other medications, in long-term treatments, etc.

How has your clients’ perception about what text analysis can do for them changed over the years?

In the past, it was difficult convincing our customers in business areas about the effectiveness and integrability of the technology. On the other side, our customer’s IT departments were afraid of integration risks and costs. This situation changed utterly years ago with the availability of SaaS solutions. These days, our business customers play with our text analytics functions inside their own Excel spreadsheets, and technical users just call our APIs in their software environment seamlessly, whatever it is.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add or improve services for your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

We follow a roadmap for continuous improvement of the functionality and usability of our technology. Last month, a new API was added  to our offering, the “Deep Categorization API.” It is a solution for assigning one or more categories to a text by finding snippets that match advanced semantic patterns and contexts expressed in a powerful (but simple) language made with macros and rules.

This technology has allowed us to market new services, our vertical packs. Vertical packs are solutions intended for specific industries. The first four packs are for the analysis of the Voice of the Customer (including different flavors for the retail, banking and insurance scenarios) and for Voice of the Employee analytics.

Regarding languages, in a few weeks, we will be publishing the Nordic Package, to add Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish to our current language offering. Chinese, Hindi, Arabic and Russian will follow shortly.

Finally, Summarization and Document Structure Analysis APIs will incorporate substantial improvements before the summer.

Is “fake news” a big issue for the text analysis that you do? If so, what are the challenges for the analysis you do for your customers, and how do you cope with them? 

We all know how difficult filtering noise is, in general, in social media. This noise may appear in many different ways, vacuous, idiotic, fanatic, insulting, manipulative or merely as false messages.

However, this landscape does not differ too much from what happens already in offline media. Depending on the nature of our work and the purpose of a particular client, we may be forced to filter out some kind of noise, but we cannot tell, obviously, if an individual piece of news is truthful or not. The only means to do that involves analyzing the origin and the spreading mechanisms of information across networks, something that we are not currently doing.

Regarding this topic, I would first rely on education. As educated digital citizens, we should develop abilities to distinguish honest, reliable, sensible and relevant sources of information and opinion.

When it comes to the actual data behind the text analysis that you do, what kind of data or media can be interesting in the future that you don’t analyze today?

I would bet on Electronic Health Records. What we do now is on a minimum scale. On May 6th, the US National Institute for Health has launched the research program “All of Us,” whose aim is getting one million volunteers to contribute their physical, genomic and electronic health record data. It is the starting signal for the most relevant “Precision Medicine Initiative” so far. The analysis of the unstructured part of EHR will represent an essential contribution to advances in drug safety and effectivity.

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

The long-term challenges (beyond five years) have to do with our ability to interpret any communication act, such as discovering, reasoning and reacting on facts, beliefs, emotions, desires, intentions, and values of people and artificial agents. Despite the current hype on Artificial Intelligence, we are still far, far away from that goal.

How do you foresee the changes and developments for MeaningCloud over the next 5 years?

We will keep on following our dream, which is going deeper and deeper in extracting the meaning of all kinds of unstructured content. The next step will be a more powerful approach to the extraction of relationships from text. Stay tuned!

By Renata Ilitsky

“Fake news is the biggest problem of our day”

Halef Remzi Vayıs

Interview with Halef Remzi Vayıs, General Manager at MTM, Medya Takip Merkezi, a media intelligence company in Turkey.

Hi Halef, what is your background and what is included in your current role at MTM?

Our company was founded about 20 years ago. I am a founding partner and a general manager of MTM. We have opened 6 branches in various cities in Turkey, and have set up a local company in Azerbaijan. We currently service 1000 customers with 120 employees. Turkey’s most important companies work with us.

Our company consists of 8 main sections, where I serve as president and the directors of the sections forming our governing body. The establishment operates dynamically and keeps the pulse of the industry in the world. It responds to the renewed needs of our customers and ensures that the developing technology is included in our business. We follow trends, respond to new demands and develop products that will lead to new demands. We work to spend our money rationally by making the right investments. We organize events to educate and improve our human resources, and we participate in events organized outside. I also undertake all these tasks and responsibilities together with them as part of the team.

What differs MTM from other media intelligence companies in Turkey?

Our most important difference is our innovative construction; our vision is always fresh and up-to-date. This enables our customers to quickly integrate with changing and evolving services around the world. Our sector’s customers are naturally a group that stands out from all sorts of social developments. In other words, if there is a development in the country and in the world, this sector is seen first, it tries, it lives. So, they like to work with an innovative and dynamic company.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at MTM when it comes to serving your customer analysis and developing your offer?

The biggest paradox is the “quality service and low price” equation. I think this does not affect just our country, but many countries, especially sectors with high competition where the customer wants high quality, complete and fast services, while paying less for it. When you have to upgrade the service quality, but that can’t affect the price, this causes your profit margins to fall. You can reduce your margins up to some extent, of course, but sometimes you come to a point where the customer is stuck between choosing a quality service or a low price.

If any, what specific needs are there in the Turkish market for media intelligence that you think differs from the rest of the world?

I do not think there is a big difference in expectations from the media monitoring service. They want us to use every possible opportunity as a resource, and quickly provide the analysis to them. One of our mottos is “to deliver the most intelligent information in the fastest way.”

According to your clients, what are the most important sources of information to monitor about their company and brand?

It depends on the product and the company. As the transition between traditional media and social media continues, understanding is shaped accordingly. According to some, social media is a balloon, and it is more valuable to follow traditional media. Some customers pay more attention to the impact of digital and social media. In short, we can say that the counterpart, supposed to be under the influence of the brand or the target volume of the product, is accepted as the source by the customer.

Which social platforms or sources do you see as having the most potential in the future when it comes to gathering relevant information for your customers?

Obviously, I do not think it would be very realistic to give a specific name because in today’s world everything can happen. Facebook’s “Cambridge Analytica” issue is an example for this. However, digital and social platforms have a high potential as a source of information and will continue to be.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services you offer clients? If so, what solutions and how will your customers benefit from them?

Of course we always want to do new things 🙂 We develop our own systems with our 18-person software and technical team. We have a research and development department. We do our own hosting with 30 servers and storage.

We also collaborate with international companies such as PerVoice, Talkwalker and Twingly, who provide technical and information support. This kind of support eliminates our shortcomings and provides new perspectives and facilities to our customers.

Is “fake news” a big issue in your region? If so, what are the challenges media intelligence and monitoring companies face and how do you cope with it?

Fake news is the biggest problem of our day, but I think this is not the current issue of media monitoring companies. Our task is to find and bring what is published. I repeat: Find out what is published, even if it is fake. Because this fake news can be a result that needs to be dealt with.

On the other hand, solutions for news that are not true can be developed by companies like us as a new product. This product can capture and report fake news. However, we have not encountered such a demand until now. We do not have any systems yet to identify fake news.

Some media intelligence companies have recently moved up the value chain, providing their clients with content within PR and Advertising. Have you been moving in that direction recently, or would it be interesting to do so?

Our business mostly focuses on reporting and measuring PR practices. We don’t focus on content support.

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

As we all know, the media is changing shell every day and will continue to change. As various platforms and publishing equipment enter our lives, the media increases, so media monitoring has already turned into big data. The biggest problems of our day are the fake news and the privacy of private life. The steps and arrangements of the authorities of the countries will also determine the direction of our work. But I anticipate that our work will become more important in every situation as long as we can do more precise and attentive works.

How do you see that MTM will have changed and developed over the next 5 years?

MTM has always been ambitious since its founding, and will continue to be so. Five years from now, it will be easier for us to reach both current and archive intelligent knowledge. At that time, we will want to be called a “smart data company” rather than a “technology company” like now.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Our greatest challenge is to have apples to apples comparisons across various data points from all social data platforms”

Rich Calabrese

Interview with Rich Calabrese, EVP, General Manager at Fizziology, a global audience insights company in the US.

Hi Rich, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Fizziology?

I currently serve as the EVP, General Manager at Fizziology. I’ve worked for Fizziology for 6 years, and have worn many hats along the way as we’ve grown our company to where it is today. Today, my role is to oversee company operations, work alongside our co-founders to plot a strategic roadmap for the company, and to work with and develop new client relationships.

What differs Fizziology from other audience insight companies?

Fizziology takes a human approach to our research. We combine our proprietary technology with human analysts to spot trends and ensure accuracy. Our clients appreciate the human-touch, and the confidence they feel knowing they have dedicated analysts working on their behalf every day to provide insight into their social conversation and the audiences.

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

The greatest challenge we have is the desire from our customers to have apples to apples comparisons across various data points from all social data platforms. I believe all social media researchers and data scientists would love consistent data points across the social landscape, but that will likely never happen. Our challenge is to continue to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the available social data from each platform, while educating our clients on how to appropriately use them in order to turn insight into action.

Fizziology has recently been acquired by MarketCast; in what way will that affect your business?

Our recent acquisition by MarketCast will further solidify the credibility of our company in the media and entertainment industry. While both companies work in research, we offer a different and complementary methodology and product set, which allows us to work together seamlessly to support our clients and provide an offering that’s holistic and unique to our industry – and new industries we target.

You are targeting the entertainment industry; what specific needs do your clients have compared to general companies in other industries?

Fizziology does work with brands, as well as with clients in the sports and travel and tourism industries; however, the media and entertainment industry is an important focus for our company. In the media and entertainment industry, the product is ever-changing. New movies get announced and then released, new TV shows get picked up, extended or cancelled – it’s a dynamic industry. Outside of major franchises or long-running TV shows, we don’t service the same “product” year after year. Our “products” change every year, which brings new and unique marketing questions for our team to try and answer.

Can you provide a specific example where one (or more) of your clients have made changes based on the insights or analysis you provided?

Unfortunately, I’m under too many NDAs to share specifics; however, to provide a few examples, our research is used to adjust trailer and TV creative, respond to crises, refine media spend, obtain conversations insights by audience, and to evaluate future performance through benchmarking and predictive analytics.

In what countries do you support clients today, and what are the challenges when it comes to scaling your services to markets outside of the US?

We currently provide social media research and audience insights in 13 markets (and counting). Our human-first methodology is consistent with our international research, as we work with in-market analysts and translators to ensure accurate cultural interpretation and understanding of the social conversation in each market. Working with a large team scattered in various time zones, our biggest challenge is communication; however, new tools have made it easier for us to communicate and stay up to speed on client requests.

How has your client’s perception of social media intelligence changed over time?

One of the observations I’ve started to see over the last year is how accepting the C-Suite is to using social data to guide strategy and response. It’s gone from “nice to know” to “need to know.” In years past, this wasn’t the case, and with good reason. I’ve heard stories from clients who were burned by snake oil social media salesmen.  These people needed to be reintroduced and convinced of its validity and accepting of methodology. I believe those social data companies that are still pushing the limits on their technology while communicating their role in the social data landscape are the companies that have found success over the last few years.

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

We’ve just released technology to our clients that is focused on the user – and not on the message. This allows our clients to segment audiences (and their conversations) by their behavior (frequency of conversation) within the brand conversation or by what other Fizziology datasets those audiences also exist in (Fizziology has over 400 billion social data points). This will allow our clients to see when new users talk about their brand for the first time, segment audiences by “diehard,” “beginner,” or even “comic book” fans, and finally, understand where their target audience(s) also exist in Fizziology’s expansive database of over 4,500 tracked films, TV, brands, sports teams, and talent to paint a holistic audience profile.

Which social platforms are the most important to your clients, and which ones do you see as having the most potential in the future when it comes to gathering relevant information?

There’s not one platform that’s more important; it’s about having multi-platform analysis. Our clients want to be sure that we’re looking at each platform online where their audiences are talking to ensure we’re spotting opportunities and challenges. Of all the social platforms that our clients want more from, it has to be Facebook. The platform serves our clients’ owned pages and the ad campaign analytics business very well; however, we’re working tirelessly with Twingly’s offering to offer organic conversation analysis (conversations happening off-owned pages and ad buys) to uncover the audience insights our clients are looking for. However, due to restrictions, we’re not given demographic information that would make the insights richer.

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

We’ll definitely see change; however, it’s hard to be specific as I think everyone will pivot based on data availability and internal advancements of their own technology.  As a company that focuses on social data that we analyze from the organic social conversation (conversation/engagement off client owned social accounts), I hope to see social platforms create audience data offerings centered on audiences that are sharing content outside of a brand’s owned social accounts.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Vendors of media intelligence solutions will become brokers of information and insights”

Bastian Karweg

Interview with Bastian Karweg, CEO of Echobot Media Technologies in Germany.

Hi Bastian, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Echobot?

Before founding Echobot, I built and sold a media company in the gaming industry and started the second biggest press release distribution service in Germany. At 33 years old, I hold a master’s degree in informational engineering from KIT.edu, where I still give lectures from time to time about internet law and startup economics.

At Echobot I’m responsible for sales, marketing and finance, whereas my cofounder, Jannis Breitwieser, heads up development and customer success. In terms of product development, we collaborate because we both love elegant engineering and innovative user experience.

What differs Echobot from other media intelligence companies?

I’d say that Echobot is definitely more SMB and B2B focused than other vendors. Many of our clients are from the German “Mittelstand,” which values accurate results and ease of use over fancy analytics.

Also, we believe that aggregation of results is only part of the solution; Echobot invests heavily in building up a semantic layer above the text. Our technology really understands which events are happening and who is affected. This opens up a whole lot of exciting possibilities in the future, like intelligent business assistants!

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

Since we are mostly self-funded, keeping up with our own growth has posed a challenge. The usual growing pains like finding the right talent, scaling our tech or completing projects like our Salesforce integration come to mind.

In terms of customers, an increasing amount of companies feel the need to incorporate data and insights from public sources into their business processes, yet almost everybody has a different approach. So, we offer a lot of guidance and best practices help navigate to the best solutions.

Your solution addresses many parts of your clients’ companies. Can you tell us how Echobot can enhance the performance of a sales team?

Sure, Echobot started out as a solution for PR and marketing teams doing press clipping and social media analytics, yet our solutions for sales and customer development have really gained a lot of momentum.

Basically, the better the information about your client or prospect is, the more deals you are able to close. Echobot helps sales reps  identify the right targets, triggers at the best time to engage and also notifies you if there are relevant changes to entities in your pipeline. It’s an automated sales assistant so you don’t have to google everything yourself.

Can you give a specific example where one of your clients have made changes in their communication, marketing plan or similar, based on the insights or analysis you provided to them?

The very first example that sparked this development is still my favorite story: A vendor of forklifts was in search of new prospects and asked us to identify upcoming constructions of warehouses. In the beginning, we used simple phrase search queries, such as “new warehouse,” but this quickly became very complex so we introduced our machine learning intelligence technology to automatically identify such events as well as the companies associated with such projects. The resulting prospect lists gave the clients an instant double-digit boost in their sales productivity.

You have invested a lot in machine learning; how has that improved your services?

Machine learning is the biggest game changer to any industry in recent years. It allows you to automate tedious manual tasks with near perfect precision and dig through millions of data points to find hidden patterns that you’d never have uncovered otherwise.

To be more specific, we have almost entirely automated our quality control tasks of classifying new media sources. Also our sales solutions which detect so called “business signals” regarding events of great opportunity or risks would not have been possible without this technological advances.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new solutions that will add or improve services offered to your clients? If so, what solutions are they, and how will your customers benefit from them?

Everybody who has used a media monitoring solution knows that one of the biggest challenges lies in crafting a complex search agent to reliably match relevant results while at the same time filtering out unwanted spam.

We are currently in development of an intelligent agent which is much better at highlighting precisely the right results a customer is actually looking for. I’m confident that this algorithm will greatly assist the work of human experts.

You are collecting a lot of your own data today; what are the greatest challenges in doing that?

Hosting all our servers in Germany has been a very conscious decision to comply with the very high standards of German data protection laws that our customers demand. Also, we like to be in control of business-critical systems ourselves and not rely on external vendors.

Yet, managing this many crawlers and an index of almost 10 billion documents is no easy feat. The biggest challenges are necessary infrastructure changes that cannot affect our 24/7 service-level. Luckily Moore’s law as well as new big data technologies keep our costs at a predictable level.

Which social platforms are the most important to your clients, and which ones do you see as having the most potential in the future when it comes to gathering relevant information for your customers?

Currently this would be Facebook for B2C customers and the German XING for B2B focused companies. Yet we see incredible demand for Instagram and also LinkedIn is closing in fast in the business space.

When it comes to the actual data behind media monitoring that you do, what kind of data or media can be interesting in the future that you don’t currently use?

I believe that in the future the actual message itself will be much more important than the medium / channel that you get it from.

You might see this development more easily in the space of web searches; while in the past you would have typed “height Eiffel Tower” into the Google search bar to get a list of websites, today you can just ask Siri or Alexa and they will tell you that it is 300m. Echobot is, as far as I know, the only service focused on building up this kind of meta level data today.

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

In an increasingly digital society, vendors of media intelligence solutions will become brokers of information and insights. It is simply not feasible for the client to manually research, classify and analyze information anymore. Therefore, the need for our services will only increase.

Yet, the whole industry is facing a lot of challenges:

  • From a legal perspective, there are licensing fees, data privacy concerns and the whole ancillary copyright debate.
  • Vendors will need to address the questions about trust of sources and “fake news.”
  • The ever-increasing restrictions of access to popular platforms, paywalls, dedicated mobile apps and “walled gardens” will change who is able to offer which media coverage.
  • Strong convergence towards video content will give rise to new solutions and technology startups for speech and image recognition technology.
  • Language barriers will decrease, especially towards Asian markets due to better translation technology and continuous economic growth in the east.

By Renata Ilitsky