“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

“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

“There is a lot of room for disruptions in the media intelligence industry”

Carlos Alfredo Diaz

Interview with Carlos Alfredo Diaz, General Manager at GlobalNews Group in Argentina.

Hi Carlos, what is your background and what is included in your current role at GlobalNews Group?

I have more than 6 years of experience in Media Monitoring and a previous background in tech startups. In my current role as General Manager of GlobalNews Group, I oversee our day-to-day regional operations as well as execute our long term strategic plans.

What differs GlobalNews Group from other media intelligence companies in Latin America?

The fact that we are the only media intelligence company that covers the whole region in its entirety is certainly a distinguishing factor. We are also renowned for our extensive investment and proficiency in R+D related to AI.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for GlobalNews Group when it comes to providing customer analysis and developing your offer?

Currently our greatest challenges in those two areas are related to the normalization of datasets and sources, as well as the need to educate our client base in order to develop truly useful offerings.

You are operating in 17 countries in Latin America; do you find it challenging to offer comprehensive products and services throughout the region because the region is diverse? If so, in what way?

Offering a limited set of products in a very diversified region is quite challenging; all our products have specific adaptations created by our “localization team” for each market in which they are sold.

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

We have recently launched an updated version of our website that will allow different customizations for our clients (such as recipes and integrations with a plethora of services), and are currently working on a suite of predictive tools that will allow our clients to both receive recommendations as to which topics matter to their bottom line as well as predict the impact a release might or should (as in benchmarking) have in the current media context.

Are you using the AMEC framework with your clients? If so, how has that improved your clients’ understanding of measurement?

We are currently using the AMEC framework with each and every new analysis client we have. It has helped our clients better visualize and understand the relationship between their work and their bottom line.

You are monitoring many sources yourself in your markets today; what are your greatest challenges when it comes to upholding and developing your own monitoring?

Upholding and developing your own monitoring requires a great deal of capital investment and oversight, but is sometimes needed when a company has requirements as diverse as ours.

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

Brazil is currently the only country where the issue has even appeared, the rest of the region is impervious to it. I believe that licensing has to become a reality in Latin America in the next 10 years.

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

Whatsapp and Telegram would be very interesting to monitor, at least from a macro standpoint.

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

I believe there is a lot of room for disruptions by new players or old players that will reinvent themselves, especially as our space becomes more and more focused on technology.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The media intelligence industry will need to quickly grow their insights and advisory skills”

Francois van Dyk

Interview with Francois van Dyk, Head of Operations at Ornico Group in South Africa

Hi Francois, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Ornico Group?

I studied, taught and worked in Public Relations – having a passion for the journalism, advertising and marketing fields. In my role as Head: Operations at Ornico, I am blessed to work not only in the journalism and PR fields, but also in advertising and social media. I oversee all the Ornico divisions which monitor and analyses editorial, advertising and social media content across various platforms such as TV, radio, outdoor, online, social, print, mobile and even direct marketing. I also serve on AMEC’s Education Committee as well as the IAB South Africa’s Measurement Council.

What do you see as the greatest challenges ahead for Ornico Group when it comes to serving your customers monitoring and analysis and in developing your offer?

The fragmentation of the media space is an obvious challenge as you need to access far more data sources. However the true challenge will come from a data integration perspective – and this includes the client data. To make true sense of data, one will need to integrate media and customer, financial, employee and a myriad of other data in a sensible way. Customers interact with brands across many touch points, not just the media space, and great insights become possible if these disparate data can be combined and analyzed.

Why did you choose to expand your business to Nigeria and Kenya, countries that are quite remote from South Africa?

As our South African clients started expanding their businesses to the rest of the African continent, it was a natural fit for us to move with them as we could provide them with the same services. Kenya is obviously a major player in East Africa, and Nigeria in West Africa, so it makes sense to establish a presence in these regions. Despite tough global economic conditions, a lot of opportunities remain in Africa.

Do you have any specific plans to expand your business in the near future, like opening new markets or offering new products?

We are continuously building relationships across the world with other industry players through our FIBEP and AMEC partnerships, so this has proved very valuable. From a geographical perspective, we will be focusing on this – depending on client demand obviously. We are, however, continuously trying to innovate and improve the client experience so innovative functionalities and services always remain a priority.

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

Though we are working hard to educate clients about the best practices, such as AMEC’s Barcelona Principles, you do find that some are still only interested in AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalents). It astounds me that anyone would be looking at these “values,” as they are fundamentally flawed and wrong. It pains me personally because this behavior by some public relations practitioners is actually very damaging to an industry I am very passionate about.

What is the current situation for licensing content for media monitoring in South Africa? Is the agreement between SAMMA and DALRO still in effect, and does it cover all aspects?

The agreement between DALRO and SAMMA is still in place, although there are negotiations to update it. SAMMA members are very happy to have a central organization to deal with when it comes to copyright fees, but everyone believes a lot more can be done to make membership, payments, distribution and value more streamlined and comprehensive.

Are there specific or typical needs in the South African market for media intelligence that you think differs from the rest of the region, or the world in general?

Our markets are relatively the same as the rest of the world. Our biggest challenge is really to keep services very cost effective as our clients generally do not have the budgets a lot of the international brands have.

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

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are the main social platforms, while there is a great demand for LinkedIn information as well. Facebook, due to its global dominance, will obviously remain very important. Snapchat and other smaller channels have seen very little local adoption at this stage, so it remains to be seen what influence they will have in the African markets. Whatsapp, Wechat and other messaging services are also hugely popular. As social channels tighten access to data due to privacy legislation and their own commercial interests, I suspect it will become a far bigger challenge for brands to gain independent insights.

What kind of data that would help you get better analysis is the hardest to get hold of?

There is obviously a massive amount of data being created – and not all of it is confined in the media space. For proper measurement and evaluation to be conducted, we will need access to a far wider amount of data, and not just from the media space. Clients sit with masses of internal data, whether it is CRM data, sales figures, expenses, marketing, Google Analytics, etc,. which are all in their own silos. Combining relevant data like this with traditional media data to create insights will become a very powerful tool. It is understandably very sensitive data for a brand, which they will not part with easily; hence we have seen the need to grow traditional media intelligence into a more advisory partnership with clients. One can expect a lot of growth in this space.

What kind of data or media that you do not have monitoring on today, can be interesting in the future?

The proliferation of media is an obvious challenge to the media intelligence industry, so I believe the industry will need to find ways to monitor all these new channels. However, as media becomes personalized and a more on-demand service, the audience will also become even more critical. I have long believed that the communication industry has been too obsessed with specific media channels and communication “outputs” in what they would consider ‘vanity” media that many have forgotten about their audiences. The audience will be key in the future.

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

Traditional monitoring is relatively stagnant across the world, so the media intelligence industry will need to quickly grow their insights and advisory skills. Major investments will also need to be made into machine learning, artificial intelligence and data sciences. As The Economist recently said “data is the new oil,” but what will give the media intelligence industry an edge over the big technology players will be the human element – both from a client services and an advisory perspective. People do business with people, and this is a fundamental principle that will remain through time.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The pace of disruption to the media intelligence over the next five years will be enormous”

Sean Smith

Interview with Sean Smith, Chief Executive – Media Intelligence at Isentia, Australia and Vice President of FIBEP.

Hi Sean, what is included in your current role at Isentia?

As Chief Executive of Media Intelligence, I am responsible for overseeing the delivery of media intelligence services to 5,000 clients across APAC. My role comes with the usual P&L responsibilities, but ultimately it is about ensuring Isentia remains the market leader and we continue to push for better solutions, products and services for our clients that allow them to stay ahead of the curve.

Outside of my role at Isentia, I am also the current Vice President and Board Member for FIBEP, global association for media intelligence.

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

Giving our clients the right information at the right time; whether it be the first to alert them to breaking news or the delivery of an Insights report that shows the impact of their actions on a story. Our clients are now operating in a media world that is 24/7 and unrelenting. For example, Isentia now ingests around 284 new stories every second. Our challenge is to make sense of all that noise and velocity, and provide our clients with the key information that they need to know.

The challenge is only getting harder, but working in an organisation where our culture is engrained in all things media and being the best, is the challenge we love to answer.

Isentia acquired the content marketing agency King Content in 2015. How has that changed the focus of Isentia’s business proposition?

For quite some time now, Isentia has been looking at how we can work across owned, earned and paid media. Our media intelligence offering has allowed us to play a key role in confirming when something happens and making sense of what it all means for our clients. With content marketing, we can now answer the “what’s next?” question by devising a content strategy that will help brands tell their story and connect with the right audience. Content is nothing without the right strategy. By having robust media intelligence that allows for greater opportunities to uncover unique and timely insights, we can provide the strategic thinking our clients need to connect with their clients through content and change conversations.

The acquiring of King Content is a step further on in the value chain. Does this mean that there are other parts of your business that come further away from generating value, which you are planning to outsource?

Outsourcing has been key to our strategy long before the acquisition of King Content. The media intelligence industry is moving so quickly that we are always looking to expand on the value we can give to our clients. Sourcing for functions outside our core business is one way that we can achieve that as it means we can spend more time thinking and executing new ideas for the parts of the Isentia business that matter most and give key clear points of difference.

APAC is a quite diverse region. What are your main challenges to offer comprehensive products and services throughout the region?

APAC is the fastest growing region in the world, and as you note, highly diverse. The challenge is ensuring we are offering a personalised experience and services tailored to the needs of each country. No two countries look the same. Local knowledge matters and is key to success.

Business culture is unique, and while you need to find ways to adapt, to be successful in APAC, you must balance this investment into the development of your own culture, infrastructure and people.

The media intelligence landscape in Asia Pac is also made more complex by the challenges with language and local markets being highly fragmented.

You are currently Vice President of FIBEP. What are the most important things that an organization like FIBEP can contribute?

Ensuring the industry can continue to evolve and stay relevant. Our industry has players that have their roots as a press clipping agency right through to our newest members that are SaaS platforms and thinking about media content as a data set that can be overlaid with other data sources and smart analytics. It is this diversity in the membership that shows just how fast our industry is changing and the important role that FIBEP can play in helping members to change and continue to be successful.

FIBEP holds an annual conference, which is an important event – the learnings come not only from the key note speakers, but also from the valuable networking that takes place over three days, or should I say three nights!

How do you think or hope FIBEP’s role will evolve in the future?

I hope to see FIBEP continue to explore the changing market trends and best practices so that the media intelligence industry can be progressive or be at the forefront of innovation. To do this, we will need to attract new members. Diversity of our members and the ideas that will evolve our industry will be key, so too is embracing change. FIBEP, through its activities and leadership, will play a role in guiding this, but also connecting the industry with the necessary change agents to help inspire members as they continue to move through this journey.

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

Podcasts and closed, “dark social” messenger apps are great examples of sources that aren’t typically utilised in media intelligence. Dark social is important, and when you look at recent studies, it is clear that dark social is not just occupying a small corner of the Internet, but is now the leading sharing method for news links, which is highly influential. As more and more of us become addicted to our mobile devices, it will be essential that media intelligence organisations can find a way to understand and make sense of this growing channel.

What would be the main challenges in retrieving that data or media?

The obvious answer is access. The best media intelligence organisations have made changes to their strategy to ensure they have strong working relationships with both traditional media and social media platforms. Not all content or data is free and there is a need for a commercial relationship with the owners. The other key consideration here is privacy and ensuring the security of users is protected.

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

It is an arms race! Having the best people supported by the best technology will be key. The pace of disruption to the media intelligence over the next five years will be enormous. Automation and the rise of artificial intelligence will mean our industry and a typical media intelligence company will look completely different. Our tech will be smarter and so will our people!

It is going to be an exciting ride. I am looking forward to seeing what we do and how many more problems we can solve for our clients in five years’ time. Media intelligence will be very powerful and will play an even more important role.

By Renata Ilitsky