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

Sameer Narkar

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

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

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

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

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

What differs Konnect Insights from other social listening platforms?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky

“The need of identifying automated content will become pressing”

Tom Avramis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky

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

Mark Reisz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In what ways has the coronavirus affected your business?

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

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

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

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

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

By Renata Ilitsky

“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

“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

“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