Dublin-based startup NewsWhip tracks the social spread of all content online, and provides data to customers including BuzzFeed, BBC and the Guardian. In the NGWD, CEO and Co-founder Paul Quigley shares some tips on growing an internationally focused SaaS business from Dublin.
One of NewsWhip’s sales team used to work in the media monitoring business in Dublin. In that business, the customers tend to be companies and government departments, desperate for every scrap of a mention of their brands or their executives.
He told me about one Irish government minister who insisted on seeing every possible mention of himself and his department in every paper, every day. The location of the mention did not matter – whether it was a national paper or a local free sheet. Each mention was scrutinized, first thing in the morning. The media monitoring company would work hard all night to gather and present every one of these mentions.
For the monitors, missing a single scrap of a mention would be a major offense, no matter how minor the publication. This man wanted to see everything.
This phenomenon of ‘knowing everything’ is a big driver of the media monitoring business. People at big corporations and in government are terrified of missing a single mention or incident. They spend large sums of money on services to capture everything.
But the tide of information is rising. Today’s technology gives people ever more ways of creating and distributing content. Eventually the volume of media will be so great that this minister will have nothing left to do except sit at his desk and play back every single mention of his name, in every blog, podcast, website, forum, internet comment, tweet, Facebook page and YouTube video. And once he’s reviewed every mention, is it worth his time responding? If so, how? What’s the point?
The era of true ‘mass media’ – i.e. media created and shared by the masses – means catching every mention is no longer the appropriate response for upping a company’s IQ, or a minister’s understanding of media. It’s time for a shift from ‘knowing everything’ to ‘know what matters’.
Here’s an example. Just a few weeks ago, an executive at a US Fortune 500 company was floored to discover an Op-Ed (opinion page) attacking him and his brand. The Op-Ed was thick with half-truths about his reputation and his company in the market. The executive was furious. Time to release the Kraken. He called the company’s communications department and PR firm, demanding that they launch a sweeping counterattack with their own facts and conjectures, and bomb the enemy newspaper into submission. He was ready for war.
Fortunately, the PR firm were not media monitoring dinosaurs. They were smart people (and importantly, users of NewsWhip’s platform, Spike). They urged the executive to calm down. By checking the story (on our technology), they could see how much it was being talked about, shared, tweeted. Outside of the executive suite – and the executive’s ego – was the story really a big deal? Was it causing a social media firestorm?
Initial indications were that it was not. The story got little reacting on Twitter, and was a very slow burner on Facebook. The PR firm urged restraint, at least temporarily. Let’s see how this plays out, they advised. You see, if the company did release the Kraken, with calls to the paper, a social media reaction campaign and advertising attacks, they risked sending a samurai army after a fruitfly. They would look dumb. And the newspaper might look even more right.
Sure enough, by the end of the day, the story had failed to set the world on fire. It might have annoyed the executives no end, but no one was reacting to it. Likely, few – if any – people were reading it. So the company stood down. They let it slide. They knew what mattered – and this story did not.
The lesson? Whether you’re a company in online media or an ordinary person navigating it, the stories are more plentiful than ever before. Be careful what you let into your life, react to, and consume. There’s always more out there.