Knowledge gives businesses an edge in the market, but finding it is expensive. Trawling through documents is time-consuming. Is that edge valuable enough for you to be spending thousands on it?
As the old adage goes: quality over quantity. Content Catalyst are the archetypal business to illustrate that phrase. Scaling from huge, weighty reports to targeted, digestible findings, Content Catalyst’s purpose is to provide customers with meaningful deep knowledge relevant to everyone, thus facilitating better, more stimulating conversations.
Daniel Lord, Founder and CEO of Content Catalyst talked to us about his experiences with deep knowledge, why he’s taking the bitesize approach and how it’s encouraging more interesting conversations.
Who is Daniel?
Going right the way back, I read physics at university and after that started working as a Research Analyst. These are the people who write reports on where markets are going and the trends in these markets. If you’re watching TV and they tell you that everyone’s going to be eating pizza next year or something, it’s normally a Research Analyst who they put on the screen – that’s the job I had.
I remember that, back in those days, I had lots of different data exhibits that I would bring together with a story. That would form quite a weighty report. A 200/300-page report which would contain everything that I had learnt about that market. Customers would pay quite a lot of money for it – around £5000 for one copy of the report.
I had the original idea for this business that the end-user didn’t want to read those reports from cover-to-cover. They had their own projects, so they just needed to find what was relevant to them and reuse it. That’s what our first version of the system did. We licensed it to Reuters Business Insight and it was a big success for them. Customers loved that they could just come and find what they needed without having to trawl through a whole report.
How did the journey start and what were the issues you sought to solve?
The problem [when we started] was that reports were the way experts would write up all of their research and findings. We started to understand what people were wanting to do with those reports. So, we made software that catered to that.
We also saw all sorts of mitigation approaches that people in the industry put in to overcome this aspect of a weighty report being a very boring thing to read. We saw companies make much shorter reports – many more reports, but much shorter. That doesn’t really solve the problem, because you’ve still got a large volume of material to try and wade through.
We also saw a lot of experimentation with different formats. They found something that superficially seems like it’s a bit lighter and a bit easier to access, like a PowerPoint presentation. But it doesn’t become a 12-slide presentation, because the expert’s got a lot they want to say, before you know it you’ve got a 200-slide presentation.
Then people thought, “Maybe it’ll be easier to digest this as a video or an in-person meeting.” That seems great when you think of videos as five minutes long, but by the time the analyst has presented everything they want, you might be into a few hours. There are also all the costs involved in production and without all the tools to be able to find where the information is within the video, you’re back to spending hours trawling through content.
Why is it valuable for businesses to utilise deep knowledge?
A lot of these businesses are operating in quite sophisticated spaces. A lot of our end-users are leading tech firms, pharmaceutical and other life sciences firms, energy companies. These are all areas where you compete through a knowledge advantage. Therefore, it’s vital that they can leverage the knowledge and expertise that they spend a lot of money and time acquiring.
The problem is that it’s not very accessible or consumable by the people who need to deploy it in the projects they’re working on.
What problematic coping mechanisms have businesses historically used to get around issues with deep knowledge?
One coping mechanism is that people focus on just the most convenient format, but that basically misses everything that’s in other formats. It kind of works to some extent, but it means that you’re operating with partial information.
You can also pay on a consulting rate for the expert just to talk to you. Then you’re paying a premium for an expert to filter out everything they think you don’t need to know. Or you can skim read it, maybe just read the first results, but then you’re resigned again to not finding everything that might be relevant. If you’re working in summaries, then you’re not getting that advantage over other players.
What does Content Catalyst do to enable fast and easy conversations with deep knowledge?
We look at how people use the knowledge. We’re quite fortunate in that our platforms are not only places where you discover the knowledge you’re looking for, but you also create the deliverable – the PowerPoint, Word briefings and so on. We can analyse that data, see what it is that people are trying to do with it and we can make sure our searching’s structured such that we help people identify what they need.
The end-user types in the questions that relate to the research projects they’ve got, it goes through the content, pulls out all the relevant sections and it renders that as a summary to them. They can then export that into whatever format they need.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ve been doing this since pre-Artificial Intelligence (AI) days as well, but now we’re using AI to do more sophisticated analysis of the structure of documents and videos. We’re just completing another UK funded-AI project to do some quite fancy recognition work within documents – document vision-type projects.
Then we’re going to do more AI work on understanding people’s questions and relating that to the kind of exhibits they’re looking for. We’ll be doing more to infer what people’s needs are and find the relevant content using AI.
We’ve got three US patents which cover what we’re doing in this space, alongside the Innovate UK project, so we’re very keen to be doing innovative and creative things.
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