Deals with media startups is not exactly what we would have expected to be accelerated in the coronavirus pandemic and crisis (although needed, given the mass misinfodemics that became evident ever since the start of the crisis). Yet, it seems that the recent events got some processes moving also in the media innovation space. After months of negotiations, since the summer of 2019, two European media startups have finally made a deciding step – Serbian Content Insights and Dutch SmartOcto have just announced they are merging, forming a new company called smartocto. The new entity also receives investment from five VCs and aims to help media businesses gain relevance by telling the right stories through the right channels and relying on data instead of gut feelings.
“Corona is a problem for the whole media industry, and we sympathize with newsrooms. But for smartocto it is also a big chance. We have focused propositions to profitability and our notifications help with a distributed workflow. That extra value has our attention,” tells us Erik Van Heeswijk, who becomes CEO of smartocto. Yet, the pandemic is not what led to the deal, it only accelerated it.
Building the future of media
Joining forces, the two editorial analytics startups expect to boost media effectiveness and profitability globally. Currently the two companies – the Serbian Content Insights, part of Eleven Capital’s portfolio and the Dutch peer SmartOcto, both founded in 2015, serve close to 200 media brands on four continents. In a nutshell, they make sense of all the data a newsroom could gather about the behavior of readers and viewers and suggest editorial teams better approaches to storytelling and distribution. “Media companies expect three things from data analytics today. Realtime, historic analysis and actionability. With SmartOcto and Content Insights we have the first two components really actionable. And the extra bonus is that the media company now only has one truth: realtime numbers correspond with deep analysis and the other way around. The new company is even more ambitious, we plan to deliver data and notifications to the whole workflow, we call it the Story Lifecycle,” explains Erik Van Heeswijk.
The co-founded by Dejan Nikolic and based in Novi Sad Content Insights that went through the Eleven Accelerator back in 2014, had developed a powerful algorithm called CPI (Content Performance Indicator), which collects all the relevant data from domain and traffic referral sources, and examines the relations between various performance metrics to determine and inform the content managers and creators precisely how well the published content has performed. The technology focuses on real audience behavior, not simple browser events (e.g page views and time spent on page). Dutch SmartOcto works in the same domain – using data to improve the life-cycle and impact of stories produced by newsrooms and media brands. The company has developed various features that support content teams in different fields – from creating stories (via real-time analytics) to improving and strengthening the connection with the audience. The two startups started working together upon request of a joint customer.
“dpg media asked us to work together closely on the Value+ project: to predict the value of content, and to serve real-time tips about that on a story level. That was at the end of 2018. We also noticed that culture, knowledge and customers were also a great fit, but the complexities in legal and funding took some time,” tells us the CEO. “Results, conversions to subscriptions and overall reach have been groundbreaking – even in Corona times. Smartocto is very important for our journalists and the data-driven approach of our newsroom in general,” comments Roy Wassink, Insights Manager of dpg media.
After the merger, the two systems will constitute the beginning of a suite with different modules. As of the teams – Serbia will be the home base for the data teams, whereas marketing and sales will be based in the Netherlands.
Venture capitalists boosting media relevance
A consortium of investors – North Base Media, South Central Ventures, Eleven, NEVEQ, and V-ventures – funded the acceleration of the leadership position of the newly established smartocto. “Investors started to take an interest in that because that is basically the Holy Grail of content analytics,” explains Erik Van Heeswijk. Saša Vučinić, the Managing Partner of North Base Media believes that smartocto is well-positioned to set a new gold standard in content analytics.
“We believe that this new proposition will be a major change to the world of media analytics. In the years to come, the profitability of media will be more important than ever,” Jan Kobler, a Managing Partner at South Central Ventures, says in an official statement.
The full size of the investment is not officially disclosed. We know with certainty that Eleven Capital, the publicly traded successor of Eleven Accelerator, has invested €100K. The fresh funding will allow smartocto to scale marketing, sales and e-learning activities, tells us the CEO. After conquering the European market, the newly formed company will be now putting efforts also in the US market.