Every few years in new media, I find a consulting client whose business plan, product or service, and managers are refreshingly sharp, competent, and unusually opportune. In those rare cases, and particularly if it’s a startup venture, I’ll trade some of Digital Deliverance’s consulting fees for deferred compensation or future equity in the venture because I’m confident of its potential. And if I like the venture even more after working with it for awhile, I’ll even taken a very active stake in it by joining the venture as an officer.
That’s been the case with Critical Mention.
Its founder & CEO Sean Morgan approached me last November, via an intermediary in London, about consulting to his company. Now, after three months of consulting to Critical Mention, I’ve joined the New York City-based company as its vice president of broadcast relations to implement the solution.
What is Critical Mention? It’s a Twenty First century update of the old analog concept of a broadcast news monitoring company. Corporations hire it to monitor television news and talk shows for any mention of their corporations, products, products, and interests. It monitors all U.S. national network channels plus the local news broadcasts in the top markets.
Yet, rather than use its employees to monitor and videotape broadcast the way that traditional companies in broadcast monitoring do, Critical Mention instantly digitizes all the broadcasts. Because by law all U.S. broadcasts must all send closed captioning text streams with their videos, Critical Mention converts that stream into keyworded metadata associated with each minute of a broadcast. The result is a video news database that is searchable and can alert the moment a news or talk program mentions a corporation’s interest. Clients can then view these digitized, keyword-searchable broadcast via a secure, non-downloadable feed from Critical Mention.
Since Morgan started Critical Mention, more than 100 of the Fortune 500 companies (including 20 of the Fortune 100) have hired it to research and monitor their interests. Other clients include most major public relations firms, the offices of many U.S. senators, congressional representatives, a former president of the United States, and the federal departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation. Not bad for a two year-old company.
It’s startup management is experienced. Morgan and his chief financial officer Alan Davison were among the starters of ScreamingMedia during the 1990s. That company secured non-exclusive distribution rights to hundreds of news organizations text content, which it then syndicated to thousands of topical websites. Equity of Screaming Media (later renamed Pinnacor) went public in 2000. That company was later sold to CBS MarketWatch for $100 million and is now part of Dow Jones & Company.
Last October, Critical Mention received an oversubscribed round of more than $2 million in venture financing, led by Silicon Alley Venture Partners and Stonehenge Capital, plus investors Meyer Ventures, Scott Kurnit (founder and former CEO of About.com) and other members of the New York Angels group, as well as prior investor Pennell Venture Partners.
Like Morgan and Davison, I believe there is a huge latent demand for searchable video on the Internet, particularly for news video. I see three reasons for that:
- First, broadband is quickly becoming the predominant way in which people connect to the Internet. Most workers in the U.S. now have it: more than 77 percent did, according to Nielsen/Netratings. Plus, 45 percent of U.S. households with Internet connections now are on broadband. Video was almost impossibly slow to deliver online in years past, but now isn’t.
Second, video is the format by which most Americans stay informed. The Project for Excellent in Journalism’s State of the News Media 2004 report stated that 83 percent get most of their news and information from television, not from newspapers, radio, or news magazines.
And, third, search engines are the most popular features of the World Wide Web.
If most Americans want news in video and can now get it online, they should have a way of searching for what news video they want. Most Internet search engines provide only text (for example, there is only an infinitesimal amount of video available Google and none on Google News). Not having the most popular media format is the search engines’ major lack.
Nonetheless, Critical Mention is a business-to-business venture, not a business-to-consumer venture. Clients hire it to alert them about news about themselves. It doesn’t let them download news clips nor shows them those clips in full video quality (online quality only). The clips aren’t full programs or broadcasts, simply minute segments (which is about the average duration of most company’s mention on news shows). And those clips aren’t publicly available on Critical Mention’s secure system.
Critical Mention wants to develop marketing relationships with news broadcasters in which it provides them with a portion of revenues and an auditable trail of which clients saw the videos. We believe tha t the broadcast monitoring industry and news broadcasters themselves will be stronger with such relationships. I’m implementing those relationships between Critical Mention and the world’s national and local news broadcasters. .
So, if you’re a national or local news broadcasters interested in receiving revenues from the broadcast monitoring industry that has and may be continuing to use your news content for free, contact me no matter whether your responsibility is for terrestrial or cable broadcasting or for broadcaster website operations.
I can also provide Critical Mention’s video search technologies to local or national broadcaster partners who would like to offer their own content directly searchable online by consumers.
– Vin Crosbie