In this guest article Seth Grimes looks through the eyes of four industry experts, examining the relationships between content analytics, smart content and business intelligence. Do you know what content intelligence means for your organization?

What is Smart Content?

"Content analytics" can be seen as business intelligence (BI) for/from content, as text (rather than number) crunching that generates insights to improve business outcomes. The two practices, content analytics and BI, certainly share motivations. If you don't analyze your content/data, you may be missing opportunities and running risks.

For content publishers, analytics drives better targeted content delivery, expanded audiences, and secondary uses and new distribution channels. These outcomes add up to profit. On the flip side, they are matched by reduced risk and cost avoidance given possibilities for more complete, more accurate compliance screening, e-discovery, and storage management.

Analytics also boosts value for users. Semantic search, faceted navigation, and content annotation/enrichment create findability and improve user experience and value for users. They also let users treat content like data. Call the goal "content intelligence," enabled by "smart content."

Perspectives from the Field

I asked several experts to explain how "smart content," generated via semantic content analysis, helps organizations meet corporate/competitive/customer intelligence needs.

This simple question prompted illuminating responses from Marty Betz, CTO of corporate-intelligence firm FirstRain; industry expert and online publisher Diane Burley, currently a marketing strategist for XML database vendor MarkLogic; Leonoor van der Beek, a computational linguist who is research management at Q-go, an online customer service leader; and David Geddes, R&D vice president at business analytics and research firm Evolve24.

We're fortunate to have David speaking on Corporate Reputation and Risk Management at the up-coming Smart Content conference, October 19 in New York, at which Marty and Leonoor will each present a "lightning talk" on their companies' solutions.

Here are my interlocutors' responses, each focusing on her/his area of special expertise.

Perspective #1: Global Market Intelligence

Prior to joining Evolve24, David Geddes was senior vice president and partner at Fleishman-Hillard, the largest global public relations firm, from 1995 through 2009. I like his response, which covers information sources, technologies, information-integration challenges, intelligence applications, and business impact. It draws from his 25+ years experience in research, measurement, and consulting in communications and marketing. David explains,

"Smart content is decision-ready global market intelligence shared across the enterprise at the speed of business to drive strategic and operational business decisions.

"Smart content is built on the foundation of an exhaustive set of relevant documents, aggregated in real time by intelligent search engines from electronic databases, online news, blogs, online forums, discussions groups, online video, and microblogs. Advanced technologies -- text analytics, entity extraction, sentiment scoring, topic identification, data mining and others -- extract intelligence in near real-time and array the information in user friendly portals.

"Smart content augments the value of existing corporate information through integration with data from sales, marketing, customer satisfaction, human resources, and other functions. It is scalable to provide high-level overviews or granular detail customized to business functions, teams, or individual needs and preferences.

"Smart content is a telescope to see emerging trends, opportunities, and risks on the horizon. It is a microscope to examine information segmented by audience attitudes, psychographics, or demographics. It can be used for prediction, forecasting, and modeling of market dynamics. It is revolutionizing the way organizations make business decisions."

David's is a comprehensive, visionary response, a perfect lead in to a look at a more particular aspect of smart content.

Perspective #2: Matching Customer Needs

Leonoor van der Beek set up and leads a Q-go research team that works on the next generation of customer self-service technology. For her, smart content speaks to users, which for Q-go clients means customers visiting a corporate Web site. She tackles the smart content-intelligence relationship this way:

"Content should match the customer's needs. If it doesn't, you lose money. You lose customers because they can't find the information or help they're looking for. You miss revenue by missed sales (or cross and up-sell) opportunities. You face the higher costs of more expensive information channels such as call centers, e-mail, and chat.

"To match content to customers' needs, you'll need two things:

  1. You need to know your customers' needs.

  2. You need to be able to adjust content based on those needs. And that's where smart content comes in.

"Semantic analysis of your user's interactions (via any channel) will give you the first element, smart content will give you the second. Together, they make a killer combination that not only saves on costs but also makes money through increased online conversion."

Customers are accidental content consumers. They don't visit e-business sites for their reading pleasure -- they're there to buy, for product information, for support. The smart content concern is nonetheless relevant for them, as it is for more intentional information consumers.

Perspective #3: A Reporting Aid

Diane Burley is an online-media pioneer who is a digital media evangelist with MarkLogic and an e-business publisher. Check out her design site,, that is, once you've read what she, and then one more expert, has to say about smart content. Diane says:

"As a former journalist, I am hopeful that newsrooms will see the value in using semantics and analytics as a reporting aid. By ingesting blogs and RSS feeds from nearly any type of source, content can be semantically analyzed and mined for everything from concepts, people, places and organizations, even sentiment and tone. By now exposing this data through facets and time graphs, journalists would gain a very powerful investigative reporting tool. As topics become more voluminous, trends can be gleaned; it may become apparent that certain individuals are often linked to a suspicious activity.

"While this example is positioned for newsrooms, it is obvious that marketers are already using these types of techniques for brand and reputation management."

Reporting, brand and reputation management: They are different domains with the shared goal of extracting and shaping information value in online content. Our last expert looks at another application domain in this category.

Perspective #4: Business Information

Marty Betz's employer, FirstRain, creates corporate intelligence -- information about companies and business people -- by mining disparate business information sources. For Marty and FirstRain, the ability to meet the information-collection, integration, and rationalizations challenges that David Geddes cited, creating smart content, is a key source of competitive advantage. According to Marty,

"Most enterprises try to manually distill raw information into factual knowledge which can be analyzed, charted, and acted on.  FirstRain enables and automates this smart content extraction by matching modeled business concepts like competition, patents, partnerships and transactions against millions of news articles written for different audiences in diverse styles.  The resulting smart content can be mined to emphasize facts, connections, and correlations.

"Once created, smart content enables:

  • Aggregation, search, and discovery of actionable business information.

  • Detection of business structure patterns (like industries, subsidiaries, transactions, and patents).

  • Generation of derived business structures (emerging trends, new competitors, new partners, innovations, new products).

  • Discovery of patterns and emerging industry knowledge.

"In particular, our customers use Smart Content to track competition, to monitor industry trends, to identify subtle product references, and to catch trigger events quickly.  Overall, the resulting stream of concentrated intelligence allows them to discover new business opportunities they would have otherwise missed."

Beyond Content Management, Content Intelligence

The four experts I consulted each recognize smart content as the enabler and the outcome of efforts to move beyond content management to content intelligence. We see smart content, the product of content analytics, enriched with semantic meaning, as the adaptation of BI techniques and processes to unstructured online, social, and enterprise sources.

I do hope this exploration of the smart content-intelligence link was useful. If it was, please do consider joining Leonoor, Marty, David and me on October 19th at Smart Content ( to learn more.