RealTime IT News

Biz Intel That Drills Into Tech Press

Public relations and corporate communications firms have long tracked how their companies are covered in the press, from traditional "clipping" services to building databases of articles, writers, and topics, and rating their coverage.

But compared to other business intelligence packages, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and sales analytics, media and marketing-related packages are still largely seen as a soft science because of the difficulty in analyzing how all that media coverage adds up.

Now, Biz360, which specializes in business intelligence analytics packages that slice and dice how media coverage plays online and off, has ramped up its lines in order to provide even more granularity in tracking how media coverage impacts a company's bottom line.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based company said its main product, Market360, now includes optional consulting services in order to help corporate PR and marketing departments establish benchmarks and measure the impact of communications on global reputations and brands. The Market360 application has also undergone a redesign so that it can be integrated with internal PR departments' own workflow.

Also part of its upgrade: several next-generation metrics, including MediaSignal, and an addition called "Feature Equivalence," which helps determine the value of media coverage compared to competitor coverage.

The latest release from the business intelligence provider comes after it beefed up alliances with key database providers, such as Factiva and LexisNexis, whose databases are piped into the company's own hosted database engine.

Biz360's products take all its data feeds of media and builds extensive graphs and data trackers for customers, such as fever charts that track how many negative stories compare with positive ones, or neutral ones for that matter. The database includes the traditional media sources, such as TV and print and major media databases, Web publications, online trade publications and, yes, even blogs, as well as what Biz360 calls "influencers," such as pundits or known analysts.

Biz360 isn't the only company looking for more market share in this sub-sector of business intelligence. Packages with deeply integrated analytics are rapidly gaining steam, as technology spending continues to recover and more companies find themselves rich in data but poor in understanding of what it all means to their strategic focus.

IBM, for one, is working with Factiva in developing its own kind of business-intelligence system and is expected to launch a product around that effort. In addition, Microsoft's commitment to building out its search functions includes its News Tracker and Blog Tracker features, which counter Google's own popular news and blog trackers.

Doug Laney, vice president of enterprise analytics strategies with research firm Meta Group, said Biz360 has found a way to weave in media metrics with customer metrics to help measure a PR firm's performance on behalf of the company it hired to help manage its news flow.

"PR heretofore has been a touchy-feely type of exercise," said Laney. "What this company has done is lay the groundwork for defining an almost standard set of metrics and even optimization processes around those metrics. The product is looking to tap into a larger trend that, from a business-process perspective, all businesses are trying to find a way to measure what they do and do it better."

He said PR, marketing and communications are typically seen as a soft spend compared to other business-intelligence packages. But the company has "built quite a bit of intelligence into the product so that you can not only gauge things like hits, but whether they were positive, negative or neutral. From a PR perspective, this eliminates a lot of the gruntwork" of those kinds of metrics.

The privately held Biz360, which is backed by Granite Ventures and BA Ventures, counts over 70 customers who include Astra Zenca, Bank of America, Harley Davidson, Oracle (and PeopleSoft), MetLife and Verizon.