Marni: Hi, this is Marni Edelhart from the Pivot Conference on the line with Jared Feldman, CEO and Founder of Canvs. Good morning Jared.
Jared: Good morning.
Marni: I’m so glad to get the chance to speak with you again. Jared is Founder and CEO of Canvs, a leading social media insights firm. Jared is a digital entrepreneur and social TV thought leader dedicated to pushing the boundaries of social media insights. Canvs officially launched in 2014 and has already become the industry’s standard for social television analysis. Leveraging Twitter TV content captured by Nielsen, Canvs is the only social TV insights platform to comprehensively measure audience reaction. Well, Jared, thank you for joining us here today. I’m so glad to have the chance to talk with you.
Jared: Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Marni: When you started Canvs in 2009, the social media analytics market was already pretty well saturated. What was your unique value proposition and how did you differentiate yourself within that first?
Jared: In 2009 the first wave of innovation in our space was really about data aggregation sort of finding all of this social chatter and putting it in one place and that was a challenging thing but what was really missing in the landscape was this notion of insight and how do you bridge the gap between how marketers and advertisers make decisions and what the data was actually saying. We’ve developed canvas as a qualitative engine that essentially thinks about how do you understand how people are actually reacting as opposed to just the counting and just the scale. So the differentiator for us is really about action ability and what’s been great is over the last few years there’s been not only the maturation of technology and sophistication of how these things are captured but also social media has evolved from this indicator of buzz or a signal to be acknowledged after they get back to true social science where it’s a credible research medium that can be leveraged for real business decisions and Canvs aims to take advantage of that.
Marni: That makes it very clear, thank you. So what exactly is social sentiment and how did you know that was important?
Jared: You know social sentiment is a bad word in our industry. It’s funny. The majority of tools that exist today come out and they have some sort of unsupervised positive, negative, neutral scoring of sentiment, of social conversation and the challenge is two-fold. The first is that how marketers and advertisers think about social conversations is never so binary, it’s not this arbitrary assignment of tone where in fact what’s positive or negative to me maybe totally different than how you think about it. And so the first challenge is presenting it as this positive, negative, neutral idea isn’t actually actionable and so if that’s the end outcome, if we are judged by how our information is able to use in decision making then that’s not a great way to present it. And the second piece that’s challenging is if you’ve spent any time on Twitter nobody speaks properly; we use strange words in spellings and phrases and especially as a function of whether a computer can understand when someone says something to the effect of “I can’t freaking stand how much I love this show”, it’s a complicated phrase. Part of the challenge is actually having a technology that can accurately measure human conversation in natural language but to do so in a way that’s scalable, that’s immediate and it allows you to make decisions quickly. This sentiment component of it is limited. We think about emotionality, we think about how you understand the cadence and intent of how people are talking and not only measure it correctly but also present it in a way that becomes immediately useful to the end user. It’s a really, really hard problem, but we’ve been focusing on it for a really long time and we are starting to see how the market is accepting this new way of thinking and it has all of its amazing value that we are starting to unlock.
Marni: That’s really interesting. I mean of course emotions aren’t binary but it takes a lot to figure out the whole spectrum and that’s an exciting part of what you guys are doing at Canvs.
Jared: Yeah, well, there’s this variability in how we talk, this true expression can’t be limited by these sort of paint-by-numbers algorithms and we have to acknowledge that you know we are in Twitter every day, we are in social every day, we collectively bemoan the death of the English language on a regular basis, having to study all of the ways that people talk but certainly in this new era where expression is democratized and everybody has a voice, there needs to be a new measure of what the hell people are talking about and that’s our mission: to truly advance the way we understand people and that’s what we are focused on.
Marni: I can see a real opening for business helping parents understand their kids in the future. I’m just throwing it out there.
Marni: Canvs provides analysis of social, I’m going to say social sentiment but feel free to tell me what I should be saying instead, around television. What makes television particularly relevant when it comes to these types of analytics?
Jared: Canvs.tv every day analyzes all new and live series and specials that air across 250 plus US space networks. In partnership with Nielsen Social, we are taking all of the quantitative information available on their platform and adding our qualitative lens to it and studying the emotionality present. We think about this as in the new era of content where distribution is so fragmented, we get the information from the strangest places. I, with my free shipping on Amazon, get amazing content I get to watch – this new type of bundle that exists now. And all of these things with the addition of the fact that social media has evolved into this credible research medium, as viewership behavior is changing so quickly, figuring out how people are emotionally engaging with content becomes all the more important. When we look at the measurement of the TV industry, ratings are still absolutely important; how much conversation there is, is still absolutely important, but what we are learning is that the entire purpose of creating content and distributing content and marketing against content and getting your brand associated with content, is because of the reaction that content has with the viewer. How does this resonate with my audience? And historically the only way to accomplish this is through traditional market research, through panels that take a couple of days and are small sample sizes, through getting people into a room and making them watch the show and then having them fill out surveys and then weeks later and hundreds of thousands of dollars later having a sense of how it’s being perceived. It just feels like that as quickly as the content space is moving the measurement space needs to move even faster. What we are accomplishing and our goal and what we are working towards is being the standard in measuring emotional reaction to content, and in this new era it’s all the more important.
Marni: Yeah, I think it’s getting more important all the time. Can you share any examples of how clients have acted on the insights you’ve shared with them?
Jared: Absolutely. We sell to three main areas currently. If you take a piece of content like the blacklist – the people that make the blacklist, the production company, like Sony Pictures uses Canvs, and what they are looking at is storyline fatigue and plot point perception. Literally we present minute-by-minute emotional responses while the show is on air and they can even watch the show in the platform so that they can see literally what on screen was driving emotional responses. This of course gets fed back to the show runners as they go about making the next season or for reality program in the next episode. Then the network like NBC buys and distributes the content and they subscribe to Canvs. They’re looking at how do we market this show better, how do we understand what about the show is resonating or for the first time in what I can remember, the promo teams now at the networks check with the social teams to figure out which themes we should focus on when we re-cut the trailer to try to drive repeat viewership. Finally when they have to create content next day right, if show airs Sunday night and Monday morning they say” how did we do last night”, from a measurement reporting standpoint but also they then have to fill up their Facebook pages and their Twitter timelines and their Snapchat Discover quota and all of these things and so they need to understand which relationships worked and if people were annoyed or upset or shocked or “how boring is this show”. Instead of having to do an opinion poll or a call-out research or anything of the sort they can see Canvs immediately and get a sense of how the audience talked. And finally we sell to the media community, the media agencies like Starcom or Initiative that are trying to understand when their brands are present in the show how the brand integration is resonating; did people pay attention; did they notice it; were they emotionally engaged with the content while my brand was on screen? In that way, passively experiencing the brand while actively engaging with the content. All of these things together are essentially major organizations carrying and being influenced by how the world is reacting. In a broadcast society, the founding mythology is there are a few gatekeepers that get to tell us what we can and can’t watch and now we get to participate and we’ve accelerated that participation by making the world’s opinions instantly available to the content space.
Marni: What have you learned about yourself as a viewer from your work at Canvs? Do you find yourself looking at TV differently?
Jared: Yeah – there’s a really cool thing in Canvs where it puts an orange dot on the timeline when there’s a moment and we see, basically, is the most emotionally engaging moments of a show and now I find myself, when I’m watching television, and something crazy happens, I see some of my team do it too, I jump in the Canvs and wonder “did people also care about this like that was a crazy moment” I wonder how many people also felt the same way. There’s a sense of validation we, as humans, crave: before I go to a movie, whatever the “tomato people” said and however they ranked it, is what I am listening to. Or when you go to a Broadway show and it’s amazing; at the end you want to stand up and clap but you certainly don’t want to be the first one, you look around first. It’s this really odd thing where you can confirm with Canvs how everyone else felt about the thing you are experiencing. And it’s a really trippy experience and it’s actually why we started piping in the actual video into Canvs – so you could, as you are watching it, as the analyst, as the person responsible for it, or responsible for marketing it, or responsible for buying ads against it – you can actually see what the world was responding to in addition to experiencing it for yourself.
Marni: Well, it’s not so bad to watch TV on the job either huh.
Jared: Not so bad at all.
Marni: Well, Jared I have about a 100 more questions I would love to ask but I want to respect your time and I’m so grateful for getting to have this conversation with you today. It’s really been a pleasure.
Jared: Absolutely, I appreciate it. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.