Interview with Reto Kleeb, CTO of Scope, a SaaS platform for digital communication based in Switzerland.
Hi Reto, what is your background and what is included in your CTO role at Scope Content?
I started my journey in the software field around the year 2000. Back then the term cloud didn't exist, internet access was still expensive and slow, or almost nonexistent on mobile devices. Separate office sites that our team was managing were connected via proprietary, private data lines and the core data was stored in our basement on servers that the size of a large fridges. A lot of the fundamental building blocks we take for granted today were simply out of reach or didn't exist at all.
In my role at Scope I work with our distributed product team on making the most out of the ever-scarce development resources. The joy of this role comes from juggling many hats: discussing product strategy in the morning, chats with our developers, talking to clients about potential integration scenarios and then, if time permits, an occasional line of code.
What differentiates Scope from other content marketing companies?
Scope has its roots in the idea of content curation. We believe that curated links or reading recommendations that are enriched by personal comments and opinions provide measurable benefits over classical editorial content that is handwritten. I absolutely do not want to belittle proper journalistic content, but if this is the only option you have, you will soon realize that things get expensive quickly and that regardless of the quality of the result, there is a chance that it will leave the impression that is biased. Enriching communication with links to neutral third-party sources is a successful way to position yourself as a thought leader on the relevant industry topics, to increase the trust in your communication and to simply provide a real benefit to the audience. No one needs more sales oriented communication, but if you manage to communicate on a regular basis in a way so that the content is perceived as real, added value, your clients will keep you in mind.
On top of this "curation DNA" that is the fundament of our platform, we also believe that a structured workflow across different platforms does increase productivity significantly. A lot of the communication processes that we see today are fairly scattered and error prone. Word documents and copy/paste still play a significant role and we have all had email-newsletters in our inboxes that contained $FIRSTNAME placeholders and had odd looking font mixes. The workflow support of Scope helps our clients to keep an overview of what content has been used, potentially reused, in a simple and structured manner.
So, summed up, Scope provides a solution that combines inspiration on the content side and workflow support on the side of the actual task execution. This combination isn't something that is already widely adapted on the market and people tend to compare us with solutions that they are familiar with. But in most cases these aren't really alternatives to our product, but solutions that we integrate with. We would jokingly say "Think Zapier rather than Mailchimp" to emphasize the fact that we're agnostic to where the data comes from and where the content is pushed to.
What are the most popular features in your content marketing platform?
It depends on the user’s persona. Some of our clients "live" in the world of their content and are very active on the internet, or in the case of publishers, they produce their content themselves and therefore the question "what to curate?" is easily answered. This persona focuses on the editor and the automations that are offered within it.
On the other hand we have clients that heavily rely on the "Discovery" functionality in Scope. Without a constant flow of article recommendations it would be too time consuming for them to create or discover enough content.
In general, we have seen an uptake in interest in our offering during the pandemic. Existing and newer clients relied, at least partially, on physical events before the outbreak. Finding ways to stay in touch despite these circumstances became more and more important. An important detail, especially in the spring of 2020, was our support to start entire communication projects from scratch within short timeframes. Granted, one could also start with one of the other big platforms to, for example, send emails. But these platforms lack what we call the "individual playbook support": Where are you today? Where do you want to be tomorrow (we called this the "24 Hour Challenge")? What are the realistic technical details that need to be taken care of to get there?
Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new features in your platform to improve the services you offer your clients?
Besides the continuous improvements that we roll out on a regular basis we are working on a significant next step in our data supply chain. When Scope clients use the "Discovery" feature today, their search-requests are sent to individual third-party search engines. This direct exposure of our users to the individual platforms is something we have always seen as a problem. While for us and our customer success team, it is straightforward to pick the appropriate provider and their specific arguments, an average user shouldn't have to deal with these choices and details. On top of that there were some underlying technical details that made it hard for us to summarize and enrich the articles we'd found.
With our current efforts in this area we're going to be able to collect the results from multiple sources and feed them through a pipeline of steps that would increase the quality of the data before we present it to our users. While this already is going to be a big step, we're not planning on stopping there. This structured storage of all the relevant information will then allow us to build feedback loops and integrate approaches based on machine learning to further improve the quality of our recommendations.
What are your greatest challenges ahead at Scope when it comes to serving your customers and developing your service offering?
Scope provides a service that covers both technological and editorial aspects. These two areas are typically owned by different stakeholders or teams within our clients’ organizations. From the vantage point of the providers and tools, these two (or more) parts of an organization typically have their individual, dedicated approaches. When we introduce Scope we literally have to bring everyone to the same table.
When it comes to sales, a constant challenge is definitely the fact that the service bundle offered by Scope isn't something that is already widely known. The combination is novel and the benefits of integration in an existing landscape of tools and processes require a lot of explanation and endurance.
When it comes to the data in your content platform, what kind of data or media not currently used could be interesting in the future?
I wouldn't say that it is one particular media or data type, but the possibility to search for specific (media) types. In the last two years we noticed an uptake in the particular interest for content in the form of videos and podcasts. Our current search-approaches work for the basic cases, but we can't claim that we have full coverage for these types, and the truth is that with the ongoing platform shifts such as the introduction of new video streaming platforms and big corporations making significant investments in the podcast industry, it won't be easy to keep up. I am personally a big fan of podcasts and it is interesting to witness the transformation from simple MP3 files and open RSS feeds to exclusive content on proprietary platforms, that are then of course harder to index.
By Peter Appleby