Revisiting the VMS Closure: Does It Really Signal a Paradigm Shift?
By Todd Murphy, Vice President, Universal Information Services
The easy answer, in my opinion, is “no.” I say “no” to the notion, as some competitors would claim that VMS closed because advances in technology created a shift in the news-monitoring paradigm and therefore allowed competition to pass them by. What killed VMS (Video Monitoring Services) will most likely be traced to a confluence of credit, near-term management, and a cash runway too short to launch new tools.
By now most practitioners in the public relations, corporate communications, and media relations industries have heard that the company closed in bankruptcy on August 26th. With the dust settling, it is interesting to see how the various competitors to VMS have reacted. Ultimately, these reactions dictate which vendor former VMS clients will convert to. For me, the sales messaging from competitors left from the VMS closing is a classic illustration of what I normally blog on: #SameRules, #NewTools. Simply put, some will claim that, “All has changed, it is a new day.” I believe that discounts human nature and is an insult to the news monitoring users. A more pragmatic way to evaluate the remaining competitors is to first ask what it is you need, and then ask the three questions I’ll give you at the end of my thoughts in this post.
At one end of the spectrum, you have heard very little, if anything, from players like Vocus, TVEyes, and Meltwater. As an aggregator of other’s content, it is understandable that Vocus hasn’t participated in the rush to pick up VMS clients. And with Meltwater focused on monitoring web content, their participation in a broadcast monitoring gold rush would be a bit of a stretch. However, the list of legitimate contenders in the broadcast tracking space only includes two networks that have a nationwide footprint covering all local markets and networks: News Data Services and Critical Mention. These two networks power the vendors and companies now positioned to serve all broadcast tracking users.
From my vantage point, I see two systems with similar content, tools, and deliverables. The primary difference is that News Data Services is a platform enabling service oriented companies. NDS powers a network of affiliated offices that runs 40 production locations deep and provides conventional customer service and support. NDS is the broadcast backbone for my complete news monitoring and analysis companies, Universal Information Services and Utah News Clips. NDS also powers 38 other production offices, and several data partners, that deliver full support as needed. But to be clear: Both networks are good.
Critical Mention is also a nationwide monitoring platform, but operates under a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. In the standard Critical Mention platform, the user (client) interfaces primarily through software, with less access to real-time client services people. Critical Mention is the broadcast monitoring backbone for Cision, a very good, full service news monitoring company. Both platforms are built on a computer infrastructure similar to what VMS built, years earlier, but the difference comes down to whether you think you will need assistance with your news tracking or whether you have the time and energy to manage news tracking yourself. My 28 years of broadcast tracking experience has taught me one thing, if nothing else> PR and communication professionals have no more time in their day today than they had in the past.
The fundamental need for “help” is what drew customers to VMS. It is the reason VMS was the predominant player up until a few weeks ago. That human characteristic that at once cries for help, while at the same time demanding all the tools of today, is what leads companies like mine toward meaningful innovation. We innovate in order to deliver the news tracking and analysis tools you need, while extending that helping hand that is so frequently needed. With your true needs in mind, ask yourself these questions when choosing your next news tracking and analysis vendor:
1. Do they have the depth and type of news you need?
2. Do they have the intuitive skills needed to focus your search so as to deliver exactly what you need in a timely manner?
3. Most important, will they be there for you, at any time, when you need assistance?
As most will find, there has been no fundamental change in the needs of news tracking clients, but rather in the innovation in the tools needed by those clients. And be wary of the claim that purports of a shift in the paradigm. At the end of the day, it still comes down to the strength of the people who are helping you, who understand your needs, and who are there to serve you regardless of time of day.
Todd Murphy is VP of Universal Information Services, where he manages all electronic media services. Involved with the company since he could walk, Todd has developed the broadcast monitoring, web monitoring, and electronic distribution processes for Universal Information Services. Heavily involved with the news monitoring industry associations, Todd has served as president and on the committees of several international news monitoring organizations. Specializing in corporate organization, copyright issues, and US legislation affecting the use of media, he is positioned to continue the success that Universal has enjoyed over the last 100 years.