We are kicking off a new series of interviews with content business execs where we ask them a few questions about challenges, opportunities, great tech for them. I hope you find this valuable.
Our MD, Stewart, talks to Ray Fawcett, CTO of Capital Economics, on the challenges of running a modern content business. We talk about the greatest challenges in building out a modern content business, fully digital content enterprises, where content businesses get it wrong and where the most interesting tech is within content and digital publishing.
We use Otter.ai for transcripts. It is both utterly wonderful and flawed at the same time. Below is a transcript of what it heard
Stewart Robinson: We've got Ray Fawcett here CTO of Capital Economics telling us about some of his experiences in content led business. So Ray, hello, first question, what are the greatest challenges in building a modern content business, you know, thinking big about things like the silos, the tech, the integration, the content, taxonomy, that sort of stuff.
Ray Fawcett: So I mean, we've covered quite a lot, there's always a lot of problems, if you want to talk about integrations, obviously a common one nowadays, because anything you do with CMS technology, or any technology really needs to always be interconnected. So that's always more and more of a requirement. People want to integrate their analytics, their CRM systems, their CMS systems, everything connects together, to then form the sort of end to end view of the customer experience.
So particularly for smaller companies, integration is actually quite often almost either off limits, or very expensive and difficult just because you know, you, once you, you have to build custom integration, you got to maintain it. And then you're obviously as well with all the oil in the world, it can be expensive if things change, or new versions of software come out with the integration has to be actually updated to cater for that. So that's always a problem, especially in small businesses. So we obviously try and avoid it as much as possible, use off the shelf modules wherever we can. I think in our case, there's obviously the siloing is an issue, we've obviously got a team that produces the content, and then a team that sells the content, nearly always, it's quite difficult to get alignment between the two, because they've got very different views. One is looking at it from a view of how can I sell it to the customer. And the other one is looking at more of a purist view in terms of what content needs to be included to actually give the complete picture of what I'm actually trying to describe.
So there are different viewpoints in terms of how that content should be produced. So in terms of the other thing that's really relevant for us, obviously, is a much more flexible payroll. I think that's becoming more and more common in most businesses. Certainly, when I was at my last company as well, that was exactly the same thing where the payroll was moving from being binary to being much more role orientated with specific requirements around what people may or may not want to do given different types of customer different times different locations. And that flexibility is becoming more and more frequently common, where you actually need to be able to do sort of custom targeting on content beyond what you used to be able to do, which was just, you know, do Can you access it or not? So I'd say those are the three things that seem to come up a lot, both within this business. And so the other businesses I've worked with, it's always an increasing problem or set of problems that continually reoccur.
Stewart Robinson: Okay. I'll ask you another question. Haven't seen publishing transitioning to a fully digital enterprise? Where are the opportunities for growth in the future?
Ray Fawcett: Well, I think I mean, for us, it's gonna probably be Asia and America, I think, obviously, we're already doing quite a bit in America already. But obviously, there's a great greater opportunity there. But I think a lot of the other markets such as Singapore, China, pounds, another one where, you know, there's, there's a lot of opportunity there, they do come with different limitations. So like, it's quite hard to sell, it's quite easy to sell English content in China, but it's quite hard to linguish content in Japan, people expect native Japanese. So I think in those regards, certainly one of the challenges, we will have probably as we push more on doing different types of translation on the content. So I think that will be one chat challenge, I think the other opportunity is probably to actually radically improve the engagement in terms of how the customers actually interact with our content. So people spending more time on site, and I think part of that is going to be the content becoming richer. So it's going to be things more like video content, audio content, and blending it with the existing content that we already produce, to create greater engagement. Obviously, the more engaged the customer is, the more likely they are to buy more products or potentially engage us for consultancy or any number of other things. So, you know, definitely actually the the richness of the content and actually the, you know, the effective the global nature of our business, to things that will create good opportunities for us for the future.
Stewart Robinson:Okay, thanks. What about where do you think most digital content businesses get it wrong? You know, is it the commercial model, customer centricity content, taxonomy?
Ray Fawcett: Where do you think I think more on the customer side? I have? I mean, I think certainly, where I've seen things go wrong is where people focus too much on the product and not on the customer use cases, I think we've been guilty of that in the past ourselves, where we effectively present the content in the same way that we produce it around. You know, we've got different types of specialists content editors, who produce content for different types of topic. But actually, a lot of the time in terms of how the customer is sold the content and how they consume it. It's more that customers have specific use cases or problems that they're trying to use the content to solve. So I think structuring your website and your content around trying to solve those customer problems, rather than around how the contents produced and how the product is structured, actually is, is probably a lot more sensible to try and focus more on the customer rather than actually the product or the industry. features of the product you produce.
Stewart Robinson: Okay? And where's the most interesting content technology now?
Ray Fawcett: Not really sure about which technologies. I mean, obviously, video is the big thing we're doing more of at the moment. So I think we're starting to push far more into doing video and also interactive data. It's the other big one for us. There's lots of different tools around that. And obviously, Drupal as a, as our CMS, obviously, is very cutting edge. So I mean, I think for me, I think the real opportunities now beyond just standard content production are actually in interactive data and video, I think those are the two things that people are expecting more and more, and they want that sort of richness and the depth of the engagement in that content.
And I think, well, before we pressed record, you're actually talking about speed versus spending all of this, but where do you sit on in house versus system integrator. So my personal view is, I think a hybrid model works best certainly for, I would say, up to sort of small, medium sized businesses, if you're a very large publishing company, there's a very good argument for them doing everything in house. But I think even then, it's quite thin nowadays, because most businesses don't really want to be maintaining or building our own CMS system.
So I think it's better to try and have a sort of mixed model, certainly for us, we have to have a hybrid model, because there's not probably enough consistent demand have big teams in house. And also we need that stability. So we need to be able to flex the demand. So you know, when new projects come in all this requirements, being able to actually have a supplier that can actually supply us with more people for a short period of time to complete a piece of work quickly, and then scale back down is really valuable for us.
And I think it gives us more flexibility over contractors as well, in that regard. So I mean, in terms of the other two models, so have you fully outsourced, I said you have to be a very big company to justify it even now, I think these days, that's becoming less and less common, because it's quite often not worth the hassle. You know, as people moving more and more towards SAAS services and managed services, I don't think it's really that great these days. And then the fully outsourced model. I'm not a massive fan of because I think it's, well two things, I think, you know, obviously you want to be able to keep the operational costs low. So when you're doing new stuff that can be capex, I think that's great. But obviously, if you want to just do general operational stuff, it can be quite expensive playing supply, right. So obviously, having day to day things done in house can keep costs down. Plus, I think it's always important to have a reasonable in house knowledge of what suppliers are doing and why they're doing it a certain way and making sure you actually manage them in the correct way. So that works.
I think the other thing obviously is well with fully in house teams is that especially these days, people don't tend to stay as long obviously staff cycle is at an all time high where people moving on after 12 to 18 months quite frequently now. So retaining that knowledge and having that training overhead in house can be quite expensive. So you know having a supplier that stable that can can manage that for us actually works quite well. So yeah, so it strangely enough actually I wouldn't say in house versus system integrator is probably a I'd say somewhere in the middle is probably the right answer.
Stewart Robinson: All right. Thanks. Right. Thanks so much.