Mike Grehan: There are lots of companies in different offshoots of the digital industry where, like you say, search is at the core of everything. That’s where people start anyway. Again, from a pure business point of view, again just thinking about those milestones, for anybody who’s starting and just growing a company right now, what do you think are the most important things to think about when you’re growing the company?
Rob Murray: Well certainly you’ve got to have a great product, whatever it is, in a good category. If you don’t have the right people, you could have the best category in the world and you could just be an absolute under performer in that category. That’s the biggest thing right now, is to have the right people. Again, you want to have a great product and a great category, but if you hire great people, you can do great things.
Mike Grehan: Getting the right people. That’s part one of the Rob Murray story, “how I conquered the world with iProspect.” Obviously as we can tell, you’ve moved on somewhat to a new brand.
Rob Murray: Skyword.
Mike Grehan: Absolutely, so we’re going to take a short break. Back in just a moment with Rob Murray. Welcome back to Live on 65. Our special guest today is Rob Murray. We just spent a little bit of time talking about this fantastic ride that you had with a startup in Boston taking it to the world’s largest search marketing company or performance company, whichever way you want to phrase it. You were just saying that you stayed a lot longer after the acquisition, but then you moved a couple of years ago. There must have been something in the air at that time, what prompted that? This is a little giveaway, by the way.
Rob Murray: Yeah, this is a little giveaway. I actually fell in love with a little company in Boston, and Skyword is an SAS-based content marketing platform and solutions company that enables brands to become publishers of original quality content and scale. I instantly fell in love with the people, the product, and the space. It’s funny, some of the conversations we have now around content…because at the end of the day, content is what fuels your ability to succeed in search and social, and that’s still a way you reach your consumers. It’s funny, some of the conversations that I have today with brands feel like circa 2001.
Mike Grehan: Exactly, it’s so strange because the first guest that we had on Live at 65 was Danny Sullivan.
Rob Murray: I remember Danny.
Mike Grehan: Of course Danny and I go way back, that’s my theme, as you know, but we were talking about a time before whatever we did with search engines was called SEO. We couldn’t even remember what it was called then, but it was all about content. If 2014 hasn’t been the heir of content, something could eat my hat. Seriously.
Rob Murray: Absolutely.
Mike Grehan: If you think about it, without content, you have an empty medium. There’s nothing there, that’s no use to anyone. There is this kind of thing, and see if you agree with me here, I’ve been thinking about this. That there was a time when in marketing media was scarce, and by that I mean you had press, radio, television, and that was it. You had to find some way of fitting in there. Now media is everywhere. Everybody’s a publisher. Like you say, if you have a Twitter account, you’re a publisher.
Rob Murray: Absolutely.
Mike Grehan: There’s a need for content, so what is it that Skyword is doing with content? How does it actually work? How does it help me become a publisher to create my own audience?
Rob Murray: Well, and that is the key right there Mike, what we’re trying to enable people to do is, if you think back, back in the days of radio, TV and print, you had to inject yourself into that medium and get yourself in front of your audience. Well, technology today, people tune out what they don’t want to hear. You have to put yourself in front of them when they are receptive to your message and give them some reason to believe. What we’re trying to enable brands to do is to create their own audience by creating original quality content.
That could be an article, it could be a video, could be a graphic, but brands actually build their own audience around their own owned properties, and actually then become really their own publisher as opposed to relying on advertising media and other peoples’ audiences. You want to really speak to your audience, and create that environment that can really actually provide that real value and utility that you start that relationship.
Mike Grehan: What’s at the core of Skyword, what powers it?
Rob Murray: There’s two pieces to Skyword. Underpinning everything is the technology platform. We’ve built an end-to-end, world-class editorial workflow system. It starts with a database of contributors that you can recruit from, all the way through to a cloud-based editorial calendar. We have automated QA checks built into the system around readability, SEO score cards, duplicate content checks.
A roles-based editorial review process that’s all built into the system, with versioning and inline commenting. All the way to an ability to direct publish into a web environment, like Drupal, or WordPress, or Joomla. Then we’ll actually pay your freelancers, do your tax filings, and tag all the articles and give you analytics for everything that’s published. That’s the underlying technology asset that the company’s built upon.
Mike Grehan: That’s great for me, I’m head of content marketing here. I can go take a break and you guys can do it for me.
Rob Murray: Well, and that’s the second part of the equation. We have a lot of big publishing clients that actually just license our workflow because they have their own writers and their own editors. We actually have optional service layers for folks that don’t know how to find a writer, don’t know how to set an editorial calendar, don’t know how to pick topics, or do the editorials. We have optional service layers that actually people can self-select in if they don’t have those skill sets.
It’s funny, more brands and agencies tend to opt into those just because we have that expertise. A lot of people don’t have in-house editorial and things like that. That’s sort of the second piece of the equation. Truly the underlying value of the company really lies within the platform.
Mike Grehan: Because of my background before I came into digital was in the old fashioned radio and TV, do you remember that time in that bar …
Rob Murray: Which time? Which time, Mike?
Mike Grehan: No, not that one. Where the guy in the bar thought that I was Davey Jones from The Monkeys.
Rob Murray: That’s right, that’s right.
Mike Grehan: He gave us free drinks all night.
Rob Murray: That was brilliant. We didn’t tell him you weren’t.
Mike Grehan: For me, coming from that background, that’s all I’ve ever thought. I always think content when I worked in radio, it’s what am I going to say next, what am I going to play next, which ad am I going to play next? In TV it’s the same kind of thing, so it makes me wonder why people talk so much about content now. If you have a publishing platform, what did you think you were going to do with it?
Rob Murray: I know.
Mike Grehan: Here’s the next thing. I think in the first phase of Skyword, usually when I talk to people about content and I ask what is content, people still talk about it’s got to be a great compelling copyrighting and headlines and things like that. Which generally speaking in the classic age of SEO, that’s what it was all about. I think, and I’m sure I’m right in saying this, 2015 is the year that Google.com becomes the number 2 search engine, and YouTube.com becomes the number 1 search engine. Video is so important, as you can see doing this. Anybody who’s coming into taking content seriously, what about video? That’s a different approach than sitting down and writing an article, do you know?
Rob Murray: Well, it is. In fact, we actually made a acquisition of a New York based video editorial platform much like Skyword for the written form, called Vidaao. We made that acquisition in August and we’re actually in the process of integrating the two systems. Really, we can bring you any form of content you want, but at the end of the day this is not an SEO play, per se. We’re enabling people to become original storytellers, because you want to actually reach your audience with something that they find truly interesting and engaging, and something that they will opt into versus opt out of.
Mike Grehan: That’s probably the other story about us in the bar, but we’ll leave that for another time. Rob, it was great of you to come in and see us.
Rob Murray: Thank you for having me.
Mike Grehan: Much appreciated. Thanks very much. Rob Murray from Skyword.
Rob Murray: Thank you.