The Increasing Importance of the Human Factor

Note from FIBEP Secretary General, Florian Laszlo

02/08/2017

Media monitoring has and continues to represent the perfect interlocking of technical and human capabilities. In fact, it is likely that this interplay of the human and technological factor will become even more important in the future. In the early days of media monitoring, technological advances involved the use of scissors rather than the edge of the table to rip papers and clippings. Now, some 150 years later, this has progressed to the coding of algorithms and Boolean operators to facilitate ‘automated’ searching, which is augmented by readers quickly being able to check and interpret automated results in order to provide added value for clients.

In general, the scaling effects of technology have led to a rapid deterioration in the perceived value of search results. One outgrowth of this is the perception that search results are easy and cheap to come by, so why should they be paid for? However, this in turn can lead to an erosion in quality, since low costs dampen the demand for high quality results. As the opportunity costs of flawed and low-quality results become apparent within business processes, the pendulum tends to swing back towards higher quality expectations and the types of results and analysis that media monitors provide.

Nonetheless, as the cost of high-skilled labor has risen and the speed and availability of information has exploded, media monitors also need to rely ever more on new technologies. Optimizing the trade-off between high labor costs and low automated quality is one of the central challenges to media monitors today. Even as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, it is clear that we will always need human interpreters and analysts to make sense of what the data says. Data and the collection of data is inevitably embedded within human structures, such that there will always be qualitative aspects to consider that are not open to artificial understanding.

The great challenge for media monitors is to decide how much to invest in technology at increasing costs, and how much to invest in getting, keeping, and paying higher-skilled workers in order to provide the full scale of information and analysis that clients expect. To be sure, keeping up with the spread of personalized media and the sheer amount of news and information generated today would be impossible on a purely human level. Technology is unquestionably essential in overcoming these quantitative challenges, but recent years have also shown that simple equations providing output on the basis of automatically generated data have been wrong more often than they have been right.

Seen in this light, media monitoring is actually a very modern industry at the forefront of addressing some of these challenges. The media monitoring industry has adjusted to large technological changes in the past, and continues to strive toward finding solutions to current and future changes.