Smart Content Revolution in Media

Matt Turner, CTO, Media and Publishing, MarkLogic

Smart Content Revolution in MediaMatt Turner, CTO, Media and Publishing, MarkLogic


Nearly every media organization I work with is experiencing continuous, unpredictable change in the ways that people consume content and the ways that content can be monetized. Mobile content, direct to consumer streaming, and new players in the creation and delivery of content all present new challenges and more we can’t see lie ahead. To get their great content to their users and fans who love it, media organizations rethinking their strategies and investing in the core data about their content.

At MarkLogic we make database software that is pioneering new ways to bring information together and deliver great user experiences. We’ve been working with media and entertainment companies to help them create Smart Content - the combination of metadata and semantics that enables them to make sure that their great content makes it to their customers.

Traditional Approaches to Data

The data that drives the media business today is metadata - the technical data about the content, the internal data to track and manage the data as it is used in products, and the marketing data needed to get the content to the fans and users.

In a typical organization, this metadata is spread across multiple systems and databases. Internal asset management systems, product and title databases, customer databases, and accounting systems all hold data that is needed to get the complete picture of the content.

One approach to bringing this metadata together is to use a traditional, relational database. This technology, developed in the 1980s, brought new capabilities to managing data but also has limitations that create challenges to bringing data like the complex and varied metadata around media content together. Pre-defined schemas mean that the data can only be used to support requirements defined when the system is created. And to get the data into the system it needs to be transformed to fit that schema loosing the context of the data in the original system.In the fast changing world of media these limitations can pose real challenges to getting new metadata to users or accommodating new data that may be critical for a new market opportunity.

Smart Content

To meet these challenges, MarkLogic has been helping media organizations create systems using a new type of database, MarkLogic’s Enterprise NoSQL database.

To bring content metadata together, these systems leverage MarkLogic’s schema flexibility. This enables metadata to be loaded and managed as-is and make that data accessible right away. These systems capture the complete picture of the metadata in the source systems, accommodate new data and new system, and let that metadata be used for new purposes without having to rebuild the system.

To fully capture the context of the metadata, media organizations are also turning to another key capability of MarkLogic, the support for semantic data. Media organizations use this data to model and manage the complex relationships in key data like classifications, genres and even how characters, films and series fit together with ontologies instead of standard categories or lookup lists.

This semantic data enables media organizations to bridge the gaps between how users think about the content and how the metadata describes it. Using this approach, media organizations can capture and use the full context of the content – how a given film or show fits into the world of comedy or action, who appeared in it and how it was delivered as products across the world.

This schema flexibility and the ability to use semantics are seamlessly combined in MarkLogic and give media organizations new ways to use their metadata.

Smart Content in Action

In February of 2015, NBC celebrated the 40th anniversary of their iconic show Saturday Night Live and as part of the promotion created their new SNL app. This application took a new approach to presenting content to users by using Smart Content to bridge the gap between how fans of the show think about the themes, characters and eras of the show and the metadata the SNL team had about the episodes.

Using semantic data, the SNL team built data that let users find their favorite sketches. They also use that data to create a dynamic personalization system that delivers a continuous watch experience. The result is an app that Mashable called “addictive”, users tweeted about spending their entire day watching videos and was a smash hit, holding the number 1 position in the app store for a couple of weeks and delivering over 100 million videos to fans.

ALM Media, a company that delivers legal content and news about the law, extended their content delivery platform with information about their users. Their customer 360 connects the interests and activities of their users from over 30 sources and links them to the concepts in their content with Smart Content. Using this data, they can connect customer content and deliver more effective promotions.

In one example ALM reduced the targets of a newsletter campaign from 21,000 to 3,700 and saw higher returns improving campaign effectiveness by 600 percent. Using a Smart Content approach, ALM Media is now seeing higher ad CPM rates for ads and lower unsubscribes rates, keeping both their advertising partners and their users happy.


Smart Content enables media organizations to meet the many changes in how their fans and users consume content and the changing ways they can monetize this content.

By bringing together their data about their content without having to predefine its usage or strip off its context, these organizations can now use their metadata as a critical advantage to create new experiences and bring their great content to the fans and users that want and love it.

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