Skyword, TrackMaven merge

Skyword, the content marketing platform and content services company, is merging with TrackMaven, maker of marketing insights tools. The combined company, going forward as Skyword, is expected to integrate industry benchmarking and insight into the content planning, creation, and activation process.

From the release: “We’re incredibly excited to join forces with the TrackMaven team,” said Tom Gerace, Skyword founder and CEO. “In January of this year, Skyword raised $30 million to execute on our growth strategy and product vision. In June, we announced the next generation of our content marketing platform—Skyword360, which powers a unified model for creating extraordinary content experiences. TrackMaven shares this vision. Combining our organizations accelerates our growth and product strategies and gives customers a solution that no other company can match.”

Link: Skyword

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BlogMutt rebrands as Verblio

BlogMutt, the Colorado-based talent-matching platform for content marketers, has rebranded as Verblio and will now provided agency-style services to its clients. The talent-matching platform remains the same. Verblio will offer services helping with everything from content strategy to providing a HubSpot-certified manager to service client accounts.

From the release: “Verblio provides a complete approach to content creation for digital SEO and content marketing,” said Chief Executive Officer Steve Pockross. “Our focus on SEO and digital marketing, an easy-to-use platform and engaged writers with deep subject-matter expertise produces highly engaging and effective content.”

Link: PR Newswire 

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Sitecore updates Experience Cloud, acquires Stylelabs

Sitecore has updated its digital experience management platforms and announced an acquisition it will leverage to offer more tools for the content lifecycle. The updates include an updated SDK for JavaScript Developers, Sitecore Omni, which allows marketers to build headless applications, Sitecore Cortex that leverages machine learning to automate high-value personalization tasks, and GDPR compliance tools. Sitecore also announced it will acquire Stylelabs, creator of the Marketing Content Hub platform.

From the release: “Sitecore is entirely focused on bringing power to marketers and developers so they can deliver the personalized customer experiences that are critical to differentiating their brands,” said Mark Frost, CEO of Sitecore. “The continuous development of world-class solutions in Sitecore Experience Cloud and the addition of Stylelabs shows that we’re building a marketing platform for today and for the future. We’re delivering the most exciting opportunities in the industry for marketers and developers to build compelling personalized experiences that develop lifelong customer relationships.”

Link: Sitecore Press Releases

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Linkfluence acquires Scoop.It, appoints new CEO

Linkfluence, European company providing social listening tools, has acquired Scoop.It, the San Francisco-based content monitoring vendor. As Linkfluence’s current CEO  is stepping down and Guillaume Decugis, CEO of Scoop.It, will be leading the new combined company. The acquisition changes the size of its combined R&D and engineering teams by 50%. The company will remain headquartered in London, but is expanding physically in the U.S.

From the release: “Scoop.It is sticking around and will keep offering its well-known simple and powerful content curation experience. At the team level, we’ll keep offering a high level of support to our valuable clients and users and continue to offer technology that enables you to research and publish the best content both for marketing and knowledge sharing purposes,” said Guillaume Decugis, Co-Founder and CEO of Scoop.It in a blog on the company site.

Link: Scoop.It Blog

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Ceros acquires responsive chart company ChartBlocks

Ceros, the experiential content design platform, announced it has acquired ChartBlocks. ChartBlocks enables the creation of online responsive charts without code that can be dynamically updated across the web. ChartBlocks will be directly integrated into the Ceros platform over the next several months but is available immediately for existing Ceros users who can now create ChartBlocks charts and easily import them into their Ceros canvas. The acquisition furthers Ceros’s goal to transform how content is created and experienced online.

From the release: “ChartBlocks is part of our mission to make Ceros the most powerful cloud-based professional creative suite for designers and marketers,” said Simon Berg, CEO of Ceros. “By continuously building new apps and features, integrating with key partners, and acquiring apps like ChartBlocks, we’re committed to helping brands to create the greatest content experiences.”

Link: BusinessWire

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Overcoming writer’s block with automatic transcription

If you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.

If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.

Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.

Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speakinghas offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.

But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot  — of convenience, affordability and accuracy — that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.

I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).

Part I: Extraction

Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest.

  • Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
  • The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
  • A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
  • Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
  • For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.

Part II: Transcription

Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡The Power of Technology

A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.

Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.

Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).

A few more tips:

  • Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
  • Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
  • Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
  • Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
  • I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.

The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinkingthat is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.

But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.

This article was originally published by Descript.

Jason Kincaid is a writer who works at Descript. He previously was a reporter for TechCrunch and later authored a book based on that experience. He has also consulted for a variety of firms across Silicon Valley. 

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Postie launches direct mail automation platform

Postie has officially launched, calling its namesake product the only automation platform that makes direct mail behave like the best digital acquisition channels. Postie allows marketers to use real-time trigger campaigns or dedicated time-specific deployments for direct mail. Campaigns can be set up in minutes and mail out the next day. The platform provides prospecting and automated CRM together in one place, and its marketing automation tools enable targeting based on attributes, look-alike models and online behavior.

From the release: “Postie continues to create a resurgence in direct mail by helping advertisers overcome the many issues facing digital ad marketing and the over-reliance on limited platforms. Until now, the vast majority of a brand’s media spend has been allocated to digital, and we’ve cracked the code on what marketers can do to apply these same principles to direct mail,” said Dave Fink, CEO and co-founder of Postie. “A highly targeted physical piece of mail, especially in today’s ephemeral world, elicits an emotional response that goes above and beyond what is possible online. It’s now possible to open up a whole new scalable media channel by leveraging the same data driven insights and quantitative approach as digital.”

Link: Globe NewsWire

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Percolate launches Next, its updated content management platform

Percolate Next its he new iteration of Percolate’s Content Management Platform. Next includes tools to manage the workload of planned and unplanned marketing, allows managers to monitor campaign progress from creation to launch, and dashboards to track organizational performance.

From the release: “We are solving a massive problem that no one else is addressing, namely by giving organizations the tools necessary to eliminate marketing’s biggest bottleneck — content,” said Randy Wootton, CEO of Percolate. “Percolate Next represents the next chapter for Percolate as a company. We are the only solution capable of eradicating the content bottleneck. ”

Link: PR Newswire

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Impartner acquires Tremolo Software

Impartner, producer of the Partner Relationship Management platform helping companies worldwide manage their partner relationships, has acquired UK-based Tremolo Software. With the acquisition comes two Tremolo-created solutions, a newsletter platform for channel marketers and a social advocacy solution for syndicating social content.

From the release: “For vendors to have more powerful relationships with their partners — they must both be able to communicate with them precisely and easily, but also make it easy for partners to amplify their brand messages,” said Impartner CEO Joe Wang. “This acquisition is part of Impartner’s ongoing commitment to help our customers streamline communications with their partners and turbocharge their indirect sales by providing the most complete set of channel management solutions available in the market.”

Link: Impartner Newsroom

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Outbrain makes 6th acquisition with UI optimization company AdNgin

Content discovery platform Outbrain is enhancing its reader experience with the acquisition of AdNgin, a UI optimization company. Amnon Lahav, Co-Founder of AdNgin, will become Outbrain’s Head of UI Optimization. This is the sixth recent acquisition for Outbrain, including Surphace, Scribit, Visual Revenue, Revee and Zemanta

From the release: “As we’re innovating our platform with transformative initiatives — in-feed autoplay video and endless feeds of content discovery — we can’t forget what makes Outbrain perform in the first place: reader personalization; from the personalization of content to the personalization of UI,” said Yaron Galai, Founder and CEO at Outbrain. “This acquisition will help us seamlessly focus on the entire, personalized journey.”

Link: BusinessWire

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