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What’s the story with Pressboard?

What’s the story with Pressboard? 

Such is the mandate of Pressboard. The Vancouver-based start-up company believes that one of the best means of drawing consumer attention to a product is through the use of effective storytelling methods. Noticing that this area was underserved, slow-moving, overly manual and in serious need of revitalization, Pressboard set out to create easier, faster and simplified methods of bringing brands to life through storytelling.

With their goal in place, Pressboard set out on their mission to reinvent the storytelling process. But they were not alone in their quest. Along the way, they received an assist from Microsoft, whose Azure cloud platform and Visual Studio software helped make Pressboard’s dream a reality, while providing them with cost savings.

Tiam Korki, co-founder of Pressboard, spoke to IT in Canada about the importance of storytelling as a part of the marketing process, and how Microsoft’s products helped them reach their potential.

IT in Canada: Marketing today is centred around storytelling. Why is this?
For brands, it’s about being authentic and adding value for the consumer. I think that consumers’ attention spans are being shortened by all kinds of digital products and information being thrown at them, and the brands can’t just sit back, say their piece and hope that it will resonate with people. They need to tell compelling stories.

ITIC: It’s been said that storytelling platforms are slow and highly manual. How does Pressboard improve upon these processes?
We are in the marketplace for brands and publishers who want to collaborate on sponsored content. The way that we got started on this is my business partner actually worked with several publishers, and they were all having a difficult time monetizing their content online.

A few of the brands he worked with approached him and said, “Can your editorial team write a compelling story for us?” They did offer to pay him more, but the margins were still non-existent because it’s a really high-touch (process). It’s a lot of work, involves a lot of resources, and takes a lot of time to get into the market.

That’s really the (problem) we focused on trying to solve. We wanted to get this collaboration streamlined and shortened as much as possible so that we could actually help the brands and publishers work together at scale and get into the market faster. That’s what we have been successful at doing in the past 18 months.

Our platform allows the publishers to come in, sign up, plug their Google Analytics to put our code into their website, and from that point on, they receive (messages) from brands who want to tell compelling stories. Once a publisher opts in – and this could be a brand working with hundreds of publishers with hundreds of stories at a time – they pitch the story, and if it is approved, we take care of the rest of it. We measure the performance of the story, how it does, how many people engage with it, and we charge on a cost-per-read basis.

It brings accountability into the equation, and it urges both the brand and the publisher to work on stories that the public would like to read and share, because if they don’t (read), no one gets paid.

ITIC: Why did Pressboard turn to Microsoft to help fulfill its mandate?
It was the natural place to look first because of my background as a developer, but we didn’t need to look much further. Our start-up is very data-heavy because we’re already analyzing close to 40 million reads per month. It takes a lot of different tools and computing power to extract this data, analyze it, and be able to report on it.

We’re a bootstrap start-up, so we didn’t have the luxury of being able to raise a lot of money and hire a lot of people to build an infrastructure from the ground up. That’s where I really feel where Azure helped us a lot. We use just about every single one of their platform services. They’ve helped us (enter) the market with very few resources, and create a compelling story and product that resonates with a lot of our customers.

Regarding Visual Studio, I have successfully used it (throughout) my career to build large scale applications for enterprise clients. Combined with Visual Studio Online, Azure and Office 365, it’s a complete solution for our collaboration and product development needs that allows us to stay lean and move fast.

ITIC: How has Pressboard benefited from using Azure and Visual Studio?
Probably the most important thing is the time-to-market. I’m a huge believer in Microsoft’s developer (mandate), which is to empower them to get as much as they can done in the shortest possible time. That’s exactly where Azure has come in (handy) for us.

For example, we used some of Azure’s platform services, which included Elasticsearch, Data Factory and Streaming Analytics. The beauty of these services is that they’re managed, so I don’t have to worry about setting them up, maintaining them, or deep-diving into these technologies to understand how they work before I start to build my product. I can start to deliver value to my customers right off the bat, and I can focus on the value I’m driving as opposed to trying the settle the technology.

Visual Studio helped us build and scale the tools necessary to accomplish this mission. It has already let me develop an application that tracks 10,000 stories and 40 million reads each month to connect brands like Telus, BestBuy and Honda with hundreds of publishers who speak to their audience.

I live inside Visual Studio. I design, code, test, deploy and monitor our application all in one place. It connects to Git to manage our code repository; connects to Visual Studio Online to manage our backlog; and connects to Azure to manage our infrastructure.

It’s hard to quantify the amount of time and complexity this has saved me as a developer, when onboarding new developers, and when managing the team and streamlining DevOps. We are growing fast and are bootstrapped, so time is my most valuable asset and Visual Studio is my control center; it’s indispensable.

ITIC: Why are more businesses relying on cloud computing to manage their operations?
Certainly, ease-of-use and time-to-market and security are all factors. I think that any time you have to set up your own operations and run your own data centre, it becomes a lot more difficult to put all the security measures into place because you don’t have a security-first attack mentality; you’re just trying to get your product off the ground.

When you work with cloud providers like Microsoft, they have an all-encompassing (solution), and they have put security at the forefront of their product. They manage it for you, so it really comes down to how you can take all the extra effort and work that it takes to start to build value for your business, and let someone else manage that. This is where I think the cloud is succeeding.

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