Denmark, UK, and Germany Represented in ContentShift Competition This Year

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson1 Comment

This year’s ContentShift accelerator program includes both genuinely new publishing startups and companies that have, as organizers say, ‘market maturity.’

Image – iStockphoto: Vadim Key

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Five Companies Vie for €10,000
As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, ContentShift is an accelerator program staged by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s Publishers and Booksellers Association.

The ContentShift accelerator is “designed to help each young company gain access to an international network of investors, entrepreneurship experts, and industry authorities,” according to media messaging from the program.

The five finalist companies announced today (July 1) were chosen by the competition’s jurors from a pool of 36 applicants. In the next three months, the founders and entrepreneurs will participate in coaching sessions and a joint workshop weekend.

This year’s group of five comprises:

  • EasyCorrect (Denmark): A digital correction and feedback tool for teachers and students
  • Jellybooks (England): Provides digital reading samples with integrated reader analytics
  • Mitmalfilm (Germany): Allows kids to use coloring templates to make animation films
  • QualiFiction (Germany): Enables text analysis and predictions regarding a book’s potential for success
  • Varia (Germany): Allows readers to overcome filter bubbles by means of quality news from different perspectives

Members of the jury this year were:

  • Hermann Eckel, managing director of Tolino Media and spokesman of the Börsenverein’s Digital Interest Group
  • Detlef Büttner, Lehmanns Media
  • Per Dalheimer, Hugendubel Digital
  • Daniel Ebneter, S. Karger AG
  • Bernd Fakesch, Nintendo
  • Leif Göritz, Thalia
  • Nina Hugendubel
  • Ronald Schild, MVB
  • Andrea Soprek, Ravensburger Buchverlag
  • Dominik Strähle, Thalia

At Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20), these five companies will have a session in which they pitch their offerings. A final “Content Startup of the Year” will be selected and awarded €10,000 (US$11,298).

In a prepared statement, jury chair Eckel is quoted, saying, “This year’s final five startups span quite a wide spectrum in terms of content, technology and market maturity.

“With everything from publishing to news and education, the startups also cover a large swath of the content and media sectors. On one hand, they’re creating tools designed to analyze texts and reading behavior, which will no doubt provide the industry with exciting new opportunities at different points along the value chain.

“On the other hand, they’re working on artificial intelligence as well as new ways of classifying information and adopting diverse perspectives on the news.

“The younger startups will be invited to acquire new ideas and gain inspiration for their future development, but we also have more established companies on board, each of which holds tremendous potential for the book industry. We hope all participants will make mutually beneficial contacts and that ContentShift will provide impetus for innovations and new ways of thinking in the book and media industry.”

‘Market Maturity’ and Still Starting Up

Image: Jellybooks Cloud Reader presentation

In his comments, Eckel is touching on an interesting point in his references to “market maturity” and the fact that some of the so-called startups are “more established companies.”

While there’s no standing definition how new a “new” company must be, of course, some might appear to have well and truly “started up,” as it were.

Jellybooks

This UK-based company was created in 2011 and at the time was a book discovery site.

In the eight years since, its owner, Andrew Rhomberg, has pivoted the product to a reader analytics service, the newest wrinkle of which is a “Jellybooks Cloud Reader” which tracks and records the actions and responses to text of readers who have agreed to let their reading patterns and responses to various books or other content be anonymously submitted to publishers or other producers or rights holders.

Among behaviors the service can track:

  • If the user clicked on a link and opened the ebook
  • What operating system is being used
  • What browser and browser version are being used
  • User’s approximate location (city or country) based on their IP address
  • When the user starts reading
  • Which chapters the reader opens
  • How far the reader progresses in each chapter
  • Which chapters the reader finishes
  • When the user stops reading
  • The user’s total reading and usage time

The cloud reader, which uses Readium architecture, in a sense is bringing many of the attributes with which Amazon Kindle managers and readers are familiar (font size changes, searches, bookmarks highlights, bookmarks, and more) into the data-gathering environment that tracks and reports reader behavior for a given text, data that the cloud reader can capture without the reader having to submit it with a click or otherwise.

The company is also currently making a strong argument for use of the cloud reader to facilitate conversion to book-buying from sample reading with a click-to-buy functionality, as well as for its support for recruiting readers on social media.

Of most interest for readers of Publishing Perspectives might be the “Reader Analytics for Publishers’ material here.

EasyCorrect

In the educational space, Denmark’s EasyCorrect was founded by two Danish high school teachers with more than 30 years of teaching experience. Today, their feedback and assessment solutions are used in more than 4 million assignments and by more than 5,000 teachers, so this, too, is hardly a just-out-of-the-gate startup.

EasyCorrect’s EdWord is described as “an online toolbox for more engaging feedback on written work” and reveals to teachers how students react to their comments. Th program also creates a library of assignments, minimizes the document-transactional time students and teachers spend, and tracks student progress and teacher interaction.

The company also produces EasyCorrect for Microsoft Word and EasyCorrect for Google Docs, each designed to reduce repetitive work with premade comments, personalizing feedback with voice comments and online exercises. (Publishing professionals will quickly see that editor-author interaction could benefit from these tools, just as teacher-student interaction can.)

These programs offer symbols as well as text messages, and overview reviews of comments.

Mitmalfilm

As might be expected, a picture is worth a lot of words in a product that lets kids develop their coloring efforts into animated videos. So we’ll show you a video here.

This Leipzig-based outfit is aiming its product at children aged 4 to 7 years, and has funding from Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Thuringian State Chancellery.

In essence, the child colors on paper, the app scans the work, and a moving entertainment is created from the scans. Here’s that video. As with so many children’s products, exclamation points abound.

QualiFiction

Hamburg-based QualiFiction has a direct outreach to publishers with its LiSA program, so named for “Literature Screening & Analytics.”

Presented as a scheme for analyzing and predicting a book’s success, the system uses machine-learning to devise several analyses—thread, sentiment, and style—and a “bestseller score.” That last report is meant to answer whether the book “fits into the publishing house’s list and does it have the potential to reach a mass audience or is the book more suitable for a niche?” according to company materials.

In sentiment, the system can tell you whether the work “has a happy ending or is it dark?”—something that surely human editors can tell, too, but it’s intended as a screening tool before reading time is devoted to a manuscript.

“You receive too many unsolicited manuscripts and can not review them all? You still do not want to miss the next bestseller?” promotional copy asks. “Then LiSA is the right solution for you.”

A manuscript evaluation by LiSA is said to take 60 seconds. It’s unclear how authors might feel about publishers using such a means to screen, but the  company does have an offering for authors, too, letting the LiSA system fill them in on what it finds in their manuscripts. Work with an editor is offered, as well, based on LiSA’s output.

Varia

If there are any news consumers in the world today who do not want their news “the way I like it,” as is said about echo-chamber folks in political coverage in particular, then Varia’s offer of a more balanced approach might appeal. It’s a concept that, if fully rendered, is expected to let you call in countervailing viewpoints for various news articles.

Varia seems to be among the youngest startups here in terms of newness. It has an alpha edition of what it’s trying to do here, and the company explains its process, saying, “We strongly believe in rapid prototyping, rapid testing and the theories of the lean-startup: Build-Measure-Learn. So the Alpha version of our B2C news platform is not even the first thing we have built and tested, we are just opening it up to a broader test audience.” This is, in other words, an “agile” approach.

When farther along, the company’s promotional copy says, you can expect:

  • “Different Perspectives: Our Alpha version brings you the first experience of different perspectives as a service. You can browse our home feed and filter for different news categories. For each article, at the push of a button, you can discover different perspectives on the same topic. We are constantly updating and changing the logic of perspectives shown, based on testing and feedback.
  • “Articles: For now you’ll find only English articles in Varia Alpha. Articles are updated on a daily basis and come from verified international publishers.
  • “Topics: You can filter topics by main category in the top menu.
  • “Reading: You cannot read the articles inside of Varia yet, instead you will be directly linked to the publisher. We are working toward publisher collaborations, to integrate their content directly–which would ease the user experience.
  • “User Account: You can now create a user account in Varia.”

More on the ContentShift program itself can be had by following hashtag #cosh19 or at Twitter on account @ShiftingContent


More from Publishing Perspectives on the ContentShift program is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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