Natural language processing is just one technology Argus Media CTO Chris Fosberry is assessing. The CTO tells the Horizon CIO podcast that using technology to add value to the time and teams at Argus Media is one of his key priorities in 2018.
“Argus is a publisher. Our secret sauce is the data,” Fosberry says at his Bloomsbury office. “We are a pricing reporting agency. If you are Shell and you were looking at the price of crude oil sales, we would be one of the most important places to find that information.
“We report 25,000 prices to the markets daily across over 130 publications, so data is our core business,” he says. Argus specialises in the delivery of price assessments and analysis of international energy and other commodity markets.
It was that healthy subscription model that led General Atlantic, the US based investment group to acquire Argus Media in May 2016 for £1 billion. General Atlantic also has investments in Hyperion Insurance and logistics data and software specialists Metapack here in the UK.
“We have a high renewal rate. We had 10s of approaches to buy the family stake,” Fosberry says. David Jack, former CIO of Hyperion Insurance and now with Metapack has forged a recent career with General Atlantic and tells me its a rewarding experience. Fosberry concurs.
“Some PEs apply pressure. They are very supportive,” he says.
Data and editorial value
“50% of our business is journalists, so one of the things we are working on is how do we make the editor’s lives better. This will be achieved by delivering technologies that deliver efficiencies throughout our core editorial business to allow our staff to focus on more value add activity,” Fosberry says of one his key priorities in 2018, with 180 Editorial staff in the UK. Throughout the conversation it is clear that Argus is well aware that it is a product led company, that revenue is delivered by consumers who rely and happily pay for that product and therefore the people who produce the product are a respected and valued asset.
“We are working on a series of workshops with staff to understand their needs and make their lives better. We are considering robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the huge amount of tax in re-keying data as well as reduce the number of tools and steps required to complete the price assessment process.
“Natural language processing for charts and tables is being considered and could further allow the editorial team to focus on the real value and move up the value chain,” he says of ensuring editorial produce insight, not just information.
“We will also introducing data science to the process to gain further insight from the data to inform market commentary should cross market fundamentals be at play.
“We are not a technology business, but everything we do is underpinned by technology and we are delivering everything through technology,” Fosberry says. Making data more visual to improve the services and analysis of how artificial intelligence and machine learning can improve the products are on Fosberry’s radar.
Fosberry’s estate is 100% hosted on Amazon AWS and has been for the last five years. “When I joined there were eight servers that ran the entire business. It was a straight froward conversation,” he says of the move to AWS to ensure the organisation had technology that scaled at the same rate as Argus was scaling. The estate now is far larger supporting all Argus delivery channels as well as a VDI solution. Despite Argus primary and secondary estate being in AWS, there is a further disaster recovery option outside AWS.
Fosberry joined Argus Media in 2011 from rivals ICIS whom he’d been Head of Technology for. Prior to joining ICIS he was with another major data led publishing giant Reed Business Information, again as Head of Technology.
“I enjoy working in the media. The media has to be digitised so they have to be at the forefront of progress and technology. There are still people talking about taking their business digital. In the media you always have to focus on the AI data and the opportunities of new technology.
“You can re-invent yourself regularly,” he says why he has stayed with the sector.
“I found it quite inspiring and what they wanted to do, there was 12 staff, we are now 100 in IT and we are trying to grow,” he says of his decision to join Argus Media.
He has a young family which fills his time away from Argus Media, but he hopes to get back to his love of snowboarding soon.