More than 25 years after Microsoft visionary Bill Gates advised the world that “content is king”, the plain truth is that many people just aren’t very good at it – even the written content they were producing long before the internet arrived. Whether you’re creating long-form fiction or focusing on snappy marketing copy, it turns out that writing articulately and engagingly is harder than it looks.
Enter Instoried, which is today announcing the completion of an $8m funding round as it launches its content enhancement platform in the US. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Instoried provides instant feedback on the written content created by businesses and individuals, as well as tips for improvements to drive greater engagement from the audience. With just a few words to go on, the tool will even create content automatically on your behalf.
“When most of us create content, we just have no idea whether it will resonate with our target audience,” reflects Sharmin Ali, who founded Instoried in 2019. “We saw an opportunity to help people connect, by assessing the ’empathy quotient’ of their content before they publish it – the extent to which it will engage the audience.”
To achieve that goal, Instoried uses an AI tool built with millions of data points from existing online content. For any given piece of proposed new content, the tool can assess the type and depth of sentiment it is likely to prompt in the audience, measure that against the goals for publishing it, and make recommendations for how to improve the final output before posting.
In theory, the tool could be valuable to anyone publishing any type of written content online. But Instoried’s primary target market in the short term is the millions of businesses that create content for their customers, with a view to persuading them to click through and find out more about their products and services.
Around 40 businesses across Asia are already using the platform, Ali says. She points to data suggesting that these clients have seen their return on investment in content more than double during the first six months of using Instoried, with an average 23% improvement in click-through rates.
“I’m not saying that AI will replace content creators altogether, but our content engine does make life easier for creators that are currently having to create huge volumes of content manually each day,” Ali says. Some customers are already using the platform to create suggested content from scratch, while others are using it to perfect their own content creation.
Ultimately, the success – or failure – of the Instoried proposition will depend on the quality of its outputs. Ali says the tool is more sophisticated than potential rivals because it can grasp the context of content as well as grappling with its semantics. As an example, she cites an item about the killing of a terrorist, which would appear to have negative connotations given the use of words such as “killing”; Instoried’s engine would rate such content more positively, Ali says, because it would recognise the broader context of a threat removed.
The Instoried business model is changing as the company evolves. Customers were originally asked to pay an upfront fee to permanently acquire the tool, but Ali now sees the potential for a monthly subscription model too. All the more so since Instoried has now begun targeting individuals who are creating content as well as business customers.
Sales are increasing at pace – up 50 times over the past 12 months. The company’s is now producing revenues worth the equivalent of $1m a year and hopes to be at $2m by the end of its financial year.
That performance, along with Instoried’s groundbreaking technology has caught the eye of investors. The company’s $8m fund-raising round is led by Pritt Investment Partners and 9Unicorns, with participation from Mumbai Angels, Venture Catalysts Angel Fund and SOSV.
“Instoried has successfully developed a SaaS based deep-tech platform that helps enterprises and individuals create emotionally engaging content, thereby improving return on investment for marketing efforts and campaigns,” says Scott Tripp, a director at Pritt. “As the digital marketing industry continues to grow, we believe Instoried is well positioned with their product to take advantage of this opportunity and quickly penetrate the market.”
Ali’s immediate challenge is to make a breakthrough in the US market. The company’s funding will help, with funds earmarked for recruitment in the US, as well as a step-up in marketing, where Instoried has done very little work to date. Ali is also conscious of the need to build out its technology, proving more options for users to plug it into a broad range of content creation devices in multiple channels.
The bottom line is that content creators need all the help they can get to communicate more effectively, Ali argues. “It is all about how you connect better with your audience,” she says. “Does your audience understand what you are selling and is it inspired and excited by what you have to say?”