Expert Q&A: Peter Himler, co-developer of MatchPoint and founder of Flatiron Communications

MatchPoint, a search application tool for PR professionals who engage in media outreach, launched on February 2 . Peter Himler, the application's co-developer, answers questions about how the system works and keeping up with media industry turnover.

MatchPoint, a search application tool for PR professionals who engage in media outreach, launched on February 2 . Peter Himler, the application's co-developer, answers questions about how the system works and keeping up with media industry turnover.

PRWeek: Please describe how MatchPoint works and how it avoids misdirected story pitches.

Peter Himler: Rather than relying primarily on vague job titles, the MatchPoint contact management application spiders a massive proprietary database of online and print editorial content to produce a list of journalists ranked on how closely the journalists' bodies of work match the search query. To create the list, the user enters keywords, a pitch letter, or the lead paragraphs of a news release into a search box. To ensure greater specificity, the user can modify the search algorithm by adjusting the relative weight of its four parameters: article relevance, how recently the article was written, media outlet reach, and frequency of articles.

PRWeek: MatchPoint has an advisory board that includes members with technology experience. How did that experience inform the service?

Himler: Once we were in agreement on the overriding goals and expected utility for the MatchPoint search application, the team met regularly to review and suggest improvements to the engine's graphic interface, navigation, functionality, database comprehensiveness, and last but not least, the quality of the search results. For the last, MatchPoint engineer Kurt Strumpf and company advisor Mike Moran, a former distinguished engineer with IBM, author, and search engine expert, collaborated closely to ensure MatchPoint incorporated the most current technologies available.

PRWeek: Attrition is an issue at media outlets across the nation. How does MatchPoint help manage all of the changes?

Himler: The team debated this quite vigorously. On the one hand, the more content (and author bylines) in the database, the greater likelihood that MatchPoint would identify the most appropriate reporters. Hence, some of us pushed for the content in the database to extend back a full year.

On the other hand, we all recognized the amount of turnover in the media world of late. In the end, we decided that MatchPoint would search content dated back six months. This content limitation, coupled with the users' ability to adjust the relative weight of the four search parameters, one of which is an article's recency, should help minimize the chances that a journalist has left his reporting beat or place of employment.

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