2 page Case Study
Posted: 6/17/2013
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Discourse Analytics Analytics Firm Builds Demographic Profiles, Boosts Business with Consumer Insight App

Discourse Analytics needed the right computing platform to expand its analytics and insights engine beyond a political arena and into the commercial sector. Discourse Analytics is building this new business on Windows 8 Pro. It worked with New Signature to build a Windows 8 app that can be downloaded from the Windows Store on PCs, laptops, and tablets to improve insight on consumers’ interactions with customers’ brands.

Business Needs
In 2011, startup Discourse Analytics launched Votifi, a peer-to-peer network for voter engagement that uses a mobile polling and web-based platform to capture respondents’ political views in real time. “We created an online community that facilitates political exploration and network building,” says Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer Lou Aronson. “Members can participate in daily online polls through their computers or mobile phones, engage with other members about political issues, and read our site’s curated content.”

* With Windows 8, we connect with people through PCs, laptops, and tablets to build better user profiles: a key to our success. It’s the perfect computing environment for our business. *

Lou Aronson
Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Discourse Analytics

Discourse Analytics used Votifi to build a profile of each user’s access of political content on the site and what they share based on predictive algorithms that sort members by issue preference and leaning. “The voter insights we develop provide a deep understanding of the motivation behind their convictions,” says Aronson. “For those who volunteer to be polled, we market that data to political campaigns, advocacy groups, and media companies.”

Votifi cofounders wanted to broaden its business potential. “We soon saw the value of extending our methodology to understanding consumer behavior,” says Aronson. “So we started looking at how we could market consumer insight and analytics in a commercial arena.”

Discourse Analytics needed a standards-based platform that offered greater scalability and interoperability with potential social media partners and customers, and a computing platform that embraced mobility. “The key to our business model is the ability to identify and connect with users across multiple channels and computing scenarios,” says Aronson. “The more we can engage people on multiple platforms, the more data we can capture, model, and market. We needed the right computing ecosystem to serve our needs.”

When Discourse Analytics attended the South by Southwest 2012 Accelerator competition in Austin, Texas (where it reached the finals in the Social Media category), it joined the Microsoft BizSpark program for startups and learned about the Windows 8 Pro operating system. Discourse Analytics chose Windows 8 because it offers a consistent user experience through the ability to sync settings across multiple devices. This feature showcases the potential of Windows 8 for Discourse Analytics because it delivers an engaging experience that follows people between work and personal activities. The company was also excited about the Xbox SmartGlass, which turns Windows Phone 8 or a tablet running Windows 8 into a second screen that interacts with an Xbox 360, providing another channel for connecting with consumers. “We don’t want to be device dependent, so the iPad didn’t fit our philosophy,” says Aronson. “With Windows 8, we connect with people through PCs, laptops, and tablets to build better user profiles: a key to our success. It’s the perfect computing environment for our business.”

Discourse Analytics deployed two Windows 8 Pro devices, one Windows RT PC tablet and two slates that are used by interns. Aronson uses the Surface Pro in meetings, to give presentations to customers and he has a Windows RT tablet at home. “I can sync my files across my devices so I’m always up to date with versions,” says Aronson.

Discourse Analytics engaged New Signature, a Microsoft Partner Network member with 11 Gold competencies, to migrate the company’s mobile polling and analytics platform to Windows Azure, a cloud operating system that provides on-demand compute, storage, and networking capabilities to host web applications in Microsoft data centers. “Windows 8 interoperates with Windows Azure, so Discourse Analytics benefits from the scalability of a business platform running in the cloud, without paying for infrastructure,” says Chris Hertz, Chief Executive Officer at New Signature.

New Signature also built a Windows 8 app that mimics the Votifi website experience. The company can license the apps’ application programming interfaces (APIs) to third-party customers so they can include a Discourse Analytics widget within their own Windows 8 apps, thus extending its reach even further. “Windows 8 is great for Discourse Analytics because it can use apps to engage more users through yet another distribution channel,” says Hertz.

Windows 8 Pro opened up many possibilities for Discourse Analytics to expand its business. “We’re amazed at the opportunities made possible by the dynamic platforms that have been exposed to us by Windows 8,” says Aronson. “Because of the capabilities in the platform for innovation and for connecting people through new channels, Windows 8 is the critical component for the long-term success of our business.”

Expands Business Potential
Because the Windows 8 ecosystem is exemplified by mobility and innovative form factors that blur the boundaries between work and play, Discourse Analytics can use the same methodology it did for Votifi but apply it to corporate customers, at scale. “With Windows 8, we can provide customers with profiles of their audience segment. They can see how their customers interact with their brands using different devices, anywhere, anytime,” says Aronson. “These profiles are more compelling than traditional demographic modeling and customers can use them for targeted advertising.”

For example, a person could watch NBC news while using a Windows 8 tablet that’s running an MSNBC app with the Discourse Analytics widget embedded. That person could answer survey questions through the widget while watching TV. If they like what the broadcaster is wearing, they can shop for it using the tablet. “We gain the opportunity for a deeper understanding of their browsing and consumer behaviors to increase insight and provide better market analytics for our customers,” says Aronson.

Enables Flexible Workstyle
The four employees at Discourse Analytics find that the new Windows 8 devices make their lives more productive and easier. “My Surface Pro is a fully functional tablet with the power of an enterprise-ready operating system. Yet it’s a lightweight device I can carry anywhere and switch between touch and regular computing to suit my needs,” concludes Aronson. “It streamlines how I work in the office, at home, at my kid’s lacrosse games, and in meetings.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 4 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Washington, DC, Discourse Analytics is an analytics and insights company that segments audiences to build issue-weighted profiles of individuals and microsegments within that audience.

Software and Services
  • Windows 8 Pro
  • Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013
  • Microsoft Azure

Vertical Industries
Other Services

United States


New Signature