Interview with Michael Greer (CTO, TAPP TV, The Onion)

We recently interviewed Michael Greer, former CTO of The Onion and now Co-Founder and CTO of TAPP TV. We wanted to hear how he navigated the decision to build or buy analytics infrastructure.

In our CTO’s Guide to Getting Data Strategy Right white paper, we discuss the limitations of off-the-shelf analytics solutions, as well as the risks of building custom solutions with expensive internal resources. As we continue to navigate these discussions with our clients at Keen, we wanted to share some of their stories. TAPP decided to build their analytics capabilities in-house using Keen’s APIs, and they have been a Keen customer for several years.

According to Mike, his team of engineers has tested a variety of approaches including combinations of Segment, KissMetrics, and Google AdWords. “The reason we ended up increasingly relying on Keen was our ability to influence the metrics we were tracking with Keen — it turned out to be more engineer-friendly than anything else on the market,” says Greer.

TAPP uses a video content management system and a subscription system to allow their team to manage different video sites. These systems are also used for various internal dashboards and reporting on key business metrics. For example, reports embedded within the CMS help employees identify the most popular content, compare subscription rates across time or make revenue projections. “We run correlations, track whether users are more or less likely to subscribe when they look at a particular content piece, and much more,” explains Mike.

When asked how Mike would explain Keen’s API platform he says,

“Keen is the perfect 80% solution. It’s not turnkey and doesn’t give developers anything out of the box, but rather offers 80 percent of what’s needed and allows a company to build what they need, quickly.”

TAPP’s team also found Keen’s engineers and customer success team to be extremely helpful.

“I simply contact Keen’s customer service via chat. Engineers send us back example code which is extremely high quality. I’ve also reached out directly to the engineers who maintain the JavaScript library, so we could really see what was happening.”

Mike Greer found Keen’s pricing and platform to be easy to scale with the company’s needs.” TAPP currently has over 30 people across the company consuming data in a variety of custom dashboards and reports specific to their workflows, all of which is maintained part-time by a small team of three.

Another consideration for the executive team was the investment risk inherent in choosing a technology for such a foundational, business-critical need (and in particular one that touches many parts of the business). Two factors influenced their decision here: Keen’s high data-portability reduced their lock-in risk, and the flexibility of the platform meant they weren’t married to a single prescriptive way of doing analytics.

“Keen is a platform that’s been created by builders for builders.”

Mike cited a few additional factors that made the choice to build his analytics infrastructure on Keen the most viable for TAPP:

  • Keen has great JavaScript SDKs so it works well with their stack
  • Emergent questions from company stakeholders are very easy to answer: “Keen is sufficiently flexible for us to always be able to offer additional capabilities”;
  • A much lighter burden for the engineering team: TAPP runs their entire analytics stack with no full-time headcount dedicated to analytics infrastructure and scalability.
  • New dashboars can be added on demand. This makes it easy to add and remove key metrics as needed.

Download our latest white paper to learn more about the “Build vs. Buy” debate. Keen IO helps companies accelerate deployment of intelligent data applications and embed intelligence throughout their business.

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