Tech Talk 1701 – E-Mail Processing Service

For many years, a multitude of software products have offered highly advanced e-mail collection capability in relationship to larger document imaging solutions. Processes in accounts payable, healthcare, financial services, higher education, and more were each dramatically impacted through the use of e-mail automation.

If you are a broadcast media traffic professional, have you ever wondered if there was a more suitable, purpose built way to receive your e-mailed traffic instructions?

Maverick One believes it is well past time to bring the lessons learned in those industries to our friends in broadcast media through truly impactful solutions designed to meet their unique needs. Timely and systematic e-mail handling of traffic instructions is critically important to your bottom line whether you are a single station or a large, diverse media group.

Let’s talk about the first of three major components that make Maverick One’s Advanced Traffic Processing Solution possible.

Introduction

In the fall of 2016, Maverick One completed development and solution testing of our E-Mail Processing Service. We call it EPS for short.

EPS is a proprietary technology stack comprised of high performance e-mail processing software, file conversion applications, and custom scripting that provides the necessary automation. This approach provides a highly configurable framework for reliable traffic e-mail retrieval and initial processing that is on-duty around the clock.

Whether you are interested in automating traffic e-mail collection for one e-mail account or 100+, we can deploy and scale EPS to meet any expected workload. EPS is provided and administered by Maverick One exclusively on Amazon Web Services.

Would you like to know a little known secret about EPS?

You are probably paying more each month for your station’s coffee service.

Coffee is a team player and so is EPS

Above All PDF

A principal goal of EPS was to achieve high quality source file conversion to a single format for all received traffic instructions.

As a general rule, many legacy document imaging and enterprise content management systems continue to use the TIFF format as a capture, processing, and archival baseline for all files. In the context of broadcast traffic, we believe this is a poor idea.

Maverick One chose the PDF filetype for EPS processed files in lieu of TIFF for many technical and end-user experience factors. We believe this approach will bring many benefits during the entire traffic document lifecycle.

Below are key factors related to PDF usage:

  • PDFs are widely used to deliver broadcast traffic instructions via e-mail to television, radio, and cable operators
  • PDFs are highly portable and viewable across a wide range of devices without additional software
  • PDFs are supported in ChronoScan Capture and M-Files without conversion to TIFF
  • PDFs are usually authored with embedded text objects that can be easily leveraged for OCR
  • PDFs are able to maintain source file website URLs and e-mail address hyperlinks
  • PDFs are reasonable in terms of file size at any scale

EPS Deep Dive

Let’s dive further into what EPS is doing behind the scenes. Several unique things are happening to help capture all items and put them in what we think is an optimal order.

Whereas the sender’s original e-mail was the ‘glue’ that bound everything together, EPS is designed to save each e-mail body as received as well as download any attached files. These files will then be reassembled by EPS into a new PDF file. Retrieval of up to 6 attachments per e-mail is presently supported. If required, this can be increased on a per account basis.

During EPS processing, PDF type attachments are saved unaltered with any embedded objects. As a general rule, we will assume that PDF files are likely the majority of traffic instructions to be received in a station’s e-mail account.

As far as non-PDF attachments are concerned, EPS will convert supported types to PDF. Presently supported types include DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, and TIFF. Each non-PDF attachment is saved from the source e-mail and converted by EPS from its original filetype to a single, multi-page PDF file.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft Word 2013 and Microsoft Excel 2013 applications are used when encountering the related types. We chose this method for maximum content compatibility and export quality vs. third party tools.

In addition, EPS also extracts the sender’s HTML or plain text e-mail body. The e-mail body is converted to PDF as well and appended to the end of each attachment as processed by EPS.

PDF attachment and e-mail body as processed into a new, single PDF file by EPS

With this approach, we capture all information as received in the sender’s original e-mail and associate it to every attachment.

That personalized – and sometimes vital – thread of communication from the media buyer or account executive is always available in context for reference. This brings us to text only traffic instructions.

In the case of an e-mail with no attachments, the plain text or HTML body is converted to a PDF document containing the e-mail. This would relate to those direct advertisers or AEs on the run who send you traffic in a ‘straight up’ e-mail rather than through a PDF or TIFF attachment.

As for any embedded URL links in an e-mail to agency websites or file download portals, they are preserved and encoded in the EPS created PDF files. These will ultimately be active hyperlinks in the M-Files ECM product. If we were using legacy imaging systems that ‘flattened’ all incoming documents to TIFF, this URL embedding would not be possible.

Diagram highlighting EPS conversion of four separate e-mails each with unique body and attachment types

It’s Automatic

Do you work with agencies or advertisers that always request a return confirmation to know their traffic was received?

This specific requirement was a primary point we sought to bring automation and consistency to through EPS.

One of the major benefits EPS can provide is the ability to enable an e-mail auto-responder for your traffic e-mail account. The auto-responder is presently enabled on a per account basis. As such, the best practice of having a dedicated e-mail account for EPS use – and therefore traffic instruction intake – would be recommended.

Another benefit in providing this functionality was to increase the level of transactional communication between each sender and you, the traffic instruction receiver. The last half of that equation can be a challenge to fulfill on a timely basis.

Let’s be honest. You are not handling legally binding documents in a law office. The era of printing traffic instructions, signing and dating them, and faxing back surely needs to end.

Three attachment specific values are currently provided back to the sender in the EPS auto-response e-mail:

  • Original Filename
  • Reference Number
  • Time Received

Any text message and signature lines that should accompany the file specific values can be set on a per-account basis for all responses.

It is important to note that if the sender originally sent a single e-mail with three file attachments, they would receive three unique e-mail responses from EPS – one for each attachment. In other words, there is a 1:1 relationship between auto-responses and the number of received files.

Each attachment processed by EPS will be assigned a unique reference number as well as a timestamp of when it was received.

These bits of information will prove valuable to your traffic team, your clients, and your sales department should there ever be a question as to whether or not you received a piece of traffic.

We all know that never occurs.

In the case of an e-mail with no attachments, an auto-reply is still generated and a unique reference number assigned, however the default value ‘Email’ is used within the original filename value.

If M-Files is a part of your solution, the reference number may be used for easy and instant searching within the received traffic instruction archive.

Sample highlighting an auto-response e-mail generated from EPS

Technical Specifications

The following features are presently supported by E-mail Processing Service on a per account basis:

  • IMAP and POP3 connections
  • Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office 365 integration
  • TLS/SSL protocols (if required)
  • Gmail and Yahoo! Mail

Up Next

This completes today’s Tech Talk featuring the E-Mail Processing Service from Maverick One.

In our upcoming articles, we will review the next two components of our Advanced Traffic Processing Solution:

  • ChronoScan Capture – Intelligent document capture and processing suite with advanced OCR
  • M-Files – Enterprise content management system employing highly intuitive metadata structure

For further information on any Maverick One services or solutions, we invite you to contact us.

Acknowledgements

A special thank you to Ginger Walker, Director of Programming and Traffic at KRGV-TV in Weslaco, TX for providing us with traffic instruction samples. All provided materials were indispensable in development and testing of our E-Mail Processing Service.

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