Apple Acquires Social Media Analytic Firm, Topsy

By Joe Rizzo December 03, 2013

In a possible effort to better understand what people are talking about on social media networks such as Twitter, Apple purchased Topsy Labs. This company can instantly analyze any topic, term or hashtag across years of conversations on millions of web sites. It can identify key thoughts, opinions and content, over time or in real-time.

According to “people familiar with the matter,” Apple’s acquisition cost over $200 million. Considering that Topsy can analyze global conversations and its tools can decipher how often a term is tweeted, find an influential person on a specific subject, or measure the exposure of an event or campaign, it may just be worth the cost.

As with most of what Apple does, the goal for its acquisition of Topsy is unclear at best. Perhaps, as analysts mention, Topsy's insights could be useful in several Apple services, including the iTunes media store, Siri voice assistant or iAd advertising platform.

Susan Etlinger, industry analyst at Altimeter Group, said that Apple "could benefit from a more forward looking view of what people's interests are. Twitter is optimized for understanding conversations around entertainment."

Etlinger feels that Topsy’s analysts could help Apple recommend songs, movies and TV shows to iTunes users. Apple could gain knowledge of what conversations are going on through social media and then tailor its iTunes offerings. People in the online-ad industry said this offers advertising opportunities for Apple's iTunes Radio.

There may be some other benefits to Topsy’s acquisition. It is not just limited to listening to social media. Another possible application for Topsy's technology could be to refine the search feature in Apple's Siri voice assistant in the iPhone and iPad. Since Siri already asks users to access their Twitter account in order to personalize search results, this could be an added feature.

Apple has been trying to work with social media networks lately. Last year Apple paid more than $50 million for a company called Chomp Inc. It is a tool for searching mobile apps. Apple also acquired Ping, a music sharing service. Unfortunately, it was not successful and closed last year. In addition to this, Apple has also made it easier for users of its devices to share photos and messages on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

To give you an example of what type of service Apple can expect from Topsy, earlier this year, Topsy enhanced the ability to track tweets by the geographical location from which they were sent. By using references to landmarks or local events, Topsy says the service can identify the country of origin for about 95 percent of all tweets as well as the city of origin for close to one quarter of all tweets.

One analyst said that a range of Apple partners, including media companies that provide content to the iTunes stores, developers who create apps for iOS, and advertisers in iAd could all benefit from Topsy's data. Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer, said "All of these businesses would appreciate having access to more of this real-time data. Now Apple has a new tool to help the companies that use its services become better, smarter marketers."  

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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