Apple dips into social analytics with Topsy acquisition

The world's most valuable company, Apple, is heading into the social media game by purchasing social analytics firm Topsy for a reported $200 million. But Apple's end game is still a mystery.

Apple could use analytics from the recently acquired Topsy to tailor ads on Apple products, like iTunes radio, pictured here.

Apple has acquired a company with access to “the hose” – the nickname for Twitter’s stream of 500 million tweets per day.

Apple bought data analytics firms Topsy for a reported $200 million, according to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Journal reports that the firm is one of only four companies with full access to the ever-updating stream of events, but what Apple plans to do with this new influx of media data is yet to be seen.

Topsy takes the barrage of tweets, ranging from @justinbieber’s selfies to @barackobama’s live tweets of state events, and uses tools to sculpt a clearer picture of trends and buzzwords. The service can decipher which users are influencers, which terms are trending, and the exposure of an event or marketing campaign. The company also recently got access to further geographical information, allowing the company to identify the country origin of 95 percent of tweets and to name the city of nearly one-quarter of all tweets, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

The company also recently announced it had indexed every tweet since Twitter began in 2006 – more than 425 billion in all.

Topsy, along with Gnip, Data Sift, and NTT Data, are Twitter’s only certified data resellers, and count for the bulk of Twitter’s data revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Digits Blog, the social media company raked in $47.5 million last year from data mining alone.

Apple’s motivations for buying Topsy are still fuzzy, however. The company did confirm the purchase, though responded to requests for comment with its expected boilerplate answer: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” Some suggest that the data could be helpful to Apple’s media partners, iOS app developers, or targeted ads on products such as iTunes Radio. It could also be used simply to monitor consumer reaction to Apple’s products and announcements.

This move also could bolster the success of iAds, Apple’s mobile advertising platform that allows third-party developers to put ads in applications.

Apple has been on an acquiring spree lately, snatching up start-ups dealing in 3-D technology, public transportation directions, and mass transit alerts.

Perhaps a Frankenstein technology creation is in the works (a 3-D public transit directions app that searches Twitter for real time traffic trends, anyone?), but likely it will mean Apple will integrate its acquisitions into future products. Bloomberg points out that after Apple bought AuthenTec, a fingerprint-security firm, last year, fingerprint technology was brought to the iPhone 5S. 

Regardless of who owns the analytics, it's clear which company owns the social media buzz: check out a Topsy graph comparing tweets about Twitter vs. Topsy vs. Apple here

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Apple dips into social analytics with Topsy acquisition
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today