Apple has acquired social media search and analytics company Topsy Labs, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources. The price is a nice piece of change for a start up — $200 million, according to the Journal.
Apple is hardly a stranger to acquisitions; this one, though, is raising eyebrows because Topsy’s social media bona fides are in one of the few areas in which Apple has flopped, and–it was assumed–would never return.
Says the New York Times:
The company has indexed every tweet ever sent and has made them searchable, much like Google does for the web. The company also helps clients analyze tweets for various business trends.
The tech industry is going mad trying to figure out what Apple might do with Topsy. Another variation of Ping, it is widely agreed, is a non-starter.
The Journal thinks one possible scenario would be to use Topsy’s data mining creds to recommend to iTune users trending songs or artists discussed on Twitter.
My friend Rob Walch, host of Today in iOS, agrees with the theory that Topsy might be the basis of some sort of recommendation engine for users — but only as a side benefit. For $200 million, Apple will be looking at squeezing out some revenue from the deal in the form of a marketing and television play, he says.
Topsy could provide marketers with real-time data to sell targeted advertising on iTunes radio and later, on an iTV when and if one is ever launched, Walch suggests.
The New York Times thinks Topsy might be used as some kind of product development guide, to help Apple—or possibly its shareholders—with staying in touch with consumer demand.
The Times tells of a project Topsy was involved in with the iPhone 4S for a hedge fund, tracking sentiments on Twitter about the October 2012 introduction of the Apple phone.
The phone underwhelmed professional critics, sending Apple’s stock down. But Topsy found that Twitter users were more positive, suggesting that the phone would sell well. Sure enough, Apple reported strong sales figures later, sending the stock up.
If this is indeed Apple’s goal, the Topsy acquisition could well put it ahead of the industry. Quite surprisingly, for all the talk of the miracle of analytics, fewer companies are using these applications now than a year ago, according to a recent CMO Survey from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The percentage of projects estimated by CMOs to be using marketing analytics dropped to 29% from 35% time last year. Why? Lack of talent, mainly.
Which brings us back to Topsy. Here’s another guess as to its acquisition–Apple could want it for its team, not the technology.
This article was written by Erika Morphy and Contributor from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.