Accelerating changes in the UK media landscape
It’s well-known that large tech companies often buy smaller rivals and start-ups. Sometimes its for the technology, other times its for the people, a strategy known as an aquihire. Is it possible to understand why Apple has acquired Topsy?
Typically the press has a field day speculating about the meaning of these purchases or attempts at purchase. Why did Facebook try and buy Snapchat? What plans does Microsoft have for Nokia’s mobile division?
Usually it’s not hard to see a host of possible reasons for an acquisition. But occasionally, such an acquisition sends the analysts scrabbling for explanations. Apple’s acquisition of Topsy seems to have had this effect.
The reports emerging of the acquisition carry a number of reasons:
- to know what people are talking about in realtime on Twitter
- to improve search results in Siri
- to improve analytics of the iAd service
- to use the time customers spend on social media to better place its products across social media
- to apply Topsy to its own data, such as the App Store
Given Apple’s historical reticence to join social networks as a brand, and indeed its cultural apathy towards the publicness enshrined in services such as Twitter, it seems strange to imagine it might use Topsy to better promote or place its products. Even if it wanted to do this, it could have done so merely by subscribing to Topsy Pro.
Weaving data into iAd or Siri search seems more plausible, although it’s not immediately obvious how Apple would do this, given how tricky it has been for both Bing and Google to balance the relevance of web search results with the recency of social media trends.
So, we must conclude that data-loving Apple has recognized that it has no really powerful way of identifying trends and influencers within its own ecosystem, the App Store. Imagine if Apple was able to better target customers by their consumption habits – better offers, better service for Apple’s highest-spending customers.
As Tesco found through its partnership with Dunnhumby and the launch of its Clubcard, knowledge of customer habits and preferences can make a big difference to revenue in the short term and customer lifetime value over a longer period.
Our prediction: don’t expect to see Apple brands clambering all over Twitter any time soon. Rather, expect to feel a bit more understood when you use iTunes in future.
One other outcome we hope does not come to pass: we hope that this does not herald the closure of Topsy, a service we love. I noticed this morning when I went to the create account page for Topsy Pro, it returned a message stating it is not currently accepting new trials. Hopefully this is unrelated to the acquisition.