You post “Goal!!!!11!!” but who scored? Facebook’s on a drive to host more sports talk and get its trends shown on the news, so today it’s partnering with SportStream to structure, enhance, and make sense of its messy real-time data.
SportStream will offer broadcasters and sports teams a search interface for Facebook’s Keyword Insights and Public Feed APIs that leverages its “SportsBase” of metadata on teams, players, leagues, and games to surface who’s saying what about the biggest moments in athletics.
Facebook knows chatter about real-time, global events like sports is a huge opportunity for engagement, but many people are bringing this talk to Twitter. By getting TV, print, and web news outlets plus the sports teams themselves sharing Facebook sports chatter trends, Facebook hopes users will make it their water cooler for the big game.
The problem is jumbled data. When you write “RG3 touchdown” you mean Robert Griffin the third scored a touchdown for the Washington Redskins NFL football team. Facebook can’t parse that, but SportStream can.
Launched last June, SportStream monitors every major game, organization, and player plus all their social media accounts to understand what’s going on in games. It would break this content down into feeds about specific games or rivalries that news outlets could reference or sports teams could embed on their sites. At first the company was making consumer apps, but has shifted its focus towards being a data provider.
Until now SportStream was predominantly looking at public Facebook Pages, Instagrams, and Twitter accounts, but its new partnership with Facebook gives it access to the Keyword Insights API that anonymously aggregates trends of what Facebook users are privately posting about, and the Public Feed API that’s a firehouse of what users are specifically sharing in public posts.
It’s now releasing a search interface for these APIs that makes it easy to construct queries like “What part of the country talks about football the most?”, “Do young people chat more about Kobe Bryant or LeBron James”, and “Which home city is talking more about the big Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees game?” SportStream then visualizes that data with graphs and maps as clips for TV news or embeds for news websites.
The ability to license access to its platform filled with this Facebook data could be a huge boon to SportStream, which has raised $3.5 million, has 10 employees, and serves about 50 teams and media outlets already.
By making its sports data easier to understand, Facebook might get more outlets and teams to use it. Facebook hopes the perception that it’s a home for real-time event chatter will trickle down to users.
But it’s not built for this kind of talk. The News Feed is algorithmically sorted for relevance, rather than reverse chronologically sorted for up-to-the-minute information. Facebook has been testing a solution to this problem that would show updates in the proper time sequence if it recognizes that you’re posting about a real-time event, but this formatting modification isn’t ready yet.
As much as Facebook wants to be a place for public talk about world events, it was built for sharing updates about your own life with friends. Facebook lets you be your offline self online, but now the service is encountering growing pains as it seeks to define its own identity.