What Twitter's acquisition of 'Hotspots.io' means for social TV

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

At SXSW we saw Trendrr make a big announcement with their 2.0 launch. Yesterday, Bluefin Labs rolled out a new analytics product for brands. SocialGuide Intelligence debuted on March 21st. Networked Insights will be partnering with IPG Mediabrands for the upfronts. NM Incite, a Nielsen brand, continues to publish compelling studies including one correlating social buzz to ratings.

We predicted consolidation in the social TV analytics space at the end of 2011 and now a small, but significant acquisition has occurred. Twitter has acquired analytics startup Hotspots.io, a Y Combinator graduate with roots in social TV. While this acquihire, as many are calling it, wasn’t of one of the major players in the space, this definitely means Twitter just increased their expertise in social TV analytics.

We asked Twitter to elaborate on the acquisition. At the moment, a representative told us that, “we are excited that the Hotspots.io team has joined Twitter to work on our revenue engineering team,” but didn’t have any further details to share.

Hotspots.io’s roots in social TV:

As All Things D pointed out, Hotspots.io originally launched in Y Combinator as Moki.tv, a “personalized TV guide for streaming video online,” that, “aggregates Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc., and adds algorithmic recommendations. The first stop for anyone who wants to watch something online.” The company then pivoted to Hotspots.io and described itself cleverly as, “social media intelligence you’ll actually use.” The one case study that appears on their site is a robust look at the tweets-per-minute for this year’s Superbowl Ads.

Twitter’s investment in educating the TV world about social:

As Lost Remote readers know very well, Twitter already has extremely deep roots in the TV world. Chloe Sladden and her Twitter Media team have educated and defined standards for #hashtags and handles on air. Joel Lunefeld, Twitter’s VP of Global Brand Strategy recently pointed out to brands that “you’re not just creating spots for TV anymore, you’re creating them for conversation on Twitter, too.”

Twitter and TV’s love affair has been blossoming in 2012. To the naked eye, it might appear that TV brands are being wooed at the thought of #hashtags creating meaningful conversations around their TV programming. While that may come eventually for massive TV events, what’s for certain is that putting #hashtags on screen is enabling every TV programmer to enlist their viewers to make those not watching jealous or scared of spoilers. This of course encourages TV brands to spend dollars on Twitter Ads to amplify the amount of Tweets that occur during their primetime programming.

The present and future of Twitter’s ad revenue:

According to eMarketer, Twitter Ad Sales grew to $139.5 million in 2011 and is predicted to grow to 86% to $259 million in 2012 and reach $540 million by 2014. While comparing Twitter to Facebook is definitely not apples to apples, it’s interesting to look at the following comparison compiled by The Realtime Report (#RLTM):

So Facebook’s audience is just 1.69 times larger than Twitter’s, but the social networking giant’s ad revenue is a whopping 22 times larger. What will Twitter do to win over more advertisers? The company has taken two steps recently: selling ads to small businesses for the first time, and starting to show a full range of ads to mobile users. Will these changes provide a significant boost to Twitter’s ad revenue?

“Revenue Engineering” at Twitter:

Maybe TV analytics will actually help drive that significant boost. Hotspots.io’s three cofounders, Alexander Spicer (graduated from MIT in 2010), Matthew Huang (graduated from MIT in 2010 and interned at Goldman Sachs) and Ashutosh Singhal (graduated from MIT in 2011 and interned at Google) are all now a part of “Revenue Engineering” at Twitter. Adam Bain, heads up the revenue team at Twitter so it appears the three will ultimately be reporting up to him.

The water cooler talk about the new water cooler:

1. How will Twitter Media and Twitter Advertising become more intertwined? Twitter Media’s team continues to grow, ensuring #hashtags are featured on lower-thirds and throughout productions. The mass, established medium that is TV, guarantees that there are more tweets about TV programming and just more tweets in general. See Brian Anthony Hernandez’s analysis of the top 15 tweet-per-second records on Mashable. As Twitter Media grows the number of tweets per second, three recent college grads who impressed Twitter with their analytics startup will help make sense of those tweets with the goal of increasing revenue.

2. Will Twitter use Hotspots.io’s technology? Take a closer look at the interactive infographic from Hotspots.io – these recent college grads clearly know what they’re doing. They both used the tweets-per time variable that Twitter loves and clearly compared the Superbowl ad spends, verus the chatter, versus the impressions with an embed of the commercial and selected tweets on the right. Twitter might abandon this product completely since it was only in beta to begin with, but even using their visualizations could be very useful.

3. Are Twitter’s business goals and the social TV analytics companies business goals aligned? It would shock me if the founders of some of these companies don’t ponder the scenarios of Twitter making them an offer. The company’s Producer’s Guide even lists three of them under the “Social TV Ratings” section. This doesn’t necessarily mean one of them is destined to be bought out, or that all of them are destined to be pushed out by Twitter itself. Twitter doesn’t need the biz-dev from them and it appears this acquihire might mean that they think Spicer, Huang and Singhal can do an equally good job on the development side.

4. Which social TV analytics company makes most sense for Twitter to consider? Without a doubt SocialGuide stands out as the one product that’s placing it’s bets on Twitter to be a game changer in the TV analytics space. Casey told Lost Remote the following recently when they rolled out their new product.

“We believe that Twitter is the dominant social TV platform, and networks’ Twitter specific social strategies will become increasingly important to their businesses,” Casey told us. “SocialGuide Intelligence was built to allow networks to use Twitter to engage with this key audience right from our platform.”

While Trendrr, Bluefin Labs, Networked Insights and NM Incite are also making sense of Twitter for TV, they are also placing bets on other social and traditional media. SocialGuide on the other hand is doing exactly what Twitter is doing, selling just Twitter. While it doesn’t appear that Twitter is going anywhere, anytime soon, it’s definitely risky putting all your chips on one social platform. On the other hand, I wonder what percent of data the others are looking at is Twitter vs. not Twitter (especially since most of Facebook is private).

5. Will this acquisition mean anything for the publishers analytics tool that Twitter announced in September? Probably not. It doesn’t appear that this analytics product for publishers will be directly tied to growing revenue. It seems it will be important for helping more Twitter users justify tweeting to their bosses and teams.

What’s in store for the future?

We’re unsure exactly what this acquisition means or if there will be more in the social TV space. Twitter Media will continue to grow its social TV footprint and that will just naturally create more revenue opportunities. Creating even deeper correlations between Twitter and TV will ensure that every prime time program must compete for prime Twitter ad space and can ensure that every brand (spending a combined tens of billions of dollars on TV) will also want to compete for prime ads. Then their Revenue Engineering team can build new and more robust ad products. The next twelve months are going to be exciting.

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