Apple Goes Social with $200 Million Purchase of Topsy Labs

Apple has reportedly acquired social media analytics firm Topsy Labs for more than $200 million. Topsy is one of four Twitter partners with access to the social network’s full stream of tweets, currently averaging about 500 million messages per day. The firm then analyzes the information and resells it to customers. Topsy markets itself as a global trendspotter and has helped Hollywood studios predict box office demand for movies based on social chatter.

“Topsy specializes in analyzing the global conversation on Twitter,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Its tools can decipher how often a term is tweeted, find an influential person on a specific subject, or measure the exposure of an event or campaign.”

The acquisition reflects the growing demand for understanding social data. A number of companies currently mine social sites including Twitter, Tumblr and Yelp to analyze news events and trends.

“Apple just got an all-access-pass to Twitter’s secret sauce without actually purchasing the company. Nice move,” suggests Cynopsis Digital.

However, it is unlikely that Apple and Topsy could agree on a deal without Twitter’s approval. While Twitter and Topsy have yet to comment, an Apple spokeswoman simply stated: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

“Apple’s goals for Topsy are unclear. Analysts said Topsy’s insights could be useful in several Apple services, including the iTunes media store, Siri voice assistant or iAd advertising platform,” notes WSJ. “Susan Etlinger, industry analyst at Altimeter Group, said Topsy’s analysis could help Apple recommend songs, movies and TV shows to iTunes users. Topsy engineers could help Apple learn how to extract similar insights from other large data sets.”

The deal could also lead to advertising opportunities for iTunes Radio, which competes with the likes of Pandora and Spotify.

“The six-year-old startup also has a platform through which government agencies can analyze billions of tweets — helping emergency-management workers monitor where accidents may have occurred and whether supplies were delivered,” explains WSJ in a related article. “During Hurricane Sandy, Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency used Topsy to analyze the locations of tweets, using references made in the tweet itself or in the tweeter’s profile.”