Imagine for a moment that sports coverage on the Internet is an endless ocean populated by an assortment of odd marine life. Tweets from beat writers constantly swim by, as do photos from your friends at the ballpark on Instagram and the official Facebook pages of pro teams.
Think of SportStream as a gargantuan fishing net that catches all information related to your favorite team. The app, available on Apple devices and on the Web, curates tweets and posts from reliable sources and bloggers as well as posts by the teams themselves during games and while they’re idle. Some are tagged with real-time information to give context.
“We have these real-time content platforms where the velocity is increasing, the volume is increasing,” CEO Bob Morgan said. “So when Twitter says 24 million tweets for the Super Bowl, it kind of tells you it would be useful to have ways to shape that, to tune it, to get a signal from it.”
SportStream isn’t just for the fans. The company has been hired by teams and pros looking for a way to capture social media buzz about themselves: the Seattle Seahawks (owner Paul Allen was a SportStream investor), the University of Michigan hoops squad and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry all partnered with the app. As Morgan pointed out, his company can customize the stream -- he said the NCAA doesn’t allow schools to talk about recruiting, so Michigan’s stream filters out tweets and mentions about the subject.
There are plenty of benefits for die-hards who use the app. Morgan discussed exactly how it helped during this year’s NCAA tournament: “You didn’t have a Twitter list for Florida Gulf Coast ready to go, but for every matchup, all you had to do was to click into the app and you were getting a filtered stream of quality content. If you’re trying to follow a hashtag for a big event like the Super Bowl or World Cup, there’s just a flood of stuff. Then it becomes unwieldy.”
SportStream is also versatile enough to incorporate fan-speak, and not just the typical hashtags that indicate a tweeter is referring to, say, the Cincinnati #Reds. SportStream knows, for example, that tweets about the Seahawks with words like “Skittles” or “Beast Mode” usually refer to Marshawn Lynch. Morgan explains there’s an additional filtration process the system goes through to double-check that a post is about a specific team or game. If a Raiders blogger happens to talk about how amazing the San Jose Sharks’ game-winning goal was, it won’t post to Oakland’s stream; tweets about the Detroit Tigers won’t end up on LSU’s timeline either.
Going forward, Morgan says his team will focus on curating more photo content and the idea of a “pulse” -- it’s what he calls a “social activity map” during games, in which users can click on an exact time of a contest and find out what was being said at that moment. You might be surprised to find out that the two biggest spikes during Super Bowl XLVII weren’t Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return or Colin Kaepernick’s fourth-quarter touchdown run. No, the pulse map indicated there were two nonsports moments in which the world took to social media in droves: Beyonce’s halftime show and the blackout.
“People have their tastes,” Morgan said. “We may be missing one of your favorite writers. Or a tweet fell on the ground that should have been filtered in. But by and large, our argument is: We’re catching a good chunk of the good stuff.”