Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter While You Watch TV? Bluefin Labs Is Watching.

Are you the kind of person who uses Twitter or Facebook while you watch TV — to comment on the TV show you’re watching while you use Twitter or Facebook?

Turns out there are lots of us, and we’re not just engaged in a new, postmodern behavior. We’re building valuable data sets for marketers, who would like to know what we’re saying and what we’re watching, and what that means.

Eventually they’ll use that data to show us more ads. And perhaps we’ll comment about those, too.

That is the theory, at least, behind a slew of “second screen” start-ups. And Bluefin Labs, one of the most prominent ones, has just raised another $12 million in a B round led by Time Warner’s investment arm and SoftBank Capital. Earlier investors, who have poured in some $8 million, like Redpoint Ventures and Lerer Ventures, have re-upped.

Bluefin has a fancy-pants pedigree — it uses technology hatched at the MIT Media Lab — but the idea is quite simple. It harvests comments we leave on social networks — primarily on Twitter, and to a lesser degree via Facebook, where more of the data is locked up — and analyzes it to see what we’re saying, and when.

That stuff can be used to create cool infographics like the one on the right, about last Sunday’s Giants-49ers game. But TV networks like CBS, and ad guys like Starcom MediaVest, want the data for themselves, for obvious reasons.

Given that Facebook and Twitter are deep in the ad business themselves, it will be interesting to see what kind of access they provide to the Bluefins of the world down the line. If this gets really big, it seems like they’d want a very active role.

And while we’re on that subject, we should note that Bluefin CEO Deb Roy says his company isn’t using Google+ data yet. Which is interesting, given all of those big user numbers.

Down the road, Roy says Bluefin could expand his business in different directions. He could measure other data points that tell us about the way people are watching TV: What are people saying on blogs? What are they saying when they reach call centers? And he could also measure other mass mediums. But for now, TV will keep him busy.


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