Mike Isaac

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Continuing Its Public Content Push, Facebook Acquires SportStream

sportstream_screensTwitter may still be synonymous with real-time, in-the-moment discussion. But that’s hardly stopping Facebook from moving in on the territory.

Natch, Facebook announced on Tuesday it had acquired SportStream, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to better surface all the public-facing content circulating inside the social giant.

Most of the benefits here are rather technical, so I won’t bore you with the details. Bottom line: Ideally, SportStream will make it easier for media partners — like, say, a Fox Sports or an ESPN — to find Facebook chatter about up-to-the-minute sports events, allowing the partners to better use that content on their properties.

So Fox Sports, for example — one of Facebook’s first media partners in this big content initiative — may pluck public status updates on a particular news event from Facebook’s data feed, and use that content in on-air reporting.

This isn’t a massive surprise. Facebook has been systematically striking deals to give media outlets deeper access to Facebook content, in the hope that it will get Facebook’s partners to display more of that chatter on their sites and broadcasts.

The problem thus far, however, has been parsing the enormous amount of data constantly flowing through Facebook and helping media companies make sense of it. Facebook hasn’t typically been set up for sharing data with partners in that way; SportStream could help make that easier.

Two things to note here: First, this is yet another acquisition in Facebook’s quest to be used as a real-time service by the masses — a true competitor to Twitter.

Even if only a fraction of the way toward this goal, Facebook VP Justin Osofsky reiterated the point in a blog post, plain as day: “If there is something interesting going on, people are talking about it on Facebook. From favorite television shows to breaking news, these conversations are happening on Facebook,” he wrote. (That’s a sub-tweet to Twitter if I’ve ever read one.)

Second, it’s worth pointing out that while SportStream’s engineering team will eventually help Facebook better share data with all of its media partners in time, this is a sports-focused company. The logic here, then, is for Facebook to specifically target and mine sports events for content — a big initiative for the company in the coming year. After all, in terms of social media chatter, it’s hard to get any more real-time than while watching a big game.

I imagine there are a few other fringe benefits picked up with the buy — perhaps Facebook will make use of SportStream’s visualization tools, or any of a host of other things I can’t think of now.

And importantly, it’s a signal that Facebook is trying hard to create better tools for media partners to surface all this data — which is something I’ve heard has been imperfect and messy in these early relationships thus far. I have no idea how much of a difference this will make initially, but it’s a move in the right direction.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus