SBJ/20090223/This Week's News

Octagon + Twitter = Twackle

Octagon Digital this week is expected to launch, an aggregation engine it built for sports-related content on Twitter, the real-time social-networking utility soaring in popularity.

The creation was developed in-house at Octagon with technical aid from Toronto-based Xtreme Labs Inc. It represents some of the first major fruits of the agency’s formation last summer of a digital division to serve its existing client base, bulk up its consulting work, and invest in new ventures in the online and wireless industries.

The new site, which requires a Twitter log-in for full functionality but is not limited to Octagon clients, organizes the real-time streams of Twitter posts, called tweets, by sport, team and in some cases individual player. Twitter feeds from nearly 500 sources will be collated on at launch, including those from mainstream media outlets and official hubs, such as league Web sites.

“We identified Twitter as a key target in part because we didn’t want to miss out on this like a lot of us missed out on Facebook,” said Jim DeLorenzo, head of Octagon Digital. “Twitter’s definitely a great thing, but it can be really tough for a sports fan to comb through this mountain of data and get to something that makes sense and is relevant. That’s what we’re trying to address.”, set to launch this week,
isn’t limited to Octagon clients.

Twitter’s core utility is not unlike Facebook and other social networks in which users post updates on their activities and send them to friends and others who have opted to receive them. What makes Twitter different is that it is based on a microblogging platform, meaning each posting, known as a tweet, is limited to 140 characters, making it particularly ideal for mobile devices. The service also lends itself well to packaging the feeds within a widget on another Web site.

The service has been embraced by a wide variety of media outlets, teams, leagues and celebrities, including Shaquille O’Neal and the Obama presidential campaign.

Twitter itself, formed three years ago by a trio of Silicon Valley executives, remains in a pre-revenue stage, buttressed instead by a large pool of venture capital funding. DeLorenzo said he intends to monetize Twackle primarily through the sale of ad-based tweets that would occasionally be inserted into the data streams. For now, the site has a box for Google-served advertising.

Octagon’s activities are only part of a fast-moving wave within the sports industry to leverage the power of Twitter. Charlotte-based consultancy Sports Media Challenge last week briefed a group of college sports information directors on how to use Twitter.

“This is absolutely not a fad and very often now is beating traditional media to stories,” said Kathleen Hessert, Sports Media Challenge president. “You can’t avoid this. It can be a really powerful tool — if you create interesting tweets that make people keep coming back.”

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