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Sports and Social Media

July 1st, 2012 4:01PM by Brendon Kensel

Sports fans are increasingly consuming scores, news and athlete updates via social media. Globally there are over 460 million fans who ‘like’ sports teams on Facebook and almost 100 million fans ‘follow’ teams on Twitter according to Sports Fan Graph.

JockTalk” width=

JockTalk is a sports social network created by professional athletes for fans.

In 2012 twenty-six percent of sports fans will use social media to follow leagues, teams and players according to a survey conducted by Perform sports media group. Twenty-two percent of sports fans polled indicated that they use connected mobile devices to get breaking sports news. A study by brand engagement firm GMR Marketing found that 41% of sports fans check Twitter and Facebook for breaking sports news compared to just 13% for television.

Sports fans are frustrated with the lack of social engagement tools available to them to engage with their favorite athletes. Professional athletes have been adopting social media en masse, particularly Twitter, but athletes are seeking better engagement with fans and opportunities to monetize the social media content they are currently giving away for free. Twitter is great for one-way communication, but engagement falls short for what is possible with athletes and fans. Twitter recently launched a new effort to promote hastags in sports, such as the hashtag #NASCAR. These hashtags offer the ability to better curate conversations.

A new sports social network, JockTalk, facilitates deeper engagement between fans and professional athletes. JockTalk enables fans to easily interact with their favorite athletes, and get rewarded for being a great fan. Athletes can answer questions from fans and can quickly sort top fans by market. All text, photo and video posts on JockTalk are automatically published to both Twitter and to Facebook. JockTalk is built into the ecosystem of these social media leaders and is complimentary, not competitive. The platform also enables athletes to generate income and awareness for the causes they support, and easily engage their fans in new and impactful ways. JockTalk features professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, PGA, Olympic sports and several international sports leagues. Athletes include Paul Pierce, Kevin Love, Wes Welker, Warren Moon, Heath Bell, Aaron Boone, Ryan Kesler, and Matt Carle. “I am excited to use JockTalk so I can more easily communicate and share content with my fans,” said Matt Carle, NHL defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers. “JockTalk enables me to generate income for the causes I care about and facilitates deeper engagement with my fans through tools such as fan rankings and a Q&A section.”

JockTalk launched in beta in April and an iPhone application will be released in the summer of 2012. Game on!

What to Expect from Social Media in 2012

January 2nd, 2012 9:42AM by Brendon Kensel

Social media is experiencing exponential growth in the U.S. and worldwide and this growth is expected to continue in 2012. Social networking sites now reach 82% of the world’s online population and account for about 20% of time spent online according to comScore. In the U.S. 98% of the online population uses social media. As mass social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are nearing saturation points in the U.S. it is leading to new user behavior and new social platforms that are focused on particular topics and market segments.

Mobile Social Activities Among Mobile Social Networking Users” width=

Source: comScore, December 2011

Social media user behavior seems to be changing as saturation points near. People are becoming less engaged in creating content and instead are increasingly sharing existing content according to a recent report from GlobalWebIndex. The report notes that a huge exception is the growing propensity for consumers to post images and video to their social media profiles. Consumers are also increasingly using mobile devices to access social networking sites. comScore notes that in 2011 80% of consumers used their smartphones to check posts by people they knew, and 70% posted a status.

The lifecycle of social media often follows a path of from niche market to mass market. Facebook went from targeting college students to allowing the general market to sign-up. MySpace has gone full circle by launching as a social network focused on the music niche, morphing into mass market site, and now returning to its music roots under the stewardship of Justin Timberlake. LinkedIn is a scaled example of a social network that launched with a focus on a niche audience, business professionals, and retains that focus today.

As mass social media platforms mature it is expected that new entrants will emerge and focus on particular topics and market segments. While Google’s G+ is focused on the mass market, consumers appear to be picking their favorite platform and spending their social media time there. Consumers also appear to be seeking out specialized social communities. Niche audiences of highly active participants will continue to emerge as consumers seek more tailored experiences and advertisers look for specific audiences.

New niche social media sites to keep an eye on in 2012 include: Chime.in, an interest network, where people share, connect with others, and build communities around their favorite topics; Pinterest, an online pin board to organize, share and follow collections of shared items and interests; and Jock Talk, a social media publishing platform that provides professional athletes and fans a single location to post conversations, videos and photos, and enable richer engagement.

Smartphones will also play a large in how consumers use social media in 2012. While Facebook and Twitter are forces in mobile social networking there a few emerging companies worth noting. These include: Path and Milk with its first app, Oink. Several additional specialized mobile networks that will ride on top of Facebook are expected to appear this year.

Social media will be fun to watch and socialize about in 2012!

Private Equity Investing in Digital Media Expected to Increase in 2011

April 9th, 2011 8:27PM by Brendon Kensel

Digital media companies are reinventing traditional business models and transforming the distribution of media content, services and applications. The global growth of emerging digital media channels and the convergence of media, marketing and technology are challenging traditional business models and compelling companies to explore alternative revenue models. Advertising remains the leading revenue generator for many digital media companies, but these dollars are often being generated in very creative ways. These rapid and dynamic changes in digital media have also impacted private equity firms and how they evaluate new platform and add-on acquisitions.

Private equity groups are expected to boost their level of investment in digital media in 2011 as they work to protect existing investments, unlock new economic opportunities, and open new markets. The top verticals that will likely attract interest are social networking, mobile/location-based services, niche Internet sites, videogames, and online advertising/technologies. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/NVCA MoneyTree Report, $11.6 billion flowed into 2,266 Internet-specific companies from 2008 through 2010. In 2010 $3.8 billion was invested in 729 deals. This robust early-stage to late-stage venture investing in digital media over the past three years indicates that there will be an emergence of category leaders operating in new verticals and leveraging disruptive business models.

Digital Media Companies - Recent Funding & Estimated Value” width=

Source: CruchBase, April 2011

This trend has already become apparent with companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, LivingSocial and Zynga. Private equity firms will likely actively pursue established late-stage category leaders as they look to establish positions in market-defining companies before IPO’s. As the public equity markets continue to improve and as IPO’s become a viable path to near-term liquidity, private equity investors will be attracted these companies. As an example, in January 2011 Demand Media (NYSE: DMD), run by former MySpace Chairman Richard Rosenblatt, went public and sold 8.9 million shares at $17 each. Since it was founded, Demand Media had raised approximately $375 million in financing from investors that included Oak Investment Partners, Spectrum Equity Investors, Generation Partners, 3i Group and Goldman Sachs. As of April 9, 2011 Demand Media had a market cap of $1.9 billion.

Recent noteworthy investments in digital media companies include:

LivingSocial – In April 2011 the company raised $400 million from Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Lightspeed Ventures, T. Rowe Price, and Institutional Venture Partners which valued the company at approximately $3.5 billion.

Facebook – In January 2011 the company raised $1.5 billion from Goldman Sachs and DST in a deal that valued the company at $50 billion.

Groupon – In January 2011 the company raised $950 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, DST, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Maverick Capital, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures in a deal that valued the company at $4.75 billion.

Twitter – In December 2010 the company raised $200 million from Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark Capital, Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital in a deal that valued the company at $3.7 billion.

Zynga – In June 2010 the company raised $300 million from Softbank Capital and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) which valued the company at approximately $4.5 billion. As of February 2011 it was rumored that Zynga was raising another $250 million at a valuation of $7 to $10 billion.

Digital Media and the Social Web

January 9th, 2011 1:26PM by Brendon Kensel

Digital media will continue to be heavily influenced by social media in 2011 and the social web will likely facilitate increased cross-channel engagement. Digital media has expanded from an online medium into mobile, and is now rapidly expanding to connected TV’s. Key lubricants to integrating these channels are the social media and marketing platforms that track and influence consumer behavior. And in a new twist advertisers are now leveraging groups of digital-based social influencers to help market products.

In 2010, Facebook grew to more than 500 million users and pushed past Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to become the most popular site on the Internet for the first time. Nearly one in four page views in the U.S., or just over 24%, took place on Facebook in 2010 according to Experian Hitwise. Additionally, 23% of all online display ads in the U.S. appeared on Facebook according to comScore, however, Facebook accounts for just 9.5% of the spending on display ads in the U.S.

But beyond Facebook as the 800-pound social networking community there are several underlying trends that should be noticed. The ever-expanding world of influence via social media is exploding. Marketer’s efforts to analyze, track and manage influence across a social graph will continue to mature. A social graph is an individual’s online community or communities.

One company taking advantage of this emerging trend is XGraph. This company provides brand marketers with online ad targeting that is tied to deep audience insights. XGraph’s targeting approach is based on the premise that people who are connected through online graphs share similar lifestyles, interests and purchasing habits. Another player in the space, 33Across, provides technology to track possible customers among friends and identifies possible purchasers and shoppers that are socially connected. A different approach to tracking social influence is being pursued by Klout, which identifies influencers on topics across the social web. Klout lets users track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations across a social graph. Markers are now learning how to tap in to groups of influencers to help market products. Leveraging social graph information is becoming extremely important to marketers as they track and rank influencers and brands attempt to affiliate with their online credibility. These are trends that extend far beyond just using Facebook and Twitter.

Another trend driven by the social web is “social commerce.” This involves an e-commerce experience where shoppers’ friends become involved in the shopping experience. An interesting example of the movement towards social shopping is WeShop. This platform blends the daily deals phenomenon and social influencers and allows consumers to share purchase information on an anonymous basis. Unlike Groupon and some of the other services which are only deal alerts, WeShop also enables customers with similar interests to build virtual and anonymous marketplaces that have the potential to attract better offers from vendors depending on the number of potential buyers. Blending social influence, mobile and bricks-and-mortar shopping is Shopkick. This company is built on the belief that as the proliferation of smart phones and the concept of social sharing increases offline shopping as an experience can and will mimic that of the online world.

While we are clearly seeing social networks influence online and mobile environments the next frontier will likely be connected TV’s. This past November Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said at the Web 2.0 Summit that Google TV will liberate companies to create a whole new set of applications that will generate revenue. While this may be true, it appears that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is taking a more integrated social approach with an all-in-one Apple TV scheduled for debut in 2012 which could incorporate built-in Apple TV, MobileMe and iTunes. A small company attempting to harness social interaction across mobile devices, online and connected TV’s is Ultralivetv. This company wraps social interaction and games around live sports events.

Expect to see many more companies emerge that integrate social engagement across legacy and emerging channels.

What to Expect from Digital Media in 2010

December 31st, 2009 5:06PM by Brendon Kensel

Most entrepreneurs and operators of digital media and marketing firms are glad 2009 is over and they are looking forward to an improved 2010. Though mid-2009, U.S. digital advertising revenues were down 5.3% from the same period in 2008 according to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report. As of the third-quarter 2009 Forrester Research was forecasting a 13.7% increase in 2010 for digital advertising revenues. Key segments that will likely drive growth in 2010 include:

Content Platforms – We will likely continue to see content aggregators grow both organically and through acquisition in 2010. But the real growth will come through the continued advancement of automation technologies that will produce content people are seeking and deliver advertisements that reach desired audiences. Large-scale players include Demand Media and Internet Brands (NASDAQ: INET). A smaller, emerging player includes Mail.com Media Corporation (MMC), which was founded by Jay Penske in 2004.

Mobile – Yes, this category has made the list of “emerging trends” each year for the past decade, but what was not in the aughts will begin in the tens. U.S. mobile marketing expenditures are expected to grow from $1.7 billion in 2009 to $2.2 billion in 2010 according to the Mobile Marketing Association. Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) recent aggressiveness in the mobile space, whether its pending acquisition of mobile ad network Admob or the launch of its Android mobile operating platform, will have significant ripple effects in 2010. Combined with Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry platforms, consumers are making a meaningful shift to smartphones which will allow advertisers to deliver more targeted advertisements.

Social Engagement – This is the bucket for social games, networks and other points of engagement. While social gaming company Zynga is a great example, there are multiple emerging companies with innovative approaches. A couple of examples include digital agency Zugara’s augmented reality games/applications for marketers, and mobile social network FourSquare that awards points to consumers for broadcasting their location to a network of friends via their mobile device.

The next decade should be fun.