Should jocks have a Twitter just for them? A place for true sport enthusiasts to express their opinions about their favourite athletes without all that Belieber and #YouMessedUpWhen nonsense mucking up the convo. Sportsyapper is betting that they do.
Conversation apps like Sportsyapper, GetGlue and Zeebox are trying to make their mark as curated Twitter-like platforms built around specific topics (sports in the first case, television in the latter two). While these up-and-comers have yet to scrape together anything near Twitter’s influence, there is potential in their business models because of something missing in Twitter’s: Namely the platform is still built around the technology from the middle of the previous decade.
Twitter prefers chaos
Live-tweeting a big event can be chaotic. It’s a fire hose of thought sneezes operating under global mob rule. Twitter has shied away from curating conversations, instead encouraging tweets to arise organically around hashtags or organised by brands. The result can be somewhat sloppy – when live-tweeting the Academy Awards, should you use #Oscars, #TheOscars, #AcademyAwards?
Twitter’s laissez faire attitude towards curating content has always felt like a missed opportunity for a company that has struggled to transform their outsized influence into tangible income: would it not be much easier to target ads toward virtual rooms where people are discussing a specific topic? One for those tweeting about the Knicks versus Celtics, one for the New Girl season finale, and one for the latest edition of Meet The Press?
In the smartphone age, this seems like a no-brainer. Instead, we use #StrangeGrammaticalConventions to organise conversations around different events, when our phones could easily parse conversations via an app.
Why hasn’t Twitter simply created these virtual cloisters and done away with these hashtags which eat into valuable real estate within the 140-character limit (itself kind of a vestige)? The answer is that Twitter is still expanding to a global mobile audience, the majority of whom don’t have smart phones, and to whom hashtag discussions are still essential.
Many of these new and potential tweeters are using similar mobile technology to that used by the early adaptors who helped Twitter take off as a web-SMS hybrid back in the mid-aughts. So, the company has reason to keep the platform consistent.
Which then leads an opening for a new kind of conversation.
Exploring jock Twitter
While it is in Twitter’s interest to be compatible to “dumb” phones, other curated platforms have the benefit of utilising smartphones to cultivate the conversation… smartly.
Sportsyapper, for example, allows users to enter a room with other likeminded fans. After following a series of pull-down menus (which sport? which team? which game?), users find a “room” with other fans watching the same game.
It was probably wise on Yapper’s part to avoid the inevitable flame wars by not placing fans of opposing teams in the same room. For example if there is a Yankees versus Phillies game, you will only be in a room with other Yankees fans or vice-versa.
Users also have the option to view “all yapps” from all of the app’s users – which is a big Twitter-like stream of fan content from all types of fans watching their favorite teams.
To be sure, Twitter is still the king of global conversation. Even as I test drove through the Sportsyapper while watching my beloved Brooklyn Nets not live up to their full potential, I would switch over to my Twitter app to find a far more robust conversation around the #Nets hashtag.
Even Yapper takes advantage of Twitter’s API and can cross-post directly into that other larger platform, so users don’t feel the need to choose.
The Sportsyapper conversation did pick-up steam into the later parts of the game, but was decidedly less populated than Twitter (to be fair, the Islanders’ Yapper room seemed far more active).
Using Sportsyapper was like watching a local team at a bar and reacting to big plays as they happen. And there were some conversation among fans who appeared to be stangers. However, there appeared to be little must-see (or must-interact-with) content. The platform might benefit from creating arrangements with former athletes or local journalists to have a more intimate and insightful conversation.
No mortal threat to Twitter
Twitter could easily blow all these other conversation apps out of the water by cloistering their website and mobile app around certain discussions. Should any of these sites begin to take off, Twitter may finally be forced to balance their growth into developing markets with the ability to serve modern mobile consumers.
Until then, Twitter will happily move on like the world froze in #2006.
(There may be a few slightly-NSFW cuss words in this video about the preferred Sportsyapper demo.)
By Evan Dashevsky, TechHive.
Evan lives in Brooklyn, NY and enjoys writing about what future may hold and taking long romantic walks on the beach.