Sneakily catching up on the NBA Draft or playoff action at work, checking a live blog of the Formula 1 qualifying whilst at another sporting event – anything to keep up with live conversation around sporting events.
A closer look at some of these live blogs and they’re generally powered by Arena.im, a San Francisco based company whose marketing and content platform takes all of those conversations, aggregates content from key partners and a myriad of sporting and social media sources into a real-time content stream.
Arena helps publishers and media companies digitally transform their native platforms and apps by bringing those conversations happening on social media, and all of the associated engagement, back to their assets.
Bringing and keeping audiences on a publisher’s media properties – apps, devices, websites – is a major function but the value extends to monetisation opportunities such as driving pay-per-view buys, hyping major events, encouraging users to buy products and subscriptions.
Locally, Australia’s Newscorp mastheads such as Fox Sports, Daily Telegraph and news.com.au utilise Arena’s platform for live news and sporting events.
To get more insight into the company and what they power, we spoke to Arena’s CEO Paulo Martins.
We’ll start with how Arena helps publishers and media properties?
Paulo Martins: “What we do is we aggregate content in real time and monitor the user experience so we know what fans like, what they do and what they’re talking about so we can understand their behaviour and help media companies to do the right marketing campaigns. We help them to do AdWord targeting, video marketing, newsletters, push notifications. It’s a more efficient way of communicating with their audience.
“We have partnerships with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google and a bunch of content providers that we can apply our technology to.”
I’ve come across Arena’s branding on a number of Australian mastheads, so it appears there is some very good organic, global reach.
PM: “We have partnerships with a lot of different publishers and media companies, we work with Turner, MSN, Sportsnet in Canada, so anytime a user or potential customer comes to our platform it’s mostly because they’ve seen Arena’s branding embedded on a website or mobile app.
“It works for any website in the world so we’re a natural global company, it works in say Japan where we have customers like The Japan Times, we even work with Sony Music which of course isn’t sports but it’s real-time content that can be used to get more users, more engagement and convert visitors to buyers.”
You mentioned Sony Music so what other non-sporting examples have you had growth in?
PM: “We can go across different verticals like entertainment, music, events, breaking news, weather, for example a major hurricane is potentially impacting an area and news agencies or broadcasters want to get content from people in the field who have posted and uploaded content to Twitter and Instagram you can use Arena to capture that content. One of our recent case studies right was Eurovision and, man I can tell you, it blew up with conversations and comments.
“We provide the tools that can engage the community and get people excited about Eurovision, that’s an example of the entertainment side that we helped grow.”
How do you adapt to new types of storytelling trends and demands both by the end user or publisher?
PM: “We’re a B2B company but we’re focussed on the B2C experience, that’s our mentality. We put ourselves in the place of the end user, we’re passionate about the consumer side and we understand their behaviour so everything we do we ask ourselves, ‘is this something I would use?’ The entire mentality through the company is, ‘would it be interesting for the end-user?’
“We start with ideas and thinking about our problems and secondly we work closely with those enterprise companies and they can help us to guide the product line. If there’s features or integrations they want, we can work on it. It’s 50/50 gut feeling and what the market requires.”
What is Arena’s competitive advantage? Why do you think your platform is a very good aggregator of content for publishers and broadcasters?
PM: “Firstly, Arena’s key competitive advantage is our capability to combine content and data in a real-time experience. It’s an automated and scalable process which gives us a unique position to help our enterprise customers to growth organically. Plus we have a couple of key partnerships with networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google to name a few.
“The second thing is we use machine learning technology with five algorithms that can discover, curate and distribute content based on geo-location, hashtags, keywords and image and video recognition. Before it goes viral we know what content will blow up because we can measure how fast content is growing in terms likes, shares, views over time.”
That would be amazing to see from your point-of-view. Do you have an example?
PM: “There was an earthquake that happened in Japan recently and people were shooting videos at street-level with people running through the streets, a lot of chaos and these on-the-ground videos were showing off the damage and disaster.
“We were able to automatically curate that content, so we do three things: search, curate and distribute that content automatically which helps companies get a better pulse of what is really happening, what is relevant, and before it reaches a big critical mass they already have the first signals that content is something special. This use case applies for any live events like sports, entertainment, news or tech.”
What did you learn in your brief time at Sports Tech Tokyo?
PM: “It was great, just a great experience and we’re fortunate to be close to the organisers, Scrum Ventures. When we went through the Techstars program a couple years ago we had a chance to network with them, have kept a good relationship with them which fortunately allowed us to be invited to join STT. One of the best things about the experience was the direct access to decision-makers, people involved with different sports – rugby, football, baseball – and television networks. Those are the people that we were looking for, people that can help showcase our product and allow us to discuss what value we can bring to them.”
You’ve already got presence in Japan, how will you build on that?
PM: “We know the Rugby World Cup is happening in September and we were already actively working with companies who want to develop a real-time experience and increasing engagement while an event happens. We have partnerships with data providers that can provide us with exclusive content plus our team can get content from fans and athletes. You put all that together and it’s a great combination to expand between media companies who are looking for rugby as a primary sport.
“That’s one reason why we’ve got an eye on expanding with federations and teams to help them get more fans to attend a game.”
Then looking at expansion across Asia, what opportunities are you excited by?
PM: “It’s just the amount of companies who are looking for an engagement solution. The Olympics is going to be a big deal but we’re motivated to work with more companies, not only in Japan but across Asia. We’re in 95 countries right now but Japan is our first big priority in Asia.”
As Arena is used in 95 countries is it difficult to keep a cohesive plan for growth without spreading the company too thin, or can you scale pretty quickly because of the platform that you’ve built?
PM: “We’re obviously aware of the multiple opportunities especially when you have large corporations who ask for so many features and if you start listening to everyone who is asking for specific features we start working out what the market really wants and what’s going to happen on the horizon.
“Major sports events are happening all the time, every weekend something is on, so we’re always looking at our sports calendar what’s going to be happening in the near future to map out the next three, six and 12 months.
“We have a roadmap towards those events to focus on specific features and integrations so the companies can utilise across the board regardless of whether they’re in the Czech Republic, Nigeria or Australia, Japan or Canada. It’s a horizontal marketing platform, we don’t have a specific market where we necessarily need to be, we want to be where live events are happening and in the moment.”