Raptr Shows How Social Networks Can Get More Personal

Raptr, a social networking service for gamers with 8.5 million users, isn’t about to topple Facebook anytime soon. But with its latest update today, it’s showing some interesting ways in which it’s using what it knows about its members to create tailored experiences that cut through a lot of noise. In the process, it’s showing how social networking can evolve to be even more personal.
The new update includes a personalized news feed with content provided by readers, similar to Digg or Reddit. It can be gaming news stories, videos, and artwork. That in itself isn’t that interesting. But what’s cool is that Raptr is creating very personalized news feeds for people that take into account all the information it has on users, and it’s pretty extensive. Raptr users are able to share their progress in console games by integrating their accounts from PlayStation Network (s sne) and Xbox Live (s msft). And through a desktop client, Raptr is able to capture data on online gameplay by users, too.
It will now use this mountain of data to create a stream that is unique to a person, based on where they are in certain games, what kind of titles they like to play and what platforms they use. For example, a player who just bought a new title might not be interested in reviews anymore, so Raptr won’t surface many stories like that in the news feed. But if they get stuck at a certain point, which Raptr can sense, it can start to push out more game guide information to help them through it. When a player is nearing the end of a game, Raptr can then start pushing out more content about sequels or similar titles that might interest that user. Users can also vote stories up or down to help surface better content. Raptr is also introducing a new game suggestion engine for users, which will also be powered by its database.
CEO and Founder Dennis Fong, who previously co-founded of Xfire, Lithium, and Gamers.com, said Raptr is, at its heart, a data company. He said Raptr tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions and more than a billion minutes of gameplay each month. And now it’s putting it to use to improve the Raptr experience.
“We’re trying to solve a fundamental problem on the web. There’s too much noise and what we’re looking to do is use data to filter out that noise so you only see the content you care about,” he said.
This reminds me a little of My6Sense, a personalized news reader app that released a Chrome (s goog) extension for Twitter in February. The extension takes into account who a user follows, what topics they follow, and what links they’ve opened and retweeted to create a re-ordered view of the Twitter stream. This is what social networks need to do more of. They have a lot of user data, but it could be used not just to serve up ads but also improve the user experience. I’d like to have the option of getting a reformatted news feed that takes into account my connections to people, what fits my interest, and what’s trending now instead of just straight news. Facebook’s top news tab does that to some extent, surfacing content from favorite friends, but it also just displays items that are being commented on or liked a lot, regardless of whether I’m close to that person or the topic interests me. I think more can be done to make these personal sites feel even more so.
Raptr, which has raised $27 million to date, isn’t actively trying to make money from its users right now. There are no ads, though you can imagine that will be a lucrative business at some point based on the information it has. But I like how it’s thinking about data. It isn’t trying to use its data right now to shove ads at people. It’s focused first on putting that data to work so a user comes away with a better experience.