London-based start-up Betwire has taken an innovative approach to news gathering. It aggregates and curates news stories about sports and politics (both the pursuit by men of a much cherished goal at the expense of vanquished opponents) according to punters’ behaviour at online betting exchanges. The Betwire website uses the market data to offer an overview of how a particular story is changing over time.
The site launched in May 2015 and co-founders Alex Dabell and Jai Madhvani hope it sits in the sweet spot between a news site and a betting exchange.
“Digital media organisations have plenty of content and a big readership, but struggle to monetise these customers,” says Dabell. “In other words they have distribution but no revenue. The gambling sites are the mirror opposite: an active customer is valuable but they struggle with distribution. You don't browse a gambling site, you make your bet and leave.”
That’s where Betwire comes in. The site brings together the news and the market information (bookmakers’ odds), using the changing odds like a stock exchange.
If the price of a company’s stocks rose or fell suddenly, you’d expect an interesting news article.
“When BP blows up an oil rig in the Mexican Gulf you will clearly see the significance of the event for BP by having a look at their stock prices,” says Dabell. “Through the stock price change, the media can put the event in perspective.”
Similarly, when the bookmakers’ odds on the outcome of a sporting (or political) event change, it indicates that something newsworthy has happened.
Betwire generates graphs that show the changing market data, using odds from Betfair’s – the world’s largest internet betting exchange – and turning these odds into an implied percentage. Tags then pull related mainstream media articles to explain and inform the user about the data involved.
“Market price moves and news stories belong together,” says Dabell. “A news story gives you qualitative information about a specific event, but it is difficult using the news to get an idea about how something is doing over time, or how to put the story in perspective, how to compare different news stories.”
“We put the market data through an algorithm that gives all the markets a kind of ‘excitement score’, which allows us to push the most interesting markets to the top of the homepage,” says Dabell.
Exciting stories come from the odds that are changing the most.
“An odd is an aggregate of opinion, so there is some crowd wisdom there,” says Dabell. “I think there is an intellectual honesty behind the motives of people who put money on an outcome.”