It all started with a lighthearted debate between husband and wife that ended in a draw, both sides claiming their friends would agree that they were right. “Of course they would,” each thought, recognizing friends could hardly be relied upon to render an impartial judgement. But from this stalemate emerged an idea: in our increasingly digital age, wouldn’t it be something if there were a virtual space to go where groups of people could provide a ruling?
The next step was to figure out how to apply this inspiration to the business world. Blair Naughty, the husband side of that fortuitous quarrel, took the idea to friend and seasoned technology entrepreneur Bill McGraw, whose advice was to run with the concept but focus it on a particular set of consumers prone to taking sides.
Long story short, the two now run FanDom Sports Media Corp. (CSE:FDM), Naughty as CEO and McGraw as president.
FanDom’s business revolves around an app and supporting network that aims to function as the global center for sports chat. “You won’t come to FanDom to find out the score,” explains McGraw. “You’ll come to FanDom to find out what people are saying about the score.”
The FanDom concept goes well beyond conventional comment streams, its basic framework designed to supply the one element all high-traffic mobile apps need – a compulsion loop. In layman’s terms, the compulsion loop is the particular thing about an app that keeps people coming back. It’s what prevents you from putting down the game you are playing, even though you know that there are more productive things you could be doing with your time.
Compulsion loops are pretty complex things, based on a deep understanding of the sociology of your core user base. For FanDom, the compulsion loop is an environment in which users essentially become players who compete in multiple ways to determine a result important to them as sports fans.
FanDom users will vote on arguments, taking one side or the other and betting on the outcome with virtual currency. But don’t mistake this for a gambling app, because that’s definitely not what it is.
All FanDom users will initially receive virtual currency to use for betting on debates. The more you contribute to discussions and the better you are at choosing winners, the more currency you will stockpile and the higher your standing will be on the platform.
There are many personality profiles to whom this could appeal, but imagine the sports enthusiast who thinks he knows just as much, if not more, about his favorite teams as the pundits…or even the coaches. On FanDom, you’ll not only get to offer your opinion in the comment streams but also wager on and influence the outcomes of debates on a variety of topics. Think you’re right? Prove it.
“Our initial challenge will be to ensure we have enough content,” says McGraw. “If I vote on eight or nine topics during my morning commute and then look again at lunchtime, there had better be some different opinions in there, because if it is the same ones I’ll conclude that this isn’t much fun.”
Getting off to a strong start will surely be important, and while the app itself is only just heading into beta phase, the game plan for quickly establishing a committed user base is ready to go.
Part of the plan is to dovetail the initial app launch with primetime on the sports calendar.
“Football is starting soon, as well as hockey and then basketball, and of course we have the Major League Baseball playoffs,” explains McGraw. “We have a pre-launch plan that will integrate with events at some major universities. We’d look to do a regional launch in Southern California, then move to the top 15 to 20 population centers in the United States. From there it should begin to generate its own momentum.”
Once critical mass is reached, McGraw says that FanDom has multiple monetization levers it can pull, some conventional, such as online advertising, and others reflecting the unique dynamics of the FanDom app. Examples in the latter category could include sponsorships when FanDom builds discussions around a major sports figure who participates actively on the platform.
Merchandising is another opportunity. “With some things you end up making more money by tying what goes on in the app to what is going on offline,” says McGraw. “I have been doing this for many years and can tell you that there is no magic bullet. You just have to go back in day after day and look for a new place to generate traffic and monetize. You have to let the content people do what they do, and another side of the team has to become the monetization engine.”
Scores of apps are put on the Apple and Android stores every day, but a miniscule percentage have the quality of team behind them that FanDom enjoys. McGraw has stickhandled the launches of over 30 games and mobile apps. Other team members bring decades of game development, online marketing, athlete management and branding experience. The athletes McGraw says the company is lining up participation agreements with are almost all household names. The potential for creating buzz is enormous.
The trick will be to take that buzz and shape it in such a way as to leverage it optimally for FanDom, its users, as well as its athlete participants and their sponsors, a process that will require observation plus more than a little trial and error. “My experience tells me that whatever we end up building, the consumer will use it in different ways than we anticipate. Or the areas we did not think would be that popular will be, or vice versa. Having the team in place that we do gives us the best cut at it to begin with and then we can iterate on that as we go.”
An important aspect of the platform McGraw is confident predicting the course of, however, is that FanDom automatically roots out users who behave inappropriately, which will be welcome news to anyone who has noticed that sports comment streams often devolve into personal bicker-fests. “We will have some moderation of comments, but the testing we have done shows that the whole point of coming to FanDom is to vote ideas up or down,” says McGraw. “Selfish, misogynistic or threatening comments simply fall down the stream and get no attention, because there is no reason to vote on them.”
That will be significant because part of the plan calls for extending beyond the mobile screens of individual users to the televisions in venues where broadcasts are viewed by the public. Think fans at a bar in Boston debating with their counterparts in Los Angeles ahead of a big game between teams from the two cities.
On a bus, on a train, in the airport lounge or sitting at home with your pals, FanDom aims to give everyday people a chance to be part of the action. Perhaps not to the point of donning a uniform and stepping on the field, but to have a voice in an arena with rules, time limits and participants of varying skill is in some ways like an actual game. Real sports fans care passionately about their teams. McGraw is betting that many of them will care enough to carry that passion into FanDom.This story was originally published at www.proactiveinvestors.com on Sep 7, 2016 and featured in The CSE Quarterly.
Learn more about FanDom Sports Media at http://www.fandomsportsmedia.com/ and on the CSE website at http://thecse.com/en/listings/technology/fandom-sports-media-corp