In case you missed it, yesterday TruMedia Networks launched TruFan, a social media platform for local sports fan communities. The platform will power fan communities in 122 markets and you can check out SawxHeads or CeltsHeads for sample communities that live on the TruFan platform.
The platform includes standard community features such as profiles, blogs, pictures, and videos, as well as a ticket marketplace (powered by AceTickets.com) that enables fans to buy and sell tickets. Very cool idea with the ticket marketplace, but I wonder about the long-term viability due to ticketing agreements teams have with the StubHubs and Ticketmasters of the world. The platform also enables the communities to have aggregation features, similar to a Digg or Reddit, so users can submit and vote on stories about their favorite teams. You can see more about the platform on TruMedia's website.
TruFan plans to monetize via advertising, merchandising, ticketing and sponsorships. A few weeks ago, I was able to have a conversation with TruMedia's CEO Rafe Anderson about the platform and where they're going with it. See below for some of my notes from the conversation.
More about TruFan
Their focus is really on the local scene, enabling fans to keep up with their favorite teams, no matter where they live. One thing they're doing is helping to support local media properties---for example, they have a partnership with Boston.com to power fan vs. fan debates, known as Slugfests. I think this is a great way for them to get some additional exposure while also helping local media websites stay relevant and become more engaging.
Facebook vs. TruFan
I asked Rafe something to the effect of "now that many teams are engaging fans on Facebook and MySpace, why do you think fans should join TruFan communities?" Rafe said that while Facebook is a great way for teams to communicate and market themselves, fans don't get the full benefit of local engagement there. TruFan's value lies in being able to provide an outlet for fans to connect around extremely niche content.
We discussed a little bit about the fact that there are sports communities (official team communities and individual startups) popping up everywhere. While Rafe said he thinks there is room for multiple players, he believes there will be a lot of consolidation over the next couple years. Online sports properties will be able to create a lot more value together than apart.
I think TruFan is on the right track by partnering with local media and focusing on scalability. They also seem to be thinking about the right things re: monetization.
The only concern I have is that as more teams have their own official communities and start paying more attention to them (if they can monetize successfully), will fans join these unofficial communities? Also, will sports teams themselves figure out how to partner with local media to share content? This question has been brought up before on Sports Marketing 2.0. How will this affect TruFan and other non-official team communities who want to do these types of partnerships?
There is probably room for multiple team communities in the same market (just as there is room for official and unofficial team websites, blogs, etc.). What do you think? I certainly don't have all the answers (I'm not sure anyone does), but certainly would like to hear your thoughts.
Special thanks to Rafe for taking the time to talk about TruFan and what they're doing.