By day, Nate Ende and Craig Smith are business partners, running a conversion optimization and SEO agency called Trinity Insight. They’re also sport fans – Smith a diehard Philly guy and Ende a lifelong supporter of teams from Chicago, his former hometown before ending up in Rochester, MN.
Hailing from a couple rough-and-tumble sports cities such as those, Ende and Smith know that achieving friendly, intellectual banter surrounding their favorite teams can be a challenge. This has proven true in the online space, where Facebook’s interface hardly lends itself to quality sports discourse and Twitter lacks focused, threaded conversations.
And so, drawing from their extensive professional backgrounds in user experience, they set out to create Fanland, a sports conversation engine that puts the fan in the role of broadcaster.
“The way everything is currently set up, with ESPN and stuff like that, you’re digesting content that’s pushed toward you, and it doesn’t really include the user as part of the publishing process,” says Ende. “Fanland has an opportunity here to kind of flip that a little bit.”
These gentlemen certainly aren’t the first to recognize the shortcomings of major social media platforms as destinations for the massive demographic known as sports fans. Ende readily acknowledges that they’re entering a crowded market. But Fanland includes a number of features that he believes separate it from the pack.
On your first visit, you’ll immediately notice that the site is extremely simple and straightforward. It features a minimalist design and there are no hoops to jump through. You set up an account, select your favorite teams, and immediately start interacting with other fans.
The segmentation aspect is one of Fanland’s key differentiators. You’ll be grouped with like-minded fans, helping to eliminate the trash talking and apathy that Ende said defined his Facebook experience as a Minnesotan rooting for teams from a rival town.
“We wanted to make something that was common based on something you share passionately, which is love for a team,” says Ende.
The platform is also built around a system where users can accrue points through active use of the site. They’ll be able to use those points as currency to bet on outcomes of games with other users. The points will also be integrated into Fanland’s advertising system down the line, earning users specials with sponsor merchandisers.
To that end, Ende is confident that if the site gains traction, the ad profits will come. Sports fans are a targeted niche, especially when segmented regionally, making this type of platform attractive to advertisers.
There’s much work to be done. Fanland just launched in August and was programmed using LAMP (at some point they hope to convert to a complete cloud-based system). There hasn’t been a real marketing push yet. Ende says he’d like to start pushing some ads here in the fourth quarter, and possibly form promotional partnerships with athletes that have a large social following.
Procuring funding is an important step that would greatly aid that marketing push. Fanland will be presenting at the MinneDemo event in Rochester on October 11 with the hope of attracting potential investors.