July 19th, 2009

Fantasy Fanatics Changes Course on Relaunch

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Sometimes you hit the Web with a new site and just keep plugging along. Other times, heading in a different direction makes more sense for any number of reasons.

In its first incarnation, FantasyFanatics.com went the route of the comprehensive fantasy site with articles, forums, rankings, etc.  Now, the site wants to see just how much of an expert you (or I or the dude who writes for that magazine) are.

“The new Fanatics is focused on a narrow but important and fairly unexplored slice of the industry — creating a rankings system that will uncover the best minds in the fantasy sports community,” founder Cal Spears told FSB.com. “The purpose of our games is twofold: one is to track who is the best fantasy prognosticator, … and the other is to create consensus, ‘crowd-sourced’ fantasy rankings.”

The site invites registered (for free) members to input their player rankings, which can be altered up until the start of the season and will then be tracked. The purpose, over time, will be to determine who is most successful in projecting fantasy performance.

FantasyFanatics.com plans to use the rankings-based competitions to compile a “Fantasy Skill Quotient” for each user, which will then be publicly viewable in user profiles and forum posts. The idea is that fantasy players searching for advice will be able to determine who among respondents actually seems to know what they’re talking about.

Another primary goal, Spears said, is to tap into the “wisdom of the crowd” by creating crowdsourced rankings for things like waiver-wire pickups. That way, a fantasy player trying to figure out which receiver to pick up as a bye-week filler can see who others are most commonly adding — or leaving alone.

“I’m a strong believer in harnessing the wisdom of the crowd,” Spears said. “I’m especially a strong believer in that wisdom when you can filter the crowd’s picks by those who are the best performers historically. Once we get some data rolling members will be able to filter crowd-sourced rankings lists by the top 10%, top 1%, or even bottom 10% of performers.

“If you’re struggling with a bye week waiver wire fill in decision in a deep league, just hop on Fanatics and check out who the crowd is picking up that week.”

Of course, building such historical data takes time. Particularly in football, where a season only comprises 16 games, it takes a few years to actually collect trustworthy information. The crowdsource concept — although it would still work with just a few good contributors — really relies on a plentiful base of users.

Helping FantasyFanatics.com at the outset is a deal with the World Championship of Fantasy Football, in which the top finisher in the rankings game wins an entry into next year’s main event. The WCOFF name helps add credibility to a basically new venture, while the prize itself provides obvious incentive for entrants.

Given that prize and the stated goal of the rankings game, our one critique is that FantasyFanatics.com includes only quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Although those are clearly the three most important positions in fantasy football, it seems that tight ends should be included — and maybe team defenses, too. The argument against defenses could be in nailing down a single scoring system among the countless variations out there, but scoring differs throughout fantasy on all fronts. Finding some common ground for defenses should be doable.

That aside, FantasyFanatics.com is also looking to get fantasy sites to jump into the mix by compiling media rankings for those who enter the site with which they’re affiliated. The FSTA-sponsored Accuracy Challenge began last year to track the results of preseason rankings among fantasy sites who chose to enter, but it never hurts to have another outlet serving that purpose.

Spears said the site will have all five rankings-based games ready for the coming season. As for how the site will make money, he said that’s not a primary worry at this stage.

“Monetization is not our focus at the moment,” he said. “We want to follow the same model we did with [poker-related site] PocketFives.com: build a cool site with great free products and get traffic. If we get the traffic the advertising deals and sponsorships will come along with it.”