February 4th, 2010

USA Today Jumps into Fantasy Mag Market

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Anyone shopping for fantasy baseball draft guides this week will find a new entry into the space from an outlet with a familiar name.

For the first time, USA Today has produced a glossy fantasy baseball preview magazine, which was available for sneak peek at last week’s Fantasy Sports Trade Association “experts” draft (and a big help to those of us who might have come less prepared).

“The baseball guide is part of an overall magazine strategy,” USA Today fantasy sports editor Pete O’Brien told FSB.com. “We’re launching a variety of new magazines this year covering several topics. Given USA Today’s national reach and historical importance in the development of fantasy sports, fantasy magazines were a very logical part of the magazine program.”

Entering such a market figures to be a challenge, as multiple existing producers of fantasy magazines target breaking even in cost of production. CBS Sports saw fit in recent seasons to take its preview magazines off the shelves and present them in electronic form only.

Still, the myriad publications that continue to show up must mean that there is money to be made, and it’s tough to find fault with the quality of USA Today’s debut.

In addition to the common features such as player capsules and position rankings, as well as writing from USA Today and fantasy veteran Steve Gardner, the magazine presents articles from a number of reputable fantasy outlets. Writers from KFFL, Baseball HQ, Baseball-Reference.com, Mastersball, RotoExperts, Fantasy Pros 911 and KeeperLeagueGM.com all join the USA Today staff.

It doesn’t take tireless tracking of the fantasy industry to conclude that a fair amount of baseball knowledge resides within that group. What might be less obvious, though, is that every one of those sites is a member of Fantasy Sports Ventures’ Fantasy Players Network.

“Gannett owns a piece of FSV and we are happy to collaborate with them in print, radio and television,” O’Brien said, referring to USA Today’s parent company. “We’ve worked with FSV in football, baseball and basketball for both fantasy and non-fantasy content.”

What this and other forays — O’Brien said a fantasy football guide will show up later this year as well — ultimately mean for the company’s bottom line will remain to be seen. At the least, though, the addition of fantasy magazines shows the commitment to the fantasy sports segment of the business in a dying market for newspapers.