Posts Tagged ‘football diehards’

Magazine Producers Need Labor Resolution by NFL Draft

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Anyone who hopes to watch NFL games in 2011 obviously first has to hope for a new labor deal. If your business includes producing fantasy football magazines, the timeline for such a deal becomes even more important.

The developments — or relative lack thereof — over the past week of negotiations brings that issue into focus. The NFL and its players association extended last week the collective-bargaining deadline, pausing a potential chain of events that could have led to months in the courtroom.

According to’s Jim Trotter, negotiations nearly reached the breaking point before the extension. That would seem to enhance the importance of this week’s talks in avoiding a summer-long feud, which would crush the fantasy-magazine market for 2011.

Periodical producers have to be on pins and needles this week, right? Well, although all are certainly watching with interest, most have their eyes trained harder on NFL Draft weekend.

“This week on its own does not mean much if there was another week extension and then a deal,” RotoWorld managing editor Gregg Rosenthal told “It will be business as usual as long as there is NFL free agency before the NFL Draft.”

That notion was echoed by RotoWire president Peter Schoenke: “I think the NFL draft is probably a bigger deadline because it’s around the time we usually put together all the specifics for the magazine and we’ll need to see how much the editorial may suffer without off-season transactions.”

That’s the key issue in fantasy circles. The national media might be focused more on the negotiating stumbling blocks, the whereabouts of NFLPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler and the impact it all could have on the 2011 season.

We, however, need free agents to settle somewhere — even more so than usual. The no-CBA rules of 2010 changed the timeline for a league veteran reaching unrestricted free agency, and the result is a free-agent class of more than 500 players. It’s hard enough in a normal NFL calendar to project the outlook for hundreds of players and 32 team situations months ahead of time. Right now, content producers don’t even have the colors necessary to paint those pictures.

“Right now I’m researching cover subjects and the uncertainty of numerous potential free agents makes that a tougher task than in the past,” said Matt McKenzie, the lead editor for Sporting News’ Fantasy Football yearbook. “It also doesn’t help when it comes to our team reports, as there are some teams that have major holes across the board, which makes it hard to key in on their fantasy focuses.”

Of course, any delay that the labor issues shove into the off-season calendar will affect production schedules and could shrink the window for sales. The relative upside — very relative — is that this issue didn’t surprise NFL followers.

We’ve known for two years that winter 2011 would likely bring acrimony, and companies have had time to think about how to treat a potential lockout.

“We have been working under the assumption that a lockout is inevitable,” said Mitch Light, managing editor for Athlon Sports. “This negotiation extension gives us some hope, we still have to plan for all different scenarios.

Light said that his staff is in the process of setting a “drop-dead” date for production to start.

“If the lockout drags on for too long it just doesn’t make sense for us to publish a fantasy magazine,” he said. “Once we come up with that date, we will just sit back and wait.”

Others, however, plan to go to press whether the bickering has ended or not.

“Unfortunately, there’s not much to do but move forward the best we can,” McKenzie said for the SN magazine. “Some of the articles and capsules will have to be written a little looser than years before given the unknown free-agent situation, but I have no doubt we can still put out a quality magazine.”

Rosenthal shared a similar sentiment, relaying RotoWorld’s plan to publish even in an NFL standstill. He did point out, though, that a long struggle could lead to just a single edition being produced rather than the normal two-edition cycle.

Fantasy Index co-owner Bruce Taylor said his company has changed its contract structure for advertisers this year to suit the NFL situation. Normally a “cash-basis business,” Index is instead selling ad space in its fantasy football magazine on a “bill-me-later basis.”

“If the players and owners reach a settlement prior to the NFL draft, then we’ll execute the contracts,” Taylor said. “If an agreement is reached after the NFL draft but before May 15, then we’ll publish as usual, but likely with a smaller press run and a shorter on-sale period. We will reduce our advertising rates in direct proportion with the reduction in press run, and we’ll give advertisers the option to cancel their insertion orders.”

Smaller sales windows and downward adjustments in advertising rates are clearly scenarios that all hope not to encounter. The magazine business is tough enough these days, and fantasy content providers likely face an uphill battle to generate profits from these publications under normal conditions.

This will be a telling week for many throughout our industry, whether it ends with a labor deal or not. A new collective bargaining agreement by Friday would be the ideal, so that all could proceed with annual off-season plans. A further extension would mean more waiting and building anxiety, though it would also foster hope of a deal before the draft. Of course, a breakdown-lockout-lawsuit finish would be bad news.

For now, Fantasy Sports Publications founder Emil Kadlec says it’s not worth dissecting every step of the bargaining process.

“We’re obviously watching with great interest but whether a deal is done this week isn’t vital to our plans,” he told “We believe the deal will be done by the NFL draft which would fit well into our normal timeframe. Worst case, if needed, a one or two week on-sale date change is the most logical contingency. I think it’s best not to get caught up in the day-to-day drama of negotiations.”


FSWA Announces 2010 Writing Award Finalists

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The Fantasy Sports Writers Association has announced the finalists for its seventh annual writer awards, and, as usual, RotoWire is all over the list.

The fantasy content hub drew 19 total nominations, including one for its baseball print magazine and seven categories in which at least two staffers will be competing against each other. Among those, RotoWire placed at least two entrants into writer of the year categories for baseball, basketball, hockey, auto racing and college sports. and Yahoo! Sports tied for second most nominations, with each garnering six. Yahoo’s list included one for its baseball magazine.

ESPN nabbed four finalist spots, Sporting News grabbed three and showed up twice. Football Diehards rounded out the multiple-nomination field with two entries in the category for best football magazine.

Individuals up for multiple awards include …

- Yahoo!’s Andy Behrens (best football Web article, football print article and humor article)
- RotoWire’s David Regan (baseball writer of the year, baseball series and baseball Web article)
- ESPN’s Tristan Cockcroft (baseball writer of the year and baseball Web article)
- RotoWire’s Derek VanRiper (baseball writer of the year and baseball Web article)
- RotoExperts’ Chris Ryan (baseball series and humor article)

It’s worth noting that the FSWA changed its judging procedure this time around. For the past couple of years, the board of directors was in charge of whittling the entire class of entries down to finalists in each category, passing those along to a trio of journalism professors to decide on the winners.

In 2010, however, the professors took on the whole judgment process, grading all entries on a 100-point scale. Thus, the finalists in each category represent the top three finishers in the grading.

The full rundown of finalists appears below. Winners will be announced the night of Jan. 25 as part of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association winter conference.

Football Writer of the Year
Ladd Biro, The Sporting News
Dave Richard, CBS Sports
Matt Schauf,

Best Football Series
Ryan Bonini, KFFL
Michael Fabiano,
Mike Gilbert, RotoExperts

Best Football Article on the Web
Andy Behrens, Yahoo! Sports
Christopher Harris, ESPN
Tim McCullough, RotoExperts

Best Football Article in Print
Andy Behrens, Yahoo! Sports
Cory Bonini, KFFL
Matt Waldman, Football Guys

Best Football Print Publication
Football CheatSheets
Football Diehards
Sports Illustrated

Baseball Writer of the Year
Tristan Cockcroft, ESPN
David Regan, RotoWire
Derek VanRiper, RotoWire

Best Baseball Series
Matt Lutovsky, The Sporting News
David Regan, RotoWire
Chris Ryan, RotoExperts

Best Baseball Article on the Web
Tristan Cockcroft, ESPN
David Regan, RotoWire
Derek VanRiper, RotoWire

Best Baseball Article in Print
Brent Hershey, Baseball HQ
Chris Liss, RotoWire
Jeff Stotts, RotoWire

Best Baseball Print Publication
The Sporting News
Yahoo! Sports

Basketball Writer of the Year
Carson Cistulli, RotoWire
Shannon McKeown, RotoWire
Brian McKitish, ESPN

Hockey Writer of the Year
Evan Berofsky, RotoWire
Jan Levine, RotoWire
Janet Eagleson, RotoWire

Racing Writer of the Year
Adam Ansell, RotoExperts
C.J. Radune, RotoWire
Mark Taylor, RotoWire

College Sports Writer of the Year
Brad Evans, Yahoo! Sports
Chris Morgan, RotoWire
Jesse Siegel, RotoWire

Golf Writer of the Year
John McNamara, RotoWorld
Scott Pianowski, Yahoo! Sports
Greg Vara, RotoWire

Newcomer of the Year
Jake Ciely, RotoExperts
Mario Puig, RotoWire
Lane Rizzardini, Bruno Boys Fantasy Football

Best Humor Article
Andy Behrens, Yahoo! Sports
John Paulsen, Bulls-Eye
Chris Ryan, RotoExperts


Personal Profile: Bob Harris

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Name: Bob Harris
Job title(s): Senior Editor at Fantasy Sports Publications Inc.
Full-time in fantasy? Yes
Age: 47
Education: Just enough to be dangerous
Family status: Single (who would have me?)
Favorite fantasy sport to play: Football
Favorite sport to watch: MMA
Favorite team (any sport): None
All-time favorite athlete: None
Years playing fantasy: 23
I got my start in the fantasy industry when: I got tired of turning on the television Sunday mornings only to find players listed as probable in the paper on Thursday and Friday weren’t able to play.

Since then, my fantasy résumé includes: I started the TFL Report, in 1993, serving as editor and webmaster. I joined Fantasy Sports Publications, Inc. in 1997. My work has been prominently displayed in all four FSP Fantasy annuals — Fantasy Football Pro Forecast, Fantasy Football Diehards, Fantasy Football Cheatsheets and the Fantasy Football DraftBook — since.

I wrote a weekly column for from 2001-07; also ran weekly content I created in 2007.

In 2005, I was named the first-ever Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Three questions

1) If you’ve been making your living in fantasy sports since 1993, what did you do before that? How did you go about generating sustainable income from the TFL Report right from the start?

I was a graphic designer working on retainer for a single customer - leaving plenty of free time while more than covering expenses. I used the free time (and money earned) to create, publish and market the TFL Report. The publication itself came very close to breaking even (thanks to considerable sweat equity and swapping out of design work, etc.).

Looking back, it’s safe to say sustainable income is different now than it was then. Some would argue it wasn’t sustainable then. But I was so convinced this whole “fantasy thing” would take off at some point, I didn’t pay much attention to the initial income.

2) I’ve been told that you’ve helped some others make their way into and up through the fantasy sports industry. Through your work as an editor and experienced writer, as well as your role in creating the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, do you see yourself as a mentor to younger entrants into the industry? If so, what do you try to impart to those just starting out?

I went to great lengths early on to help others in the field because I believed the better we looked as a group the more viable we became as an industry.

Now that we’ve established that viability, I focus on reminding newcomers who the “experts” are. I have always worked under the assumption my readers are the “experts” and that my job is helping them achieve the desired level of expertise. In other words, I’m not the expert. I’d prefer “professional.”

I know it’s more difficult to get recognized and make a name for yourself these days, but I firmly believe my approach is the reason I’m still doing this - and making a reasonable living at it - 17 years in.

So, bring it strong; be flamboyant; get noticed. … But remember: You’re not going to fool this audience. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

3) How have the expansion of the fantasy sports landscape and the proliferation of available content changed your job? Has increased competition made it any harder to draw in and retain readers?

Being established before the “explosion” has helped. I had a chance to earn the trust of readers well in advance of the boom. That audience is loyal.

Is it harder to bring in new readers? Oh yes. Hey, there are a lot of very talented people in this business now. It’s a battle to prove your ability to deliver the goods and retain the credibility necessary to stand out. That fight is something I love getting up and doing every single day.

Bonus: What did/does TFL stand for? Also — related or not — your e-mail handle is “unstable.” Should we be worried?

TFL is “The Fantasy League” — as in The Fantasy League Report. The “unstable” thing was a better fit back in the ’90s. I settled down a bit since.


The Rest of the FSWA Winners

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Yesterday we spotlighted the companies that claimed multiple plaques at the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards ceremony, but there were seven other honors handed out Tuesday.

Here are the victors in those remaining categories, as well as the other finalists with whom they competed:

Football Writer
Andy Behrens, Yahoo Sports
Jay Clemons, Sports Illustrated
Jeff Pasquino, Footballguys

Football Print Article
Dan Grogan, Athlon

Ginny Loveless, Football Diehards
Matt Waldman, Football Diehards

Football Print Publication
CBS Sports/Pro Football Weekly

Baseball Print Article
Andy Behrens, Yahoo Sports
Jason Grey, ESPN
Tim Heaney, KFFL

Baseball Web Article
Jeff Erickson, RotoWire
David Gonos, Open Sports
Eno Sarris, Baseballguys

Hockey Writer
Sean Allen, ESPN
Janet Eagleson, RotoWire
Scott Pianowski, Yahoo Sports

Humor Article
Jeremy Fisher, Fantasy Football Trader
Lenny Pappano, Draft Sharks
Geoffrey Stein, Mock Draft Central