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August 09 2010

14:30

GameChanger sees a business model in baseball scores

One of the truisms of the paid-content conversation is that sports information — game scores, analysis, team-specific details — is one of the few types of content that, online as everywhere else, people will happily pay for. And sports sites (ESPN, Scout, Rivals) are putting that truism to work. Which is to say, financial gain.

There’s another platform that wants to be part of that league. GameChanger is trying to monetize not just sports-related content, but sports scoring in general. Via, in particular, a mobile app that coaches and other scorekeepers can use to tabulate the scores of their games. And which they can also use — here’s where we get interested — to automatically distribute those scores to local media.

If you’ve been waiting for the day that the Nieman Journalism Lab discusses the future of news as it relates to Little League…here it is.

GameChanger was designed to solve two problems, the company’s CEO, Ted Sullivan, told me: first, the “archaic” nature of baseball and softball scorekeeping; and second, the challenge fans face in following games remotely, in real time. (Sullivan played baseball in college, and went on to play in the minor leagues — before changing course and getting a degree from the Harvard Business School.) The first problem is an old one, and other apps are attacking it too. To solve the second problem, the platform facilitates targeted — highly targeted — crowdsourcing: via the GameChanger app, baseball and softball scorekeepers use their iPhones or iPads to file the detailed scores of their games, in real time. Those data then get beamed to GameChanger’s central servers, which tally up box scores.

While that means that parents and other interested parties will be able to follow games in real time, online and via text updates, it also means that local news sites have an easy, real-time-accurate piece of sports content that they can embed, via GameChanger’s widget, on their sites. (It works similarly to the Outside.in model of hyperlocal content-sharing.) GameChanger makes money — or, hopes to — though revenue-sharing arrangements with its media partners.

The idea, Sullivan told me, is “to monetize the output side, not the input side.”

GameChanger also markets itself to individuals using a classic freemium model: for free, a fan or follower of a particular team can set up an email alert containing simply the score of the game. If they want SMS updates, though — or updates (hello, parents) having to do with a particular player — they have to pay. The model leverages the classic benefits of sports content: Little League scores, being hyperlocal, are exclusive; they’re also time-sensitive. And there’s also the ostensibly large and committed consumer base: the millions of kids who play Little League every year, their friends, and, of course, their parents. It’s a bit of the old sell-the-Thin-Mints-to-Mom strategy, applied to niche news content.

Sullivan is all too aware of the myriad challenges that come with monetizing information — even, yes, niche information — online. But “we know people will pay for this content,” he says. “I think it’s a rare type of news content that people will pay for.”

Image by Ed Yourdon used under a Creative Commons license.

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