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Q&A with Paul Charchian
The News

Paul Charchian, as most of you know, is an industry pioneer who currently serves as president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Paul is also the owner of LeagueSafe, a radio and podcast regular, and generally one of the busiest people in the fantasy industry. He recently took the time to answer questions from the FSWA about the launch of Fanball 2.0. 

 

 

 Q. Back in the day, Fanball was an inventive, pioneering fantasy site with a stellar commissioner product. And then it went away. And now it's back, with a daily focus. What can you tell us about the differences between the Fanball of old and Fanball 2.0? 


A:  The original Fanball (going all the way back to our first year, 1993) was built on elite content. We started as a weekly magazine (Fantasy Football Weekly), which evolved into Fanball.com.  I’m proud to say that Fanball.com’s content staff was, as far as I know, the biggest in the industry at the time. Great content propelled us to a big user base, which propelled us to great adoption of our commissioner product and contests.


We always put a premium on “infotainment”.  Our content was littered with cultural references, jokes, and silliness. We hired guys who could meet that critieria, or at least make a lot of poop jokes. 


Fanball 2.0 is following that footprint. We have a large staff of seasoned content producers and I believe our content (free, btw) will ultimately lead to strong adoption of our other products.


 

Q. Introduce us to a few of your writers, please. It's an impressive and accomplished crew. 


A: I’ve brought back some of my favorite people from Fanball and LeagueSafe. John Tuvey runs our content department. John has worked with me since 1999. Bo Mitchell was one of our earliest hires, back in 1997, and he’s contributing as well. Those guys grew up with our style of writing, and they know how we want to deliver our content.


Many people know Scott Fish from his wildly popular Scott Fish Bowl. We’ve given him his first full time job in the industry. Scott brings both fantasy analysis and behind-the-scenes coding skills to our content team. He’s been focused on dynasty play, and he’s running our empire leagues at SafeLeagues.com.


Jay Clemons tells me that he won the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year FSWA award—something you can verify. [Note: Jay did, in fact, win. He regularly reminds the rest of us of this fact.] He’s worked for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the Detroit Lions over the last 12 years. For years, he and I have been tag-teaming a lot of radio stations together, and he’s agreed to move to Minneapolis to work with us.


Q. What is it about this transitional moment in the industry that made you decide to restart now?


A: We’re zigging when everyone else is zagging. Everyone is writing off the DFS industry, but we believe that DFS is incredibly compelling when handled correctly.  We’re introducing a new safeguard, called the Fanball Number, which assigns a skill number to each user, and ensures that they play against similarly-skilled players.


And, we’re going to break the mold of traditional salary cap games, with a spectrum of ways to play (although our first game to market will be salary cap game).


I also chose this moment because of my long-standing relationship with Rob Phythian, my co-founder of Fanball 1.0 and 2.0. He’s an FSTA hall of famer, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner for this venture.


Q. As most members no doubt know, you're also the president of the FSTA and a prime spokesperson for the fantasy industry. What's the biggest initiative for the association in the year ahead, and how can content companies and individual analysts get involved?


A: It’s not content related, but my biggest initiative as FSTA president is to help fantasy companies with payment processing.  Most processors have dropped the entire category—including sites that don’t offer contests.  Even content providers are having trouble with payment processing. 


The payment industry is littered with misconceptions about fantasy play, so we need to find ways to ensure that our members have processing options.


Q. When many of us started out in fantasy, the job was purely writing. We hammered out 3000-word running back manifestos 2-3 times per week, but were rarely seen. Today, it's every imaginable form of media, some of which did not exist in, say, 1997. What's the best advice you can give to someone trying to launch a career as a content producer today?


A: Because I’m a dinosaur (utahraptor, to be specific), I remember those pre-internet days with 3,000-word count articles. I miss those days, but the reality is that people don’t want to consume information that way. They want short bites and infographics. The most common content length is a single paragraph, as we react to news or offer player projections.


Today’s content producers need to be able to handle three things: the written word, the spoken word and video.  And, I need them to be entertaining. Increasingly I want people who can handle the technology needed to get the products published too.  I think everyone on the team has a variety of weekly radio station appearances as well.


For anyone new to the industry, I’d focus on developing all three skills equally.  These days, you can produce great video content, including building a set in your home, for under $1,000. You can create a great sounding podcast for under $200 in gear.  And, writing your blog is nearly free.


Lastly, I’d find an under-represented angle, and specialize in it. 10 years ago, you could have specialized in dynasty leagues. But now you’ll have to get much more granular. Then, it’s mostly a matter of being disciplined enough to stick with it.  Great, unique content will get noticed in time, if you produce it regularly.