As FTBpro rebrands to 90min, sportindustry.biz speaks to CEO and founder Asaf Peled about the ever-changing consumption of sport content and how to measure rapid growth.
How did the idea for 90min first come about?
Quite simply, we were a group of friends looking for our next adventure. We have all been doing start ups before, it’s a very entrepreneurial environment and we wanted to do a start up in consumer tech space, we are all big football fans, and we decided to start a company in this space because of that passion. We started researching the area, we found out that there are big traditional media brands in football, but not many strong technology ventures – nearly zero. This is a really interesting and passionate space with multibillion fan base and zero innovation, zero start ups, zero people investing in this space – when I say zero, it’s nearly zero. You can literally go and take a look at the most recent 5,000 backed start ups across any sector, you could only name a few football orientated ventures that have raised a few million dollars – so that was a significant opportunity for us – to innovate in a community and a new space. That’s where it all started.
We figured there had to be a strategic transition from journalist based content to fan based content. This is happening in a few American sports on the web but we decided to concentrate on football. There are so many football fans that are talented and have capacity to become journalists. If you give them the right platform they will give you the content for free so we can build a global platform that’s cross-language and gives us a huge advantage over traditional media who have to pay for all journalists and content – that’s why they don’t scale.
Sky, BBC etc are huge brands but local, country specific. They can’t scale globally due to the costs of going abroad previously mentioned but we can use the web – that’s where we saw the opportunity.
So you don’t pay for any of your content?
I would say we do share some money with a small number of contributors, for instance we run internship programmes where we pay for a few dollars per article – to cover costs. If they are great, we will start revenue share, perhaps, if they are generating them.
In a relatively small space of time you have grown massively, globally – what do you measure growth and success on, click through? Users?
We look at monthly users, certainly. All big media companies measure this number. We are currently on 12 million unique users; a year ago we were on about 2.5 million or so a month – it’s been a rapid growth. We are growing 3.5 times a year.
Secondly, we look at number of page views – it’s important to keep tabs on engagement levels of the users - we are currently at around 200 million, and a year ago it was more like 20 or 30 million page views a month.
Finally, the time on site is also important, it’s over 11 minutes per person on a desktop, slightly less on a mobile.
11 minutes-plus is a remarkably long session, what do you think is the secret to keeping people on your site?
Two main things – you have to differentiate, be different. Firstly, the content is by the fans but still high quality, this opens it up, democratises the content. It’s richer, juicer, no restrictions, the fans that cover the teams are usually fans of that team – which gives it authenticity – it’s liberal.
Secondly – maybe more importantly in long term – we find great content. We started with traditional blogs, but then over time we introduced more and more formats, interactive slide shows, widgets with team line ups, and we’re also about to release a next generation platform that allows for additional formats, such as social plugins. This will allow users to consume articles with social plugins such as twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We believe in revolutionising content or forms of content to make it richer for the consumer or contributors.
Sport consumption has been an ever changing movement for a few years now – and has become significantly more 24/7. Does this hand the advantage to online over a traditional TV or news channel?
Even between when we started three years ago, the world has changed in terms of how football fans consume. Desktop used to be significant, but mobile is all the time now. Football fans want to get something from you constantly, and if you are not able to provide it then you have to set up an operation to deliver it or you will lose them. Especially if you’re global, if it’s night time here, there are fans in Brazil or Argentina or Mexico that are expecting us to deliver there, and vice versa.
Then we have officers in Asia and cover those fans in local languages. Around the world we cover sport in 10 languages covering so many leagues, with hundreds of pieces of content every day, so we have had to set up a 24/7 operation and do it in minimal costs – that’s crucial – and we had to combine media and technology with sport in order to make that happen.