TruFan Swings For the Fences
Rafe Anderson is moving up into the big leagues. His sports social media network, TruFan, officially goes national today. TruFan grew out of a collection of websites—Sawxheads, Celtsheads, and Blackandgoldheads—which focused solely on Boston teams. Now the national network will include 122 communities for clubs across the country, spanning Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball League, and the National Hockey League.
When signing up, fans indicate which teams and players are their favorites, so that TruFan can funnel them content to match their particular preferences. Users can write their own blogs, vote up news stories, post photos, friend other fans and chat with them. The face of the front page changes according to which news stories are getting the most votes.
“Sports fans in general are used to being spoken to,” says Anderson. TruFan is “more about fans speaking to each other. Instead of the editor-in-chief dictating what headline should be, it’s more compelling because fans are contributing their own content.”
Anderson has spent much of the past few years at Fenway Park, and not just for recreation. Before becoming president and CEO of Brighton, MA-based TruMedia Networks, he spent six years as a consultant for the Fenway Sports Group, a sports marketing group that counts among its clients the Red Sox and NASCAR team Roush Fenway Racing, as well as Professional Bull Riders, Inc. In August of last year, he left to take charge of the TruFan platform, which until that time was a side project of North Adams, MA-based Boxcar Media.
TruFan’s business model, says Anderson, is “all about diversification.” The site does not currently sport any online advertising, which Anderson is leery of as a workable profit generator. Instead, TruFan intends to build its fortune with a multi-pronged approach. The site has entered into a partnership with AceTicket, which allows fans to purchase tickets from each other, and will soon be selling merchandise as well.
But the big-ticket moneymaker isn’t in tickets or even hats—it’s in licensing. TruFan has contracted with the Boston Globe‘s website to bring its platform to the boston.com sports page. The result is Slugfests, where fans can spar virtually over burning questions like “what is the Red Sox’s biggest need?” or “Does Paul Pierce have heart?” Other fans referee the debate, voting to decide the victor. So now, instead of having to trek all the way to Cask ‘n Flagon to bellow at fellow Bostonians, you can argue the virtues of Varitek from the comfort of your screen.
“It’s great to be amongst friends that share your passion,” says Anderson. Going national while still retaining the local aspect is essential, he says, allowing fans to “be part of their community, but to also step outside the walls of their comfort zone.” Anderson knows a little something about that: “My best friend is a Yankees fan,” he admits.