I had an interesting meeting yesterday with a new social network, IAMSport. Their idea is to create a community for athletes and their fans, to allow interaction among members and provide a space for sharing content with an interesting model. Now this isn’t about the major American sports franchises - there are certainly plenty of sites and groups focused on their exploits - but rather on young athletes (the site is affiliated with the World Olympians Association).
What I found most interesting was their approach to content. One of the things that Paul Varadian, one of the company’s founders, believes in important is that the site is advertising free and is available at no cost to users. This of course begs the question of revenue. This is where the model gets a bit more creative. IAMSport allows anyone up upload whatever user-generated content they like and make it available with very granular control. A user may opt to make their content available as pay-per-view and this is how the company to generate at least some of it’s revenue.
Now you might not be interested in paying to watch Aunt Millie’s recording of Betsy’s first goal; but that isn’t what IAMSports is envisioning (although Aunt Millie is welcome to try). What they are thinking about are non-televised events that are of great interest to specific audiences or communities. For example - regional or national high school sports - where many who would love to see it would for any number of reasons be unable to attend. Or broadcasts on international events that are not licensed (or at least not shown in their entirety) here in the US.
There are plenty of competitions for which their are audiences but for which distribution simply doesn’t exist. IAMSport wants to be that distribution channel. They expect that they will be able to aggregate audiences who have an interest in these competitions (and the participating athletes) into a sizable community. In some ways they are taking a distributed view to the idea of hyperlocal content.
The interest and growth that Paul described seems legitimate and respectable - and the founders involvement with the Olympic movement gives them a degree of credibility beyond simply having a good idea. The company has other revenue ideas around sponsorships and if they are able to attract the size and type of audience they hope IAMSport stands a chance of becoming a viable and very interesting community.
If nothing else it is an interesting experiment in monetizing community content.