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GUEST COLUMN: Fan Pages
We have come to a point where we have to decide how to move on from here. The first major bridge has been crossed. Sportsland now has the programming staff in place, a new organization, and we have seen that the public (you) will respond to solicitation for fan page reporters. We have also seen that this is not going to be easy as there are a ton of obstacles that have to be overcome before we can call this a success. The biggest of them being:
- The leagues.
Make no mistake we are in a race here. All the leagues are going to start cracking down on "Unofficial team pages." As I have often said there is no such thing. A page is either an official site or a media site. If it is neither it is an illegal site and all of you are either running or have run illegal sites. Now I know you don't think that, but this isn't your call. Sports is first and foremost a business. It is a business that involves large sums of money and ironclad contracts with ironclad guarantees. They are going to fight to protect their copyrighted material and the agreements they have in place with all the major marketing firms.
We all know that the Internet is a very difficult if not impossible area to regulate. We know that if you wanted to set up a pirate site that you can do it. Sportsland sees that as something that will drive an even bigger wedge between the teams and the fans. We want to see old wounds heal rather than open new ones. The Internet has the power to help heal those wounds or pour salt into them. Our goal is simple. We have to reach the point where we are accepted by the leagues as an accredited media site WITH fan page reporters before the leagues put all of you out of business. If we were not trying to use fan page reporters we would be an accredited media site right now. If the project fails we will move on using regular journalists. We are committed to making this work, but we are a sports media site and we are supported by advertisers. Please recognize that we are taking a risk that no other sports site is taking and STOP pushing the envelope.
- Copyrighted Material.
When we say no copyrighted material we mean no copyrighted material. Your survival depends on it. Right now we feel we are a media site that can use the team name and the logo to report on the team as all media sites can. We will continue to support you in this regard. We do not have a photo contract so the only photos you can put on your sites are ones you have taken, have the rights to, or have authorization to use. Any other photo must be linked and you must acknowledge the source and take full responsibilty for providing the link. We are adding a new rule. No linked photos on the home page. Please keep in mind that we are in contact with the league offices who have provided no official guidelines for us to go by. We are trying to read between the lines. If any league submits guidelines to us we will abide by those guidelines while we work with them in order to setup a system that works for everyone.
- Web Hosting.
Sportsland will provide free web hosting, support, incentives, and celebrity participation in exchange for the right to advertise on your pages. This has not been easy. Every host we have worked with has been very reluctant to get involved as this is an Internet nightmare from their standpoint. This is a nightmare for all of you as well. You either get stuck on slow servers, or with systems that only allow browser uploads, indirect editing to access your web sites, or you pay for hosting services that will either kick you off if you start drawing traffic or will start charging you for bandwidth. You all must take responsibilty for your pages. You can crash the server with bad scripts and hog server time with applets that are just to gimmicky. We are trying to develop bullet proof scripts that run locally. Please use them before asking to import your own as we will experience a lot of outages otherwise. Also be judicious with your password. Those that are representing each sport will be the only ones with telnet access.
Sportsland wants to provide you with high quality servers, plenty of bandwith, and full access so you can use all current web technology to support your pages as well as a great URL. This is a security, system, and management nightmare that is going to take all of us working together to pull off. We are seriously comtemplating buying our own servers and hiring our own programmer just for the fan pages.
- System Management.
We are currently developing a set of guidelines and rules for how management for the fan pages will be structured. This should be done this week. In a nutshell. All work on fan pages will be voluntary. There will be incentives paid for increasing readership and shared revenues from advertising when readership reaches a level to support it. The fan pages will manage themselves by appointing or selecting representatives who will work with Sportsland management. These representatives will receive a share from each fan page once revenues commence. Sportsland will select reporters from the fan page reporter pool to be contracted Sports Reporters for Sportsland to report at the league and/or sport level. For now the representatives will be at the sport level. This will expand to the league level as we grow. We have an excellent group that has done a great job who Sportsland would like to see stay in their current roles if they want to. They are:
Hockey-- Kara VitaleWe are not supporting fan pages for any other sports at this time. Any staff member or contracted reporter may maintain a fan page if they so choose. Staff members will be a level 1 fan page. Contracted reporters will be a level 2 fan page..
Football-- Brian Minton
Basketball-- Glenn King
Soccer-- Arjen Robyn (Contracted)
Dick Holl 2 September 1997
Compass Media International