CEO Asaf Peled, Gili Beiman, and strategic advisor Yuval Larom
North Base Media, Dawn Capital, Qumra Capital, Gemini Israel Ventures, Battery Ventures, and ProSieben
The conventional content producers' relations with the social networks are difficult. The networks distribute the content to billions of people, but exact a price that makes it difficult for the content websites to survive. Israeli startup Minute Media is trying to blur the boundaries. The company's sports websites and app are based on content from the web surfers, who are usually sports fans. Minute Media sells this content to websites like Sports Illustrated and MSN, and offers an innovative model in the media market.
Minute Media cofounder and CEO Asaf Peled says, "The company was founded in 2011 as a global media platform, a pure Internet play, for sports. All the content is produced by sports fans, who serve as replacements for journalists. We were the first to take advantage of the audience's desire to express itself. When we were founded, the social networks were only beginning, and their success helped us a lot.
"Another trend that contributed to us is the transition to content consumption on mobile phones. It's not hard to create a nice content page for a computer. On a mobile device, however, it's much more difficult. As a technology company, our differentiation is greater on mobile, because with our technology, we can put our content out in a consumer-friendly way to a variety of mobile networks and devices all over the world.
"Furthermore, when a sports fan consumes content on mobile, he's not necessarily looking for a very long, in-depth story; he wants interactive and visually rich content. A company like us is able to put such content on mobile."
Since Minute Media was launched, it has encountered no real competitor from the technology sector. "Most of our competitors come from the regular sports press, and in order to compete with us they have to make the transition to the technological world, in which we have already established ourselves," Peled explains.
Do you think that sports fans can really replace reporters?
Peled : "Sports is a liberal and open realm. Sports coverage I sbased a great deal on opinions, and every fan has an opinion. We therefore give every fan a place on the website to create content, which is no less interesting than reporters' content. Sports isn't a very difficult field to cover, like finances or health. Everyone can understand sports. Fortunately, this has been shown to be true. This is what the Internet audience wants to consume."
A fan can report the result from the stadium and film the game. Is he or she capable of creating news reports or writing in-depth analyses?
"There are so many sources of information in sports today that the question of who's first in unimportant. When a player moves from one team to another, the first report read by a fan of that team will be on the Twitter page of the player or the club, not in a newspaper. Hearing secrets from agents or the changing room is less important now.
"As for deep analysis, it's true that a journalist is able to analyze, but fans also have their own analytical ability, as well as authentic feelings that make it even more interesting. Also, when sports are consumed on broadcast channels, you always see the most successful teams. Many fans are interested in the less successful teams. That's true for the entire market, and especially in the US. We're open to writing about every college team and later, we might also allow coverage of high school teams."
So what determines the advantage of one information channel over another?
"The most critical thing is who has access in real time to the audience, to the information consumers. For example, when Neymar transferred from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for €220 million, we weren't the first to know, but most of the fans read about it for the first time through us. The question is not who has the information; it's who controls the distribution channels."
Do the fans get paid for the coverage?
"We have several thousand regular content producers, who get 5-7% of the revenue. If we ask for a certain job, we pay for it. For some, it's a small source of revenue. Essentially, the fans write in order to express their opinions, not for payment. On the other hand, we have opinion leaders whose job is to distribute the content, and with whom we have revenue sharing agreements."
Do players and coaches write for you as well?
"No. We tried this approach, but it's against our spirit. Suddenly it's not nice for the fans to criticize this or that player. It makes them uncomfortable and detracts from the business. They start asking why you promote one and not another. We want to put the fans center stage. They're the source, the distributor, and the audience."
Nevertheless, someone has to play.
"Once in a while (laughs)."
What about editing? How do you distribute the most interesting content? Do you use an algorithm or a human editor?
"Every fan can create content, but not all content reaches everybody. The filter is both technological and human. The technological filter helps identify non-original content, or content that is very badly written. The technology also posts content of writers who received many or good audience responses in the past. A fan writing for the first time can get feedback from our editors, who sometimes even help him or her improve the text. The proof of quality is in the result - the biggest websites in the sector use our content quite a bit."
Your content doesn't appear only on your website.
"The website itself is one of the biggest sports websites in 12 important soccer countries, including Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, and also the US. Furthermore, it's an open technological platform. We allow other parties to publish our content on their channels for payment. We get royalties from MSN, Yahoo!, and even from Sports Illustrated."
What other sources of revenue do you have, and how much revenue are you getting?
"At the beginning, we mostly built the platform, but in the past 2-3 years, we have started working with the world's biggest advertisers. Nike, Adidas, Pepsi, and Mastercard - they all work with us. Interesting cooperative ventures can be created. For example, we invited soccer fans to the European championship in Paris at our expense for coverage of the event in a way that fits in with the Star Trek movie, which we promoted for Paramount. The general audience was interested enough in the content to read it in this form, and the fans got a flight to the big game." The company currently has several million dollars revenue, 30% of which comes from licensing the website's content to others, 50% from video advertising, and 20% from other advertising.
What comes next?
"We started in soccer, and we're prospering in it (under the min90 brand, which is also the company's former name). A year ago, we launched the 12UP brand for US sports. In many languages, 'the 12 th player' is the audience. Despite the expansion to other types of sports, we see that the fans' consumption patterns are still very similar, so there's no limitation on expanding our activity to other sports."
The biggest conceptual change in the company's activity is taking place right now - it is expanding beyond the world of physical sports to game consoles and eSports. Peled says, "It's starting to be a competitive sport, with leagues and everything. It's very suitable for us, and less for the conventional channels that cover sports. The event here is on the Internet, so there's nothing to film for television. It's a very new field. Both the players and the fans are young, and they're open to consuming content from a platform like ours."
Will you have to raise money?
"We don't need another financing round to keep going, but we're ambitious, so I don't rule out another round for expansion."