When SPN last caught up with Christopher Aumueller in December of 2016, he was in the process of researching and developing the beta version of FanWord, a college sports news platform for every team and fan.
Since then, Aumueller has spent the last 18 months tweaking and relaunching the full version of their mobile app and blog in an effort to provide a more focused and useful platform to college sports fans.
“We had to make some decisions in terms of growth and scalability and decided to position ourselves more as an interactive news platform at this point,” said Aumueller.
Even if that meant giving up some of the features that Aumueller was proud of.
“A big focus was on simplifying things and making a better user experience,” said Aumueller. “We stripped our mobile app and blog down to the core features.”
FanWord was relaunched in early 2018 with a renewed focus on telling athletes’ stories and connecting fan to exclusive team content.
FanWord prides itself in providing content about athletes and teams that don’t always get the recognition they deserve. FanWord publishes interactive news content on former and current team members, as well as “Flashback Friday” posts that share a win from the team’s past.
“Our biggest differentiator is that we want to do something for the entire college sports market and give some of those sports and teams a little more of a spotlight,” said Aumueller. “Not a lot is being done for any college sport other than football, basketball and baseball and that’s really where we felt like there’s a disconnect. There’s a lot of people who really care about these other sports as well.”
In addition to exclusive content, FanWord also aggregates sports news and allows verified team members to upload their own content on the mobile app.
FanWord featured Nebraska volleyball player Kelly Hunter, and within two minutes, the team’s Twitter account shared the post. Aumueller said they saw over 20,000 impressions and 500 clicks on the website almost immediately, but the app download numbers didn’t match that successful traffic stream.
“The market is attractive, and if you invent something cool that people will like, it will spread like wildfire. But getting there [is tough],” said Aumueller. “Some of these apps that are exploding overnight, they’re spending tens of thousands of dollars in marketing, and you don’t see that. Converting blog views to app downloads is a whole new story.”
Aumueller said that FanWord’s staff consists of himself, three developers and two data analysts. All six of them know where they want FanWord to go, but so far, it’s been a challenge to gain traction in the college sports market as a whole and encourage people to download the app without a five-figure marketing budget.
“We like the idea of building a brand first, raising awareness of who we are and what we stand for, and then we think if we get to a point where we have frequent and regular traffic, converting them to downloads will be easier,” said Aumueller.
Aumueller believes the same theory holds true for monetizing FanWord.
“We have a very clear path as far as monetization goes, but we are convinced that at this point in time, we should grow the community and user base instead of trying to hustle for a single dollar,” said Aumueller. “We believe if we accomplish building a returning community, we will definitely know ways to monetize.”
As a result of these insights, Aumueller and his team are currently shifting their focus towards building out their blog and a more web-driven approach.
Aumueller said he has learned a lot in the last year and a half, including what not to do. He has some advice for other entrepreneurs in his shoes who are looking to launch a business.
“Simplify, simplify, simplify in the early days,” said Aumueller. I wanted to do too much, too early and that was one of my biggest mistakes. It not only put stress on me, but it was capital intensive, resource intensive, and this journey is already time-consuming in itself.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News