Ben Koo, who, I can personally attest after lunching with him is the world's greatest Chinese Jew, offers an outstanding preview and analysis of the new 24/7 Sports venture that will set out to compete in the college recruiting space currently occupied by Rivals, ESPN, and Scout.
Not to mention the world famous Recruitocosm. Read by hundreds! Strangely unmentioned in this analysis. An oversight?
This piece is well worth your time not only as an analysis of the current market and 24/7's prospects, but it also conveys a solid historical understanding of how it is we got here: Heckman's original vision, the proliferation of college recruiting sites, the nasty habit of some parent companies
stealing skimming accidentally misplacing advertising revenue intended for its publishers (a problem that didn't end with the lawsuits, to hear some tell it) and the consistently squandered opportunities that still allowed profit-making in a venture that, given the maniacal passions of its subscribers, can be shooting fish in a barrel.
And, of course, 24/7 has been acquiring talent. If there's a new recruiting venture, you know that Gerry Hamilton will be there...
In addition to a tremendous list of sites, they've added recruiting gurus Gerry Hamilton, JC Shurburtt, and Bryan Matthews to the fold.
That dude gets around like Mary J Blige at the Source Awards. Stay awhile, Gerry. Following that guy is like having to quit your job to follow the Grateful Dead. It's a commitment.
Koo also foresees the evolution of actual 2.0 technologies while the major sites have stubbornly stayed in mired in the Cambrian (we at FanTake are pre-Cambrian):
In terms of technology, I am on pins and needles to see what they came up with and when they'll be rolling out the platform. Rivals and Scout particularly have really failed here and technology, especially web applications, and programming languages have made major advancements since Scout and Rivals were architected.
But Scout has become a laughing stock for more than crude technology - and not just for the Longhorn fans who were burned by their affiliate site, which has been reincarnated as a listing ghost ship called Longhorn Digest with content written by Kathie Lee Gifford - but also in Scout's purchase of The College Football News (they of the Reggie McNeal > Vince Young opinions and other offenses to God, Man, and those possessed of IQs north of 100 and the ability to write beyond a 7th grade level) demonstrating their inability to make meaningful value judgements about quality within the space.
They're aren't alone. The prospect film on ESPN is a disgrace, they refuse to marry affiliate memberships with Insider accounts or the parent company in any meaningful way, and there is little attempt to use ESPN's heavyweight status to bolster the local affiliate sites with their innumerable resources. A bit a like a national chain refusing to grant their franchises access to their best selling items because they view their own affiliates as external threats. Good business model.
Rivals hasn't put any of its money into technology infrastructure either and has largely profited from the mind-numbingly dumb choices of its competitors. At least that's according to people who are still members there. I quit two years ago to no detriment to my recruiting knowledge and to considerable improvement in my mental health as I no longer wade through dozens of mentally impaired posters a day or pay to read free Texassports.com press conference transcripts.
Step Right Up
I am hoping to see major upgrades in terms of message boards, recruiting databases (Google Maps Mashup please!), commenting, video, mobile apps, and live chat (seriously just use CoveritLive... Scout and Bucknuts use the worst chat programs known to man). They'd also be wise to fully utilize web 2.0 technology like custom widgets (no network has grasped this concept yet), blog syndication/promotion, twitter, Facebook, and social sharing options. Reading between the lines, it looks like a lot of this is in the works.
We'll see. I'm hopeful too.
The recruiting networks have gotten away with shoddy products largely because they can, even though they often have good people at the local or affiliate level. The passion that drives recruiting means people will sit rapturously absorbing speculative bullshit served up on bad platforms so long as it's filling the vacant hole in college fans filled only by peddling hope in the form of a 17 year old that can run a 10.5 100 meters or has a legit face-up game at 6-10 with wide open growth plates.
Fifteen years ago we were getting this info via faxes and phone calls to the Austin American Statesman Inside Recruiting Line (Courtnee Garcia commitment! YES!)
Like Tim Robbins in the The Shawshank Redemption, a college recruiting enthusiast will crawl through a river of filth for recruiting daylight. Maybe 24-7 will provide a wet nap and some binaca.