From One Fan To Another: This Digital Sports Media Is Serving the Internet-first Sports Fans' Experience EssentiallySports is a digital-first organization that is trying to use the Internet to transcend borders and engage diverse sports communities across the globe: founder

By Arif Bhatt

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In today's interconnected world, the transformation of digital technology is changing the way fans view and consume mainstream sports. Be it radio commentary, live updates on social media, ball-by-ball updates, minute-by-minute stats on dedicated sports apps, or interacting with other fans on apps and social media, the digitalization of sports has dramatically changed fan experience.

Sports enthusiasts prefer to be hyper-informed with every minute detail of their favorite players and teams, as a way to seek a deeper insight into their favorite sport, with players themselves connecting directly with the fans via Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Players, official handles of celebrated teams, and congregation of sporting events also oblige and enjoy direct correspondence with their fan bases through various social media channels.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has worked as a catalyst to accelerate and promote digitalization in the sports industry. Events were carried out behind closed doors, press conferences went virtual and many traditional sports media houses were affected by this new change.

Media houses such as EssentiallySports, which were already leveraging the digital media technology even before the onset of the pandemic, seemed to be least affected by the disruption. As we delved deeper into their USP, we got a chance to chat with the co-founder of EssentiallySports, Suryansh Tibarewal. In our conversation, he certainly provided some interesting insights into how an organization uses the internet and digital technology to transform the way we consume sports, and what makes them different from the others in the market.

While explaining what makes his company different from the competition, he brought out the point that "fans seek a connection beyond the sport and want to share the experience with fellow like-minded people".

Suryansh elaborated, "EssentiallySports is a digital-first organization that is trying to use the Internet to transcend borders and engage diverse sports communities across the globe. Hence, we want to provide a platform that enables fans to consume high-quality original content, share their experiences on different social media platforms, and get more customized experiences."

We also discussed briefly how they differentiate from sports news providers such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and The Athletic. He mentioned that they not only provide up-to-the-minute updates, and live reactions on the biggest sporting events around the globe; more importantly, EssentiallySports tries to deliver in-depth coverage of all trending topics in the sporting world. To put it in his words, "We want to give a 360-degree view of the fans' favorite events and players by leveraging data and internet communities!"

In our review of their website, we stumbled upon the term 'The Fan's Perspective'. Suryansh revealed that it originates from the team: people who are sports fans themselves. He discussed the genesis of their unique outlook and how 'The Fan's Perspective' has been the focal point of each activity at the organization.

"As college students, we started EssentiallySports as a blog in 2014 and created active WhatsApp first content-creation communities as a way to engage with sports enthusiasts all over the world, and thus imbibe the fan's perspective. Everything we did correspond to the behavior of an enthusiastic fan, and thus, the idea of our tagline, 'The Fan's Perspective', emerged."

We found out that the community of sports fans has always been the center of EssentiallySports. The close-knit community, with its passion for sports, helped the company assemble a team of writers, editors, and developers who worked for passion.

He added, "As a sports fans ourselves, we have always focused on delivering content with an aim towards 'what a sports fan would want to read?', and we aim to connect sports fans from all around the world with content at their fingertips. Covering sports with the fan's perspective has helped EssentiallySports to grow exponentially year over year and today we have a monthly readership of more than 100 million."

We were very curious to find out how the company performed during the COVID-19 lockdown. When not just the sporting world, but the entire world was at a standstill.

He emphatically said, "From a business point of view we saw 100 per cent growth month-on-month during that period. When the pandemic hit the globe and sporting events, there was a sense of panic in the industry. But as fans ourselves, we were confident that fans would always want to consume news around sports and their players, even when an event isn't on. I take pride in our team, who took this as a challenge and converted this into an opportunity. The internet consumption doubled, and at a time when competitors were doing layoffs, we doubled down on hiring. We expanded to different sports and our monthly users increased from 30 million in April 2020 to 60 million in May 2020. After that, we have seen consistent growth month on month."

Suryansh, a technology aficionado who earned his first dollar on the Internet when he was 14, feels that in today's world people are getting busier, and the modern fans may not spend long hours watching an entire sporting event.

He paints a very particular image of the future of the sports world. He enunciates that people do want to be informed about everything and stay connected with the major news around the globe, but at their own convenience. And the digital media will allow them to do so.

Undoubtedly, the Internet has transformed and will continue to transform with each passing day. It is going to be 'new' for the media industry. It is known that digital technology is unlocking unprecedented opportunities for growth in the sports industry. And Esports is one such noteworthy example, which provided fans with a whole new way of engaging with others.

"Through innovation and personalized experiences, digital technology has the potential to draw sports fans closer, transcending the borders of the world. It's evident in how we have experienced our audience evolve as well, as sports fans operating from India our team is able to serve the appetite of our American Audience with original and high-quality news. "

Suryansh reiterated the need to change the experience for sports fans. He was adamant about the belief that the internet is going to continue to evolve on how players engage with sports fans, and boundaries will continue to get blurred. With top athletes starting their own podcasts and talking about everything on and off the court, including Hollywood. Sport-tainment has come out as a new trend. Which a traditional media house is just not ready for yet.

In his opinion, the gap can be plugged with innovative technology solutions. He recapitulates that fans need all of this information in the time it takes to snap their fingers. With the help of technology and data analysis, they know as much as possible about the target audience and make sure that they deliver the most relevant content to the readers.

We also had a chance to learn about the future plans of the company. And it seems like there are several exciting developments in store. The company's roadmap includes an expansion to major US-based leagues like MLB, NCAA, NHL, and niche Olympic sports.

It is evident that technology is definitely going to be at the forefront of the next media revolution. The data suggests that these companies have sustained their growth even in the post-Covid world. And it seems like digital sports media companies like EssentiallySports will become more and more mainstream.

It's only time before mainstream media giants join the digital bandwagon. It will be interesting to see how these digital-only sports media companies strive in the new age of the digital media revolution.

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