With a background in all facets of digital and social media marketing and a proven track record in achieving revenue and traffic gains, Eric Ames is leading way for new publisher Lines.com to capitalize on the sports betting media revolution and impact gambling and fantasy sports through up-to-the-minute insights, information and content.
In a chat with Hashtag Sports, Eric shares how his small team is leveraging content automation to create up to 30 new pieces of content per day, the importance of longtail content in the publisher’s SEO success, and why the pandemic hasn’t changed the site’s launch strategy.
Lines.com is a new site designed to deliver up-to-the-minute information and reactions to how breaking sports news impacts gambling and fantasy sports. What is the site’s origin story and journey to launch?
After the US market started to open up, we knew we wanted to get in on that action. After evaluating the opportunities available to us, we decided to move forward with purchasing the Lines.com domain, with plans to build out our flagship US sports brand. It’s been a long process to get the brand created, and the site launched, but we’re currently live with the beta version now & launching new features weekly. We’re really excited about the future for Lines & where we see the brand going in the marketplace over the next couple years.
How have your launch and growth strategy changed as a result of the pandemic?
Honestly it hasn’t changed the strategy all that much, just slowed us down a bit. The end game, though, is the same today as it was pre-pandemic.
What do you believe is the single biggest challenge and biggest opportunity as a sports publisher in 2020?
In terms of the biggest challenge today, it’s really the unknowns. We don’t know when exactly certain States will open up, we don’t know IF certain leagues will play, and if they do exactly how that will look – just so much up in the air right now, so we have to stay super flexible and try to control what we can control.
As for biggest opportunities in 2020 and into 2021, well I think there are a lot of those. Since the market is just getting going really, there are many areas that haven’t even been tapped yet. There is going to be a lot of exploring and testing to figure out how to best engage sports fans. The companies who are successful with this now, are going to be well positioned to bring in huge $$ as the market continues to mature.
The sports calendar has been more jammed than ever before thanks to the spring sports pause and recent return. How many pieces of content do you create in an average week right now, and how many writers currently contribute to the site?
Currently we’re still in beta mode, so we’re not doing a ton of content today. We’re still building out a lot of the longer term features for the site, so what you see now is more what we’d consider bare bones type volume. That being said, our writers are doing a couple pieces a day, as well as the content we have delivered through our partner Data Skrive, which is anywhere from 2-30 pieces a day.
How has automation been integrated into your content strategy, and what technology partners do you work with?
Our main automation partners are SportsData.io & Data Skrive. SportsData.io is the API feed we use to power all our stats, fantasy, odds, etc., and Data Skrive is our content automation service. Data Skrive pumps out matchup and betting analysis for every game across the major sports, plus creates custom player level content.
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Walk us through your team’s workflow from start to finish for producing and publishing content that is created via automated technology. How much editing is required, if any?
If we were to manually create a game matchup analysis, the team would start by conducting a good amount of research. We’d need to evaluate the team’s performance this season, historically, etc. and figure out how that will relate to this matchup. We’d need to look at players injuries, or other things that might have an impact on the matchup and expected outcomes. We’d need to pull in lines from the various sportsbooks, to see how the bookmakers are projecting the game. Then we’d have to come up with some actual analysis for the game itself and write that out for our readers. All said and done, this process would usually take several hours, if not more.
Compare that to how we utilize Data Skrive, we basically just connect our CMS to their system, and then it’s done. They do all the analysis work for us, and we just pop the content on our site – makes it super easy & their analysis and projections are pretty good.
What types of content created using automation consistently perform the best?
For us the Game/Betting previews, along with the Player comparisons have done the best. Really the automation excels where you have a large volume requirement. We’re not going to do custom matchup analysis manually for a thousand players, but with automation, that becomes doable and allows us to really do some damage SEO wise on those longer tail search terms.
What other emerging trends or technologies do you believe will revolutionize the way sports publishers create content in the next two to three years?
I think one thing we’re going to see in the future is more real time connections to the bookmakers (beyond just basic odds), and with that publishers are going to get more creative with how they structure content for users.
The sports betting market was set to boom in 2020. In states like New Jersey, record amounts have already been wagered as sports returned. What do you think the effects of the sports hiatus will mean for the near-term and long-term future of sports betting’s relationship with the industry and with fans?
I don’t think the hiatus will harm the long-term outlook of sports much, although it’s not only that – you have a lot of stuff impacting the leagues at the moment as well, as reflected in the viewership numbers. Long term, though, I think American’s love of sports will win out. The US is the largest economy in the world & we love sports – the betting market is going to explode, it’s just a matter of time. I think the biggest thing is just going to be educating Americans on how to bet. This is similar to fantasy sports. I remember when online fantasy sports first started, I was one of those nerds who was an early adopter. I got made fun of by some of my friends, and most people had no idea what it was. Now, it seems like everyone is in a fantasy football league. My wife even plays in a league and she doesn’t even like football all that much. Once it got past the stigma, and the product became easy to use, there was mass adoption – the same thing will happen with sports betting here. The product still has a lot of work, and we’re going to have to educate players, but eventually, it’s going to catch on.
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