We’re only a few weeks away from the launch of LockerPulse, our new venture that I introduced back in February. Assuming all goes to plan, we’ll be live on Wednesday, May 12.
I haven’t really done an update in a while, but the project is coming along great. We’ve been using the final product internally for a few weeks now and I can honestly say that it has completely changed the way I consume sports, which is exactly what I was shooting for. I don’t bother opening up my Google Reader for sports news (I unsubscribed from all of my sports feeds) and I don’t bother visiting ESPN.com anymore because I get everything I need in my LockerPulse account.
None of this guarantees business success, but we did build something where we are our own target market. We scratched our own itch, which certainly has it’s advantages.
Um, so what exactly does it do?
Following sports news for your favorite teams can be overwhelming. Most people I know just have a bunch of bookmarks of their favorite sites that they check. RSS makes that so much more efficient, and so much more enjoyable. Problem is, the only people I know who actually use RSS to combine all of the national news (ESPN, Yahoo Sports, etc), blogs, and newspapers are web developers like myself.
LockerPulse is a RSS aggregator for the average sports fan who has no clue what RSS is. You visit the site, click your team, and all of the stories are available to read in an interface that is similar (but a little better in my opinion) to Google Reader.
That’s free, with updates for each team every 15 minutes, and will be supported by an ad platform that we are developing. The ad platform is a large part of the plan, but it’s not close to being ready so we’re launching without it (more on this below).
A premium account, which will cost $3.99/month with a 30 day free trial will give the user the following features:
- The ability to read all of their teams in one “news stream”, with complete control to drill through by team/source, and subscribe/unsubscribe permanently from each individual news source.
- Access to a live scoreboard of every game that’s currently taking place. The user’s teams scores show on an overlay across the bottom of every page.
- AJAX updates of their news and scores – you just leave your browser open and the news flows in and the score overlay updates (this is my favorite feature, it’s so awesome)
- A slick mobile site optimized for smartphones to read news and check scores on their phone.
- A bunch more little features like a daily newsletter, but that’s the big stuff.
I realize that all of this is a bit abstract. It sort of needs to be seen and used to appreciate it.
What’s our launch plan?
The plan isn’t very sexy, but it’s one that I think will work.
We’re going to do a “public beta that we’re not calling a beta” for a few months and then go from there. What does that mean? We’re going to be giving out free lifetime premium accounts to a bunch of people we know (friends, their friends, family, people we know in the web business and sports business), we’re going to be testing a micro social media campaign to gauge it’s effectiveness (we think Twitter is maybe our best marketing opportunity), we’re going to be soliciting feedback and collecting data, and then we’re going to go from there. We have a laundry list of things that we want to do, but none of that matters if the first 50 people that try it think it sucks.
This is an app on a level that I haven’t built before, so it’s important to make sure we didn’t royally screw anything up before going too crazy. Right now it looks like we’ll be adding 50k – 75k stories per month to our database. There’s a lot that goes into making that work efficiently.
It’s something we all believe in, and we’re lucky enough not to need any money from it, so we’re taking a long-term patient approach (which coincidentally might be the best approach regardless of how fast we want it to succeed…you can only speed things up so fast regardless of how much $ you invest in something).
Meanwhile, we’ll be working on our ad platform and tweaking things, and we’ll slowly but surely start increasing our marketing efforts as time goes on. I hope that the ad platform is done by late Summer, but I won’t launch it until it’s so good that people actually enjoy the ads (I know it sounds crazy, but I think we can do it).
Just some quality control work, reviewing our sources for each team, and writing some of the content like the about page, terms of service, and all that fun stuff. Nothing too major.
You never quite know how good of a site or business you’re building until it’s actually launched, but I can safely say that this is the best web site we’ve ever built. And everything else we’ve done has been met with some level of success (mostly correlating to our effort put in to it), so I’m really really optimistic about the long term potential of this one.