The proliferation of new entries into the blogosphere has certainly ensured that no matter what your interest or obsession is, there is most likely a blog out there for it. But there’s often a lack of websites that speak from a clearly biased, fan-driven perspective, as many news sources strive for more traditional journalistic neutrality. Full Sail Film graduate Adam Best observed that void when he launched FanSided in 2009, an endeavor that would eventually expand into 300 separate blogs and online communities centered on sports, entertainment, and lifestyle content.
FanSided was recently acquired by Time, Inc., a move that today seems like quite a leap from the company’s humble beginnings – when Adam and his brother Zach created their first website, Kansas City Chiefs blog Arrowhead Addict.
“As rabid Chiefs fans, we felt fans of the team needed more coverage – more opinionated coverage that matched what they were seeing from the fan’s perspective. Arrowhead Addict sort of blew up overnight,” Adam says. “We tried it again with a Dolphins website, and then again with the Vikings. It kept working.”
The Best brothers went on to create a network of NFL-centric fan sites, but eventually expanded into other sports leagues, including the NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, NCAA, and MMA. It wasn’t long before FanSided began building outside of the realm of sports, taking on topics and interests such as gaming, WWE, and shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
“At some point, we decided everybody is a fan of something, so I don’t think there are really limits to what we can cover. I think it was refreshing to the most die-hard fans to have a source that made them part of the conversation and gave them a place to share their point-of-view,” says Adam. “Readers of digital and print news coverage were kind of used to getting talked at – or in the worst instance, talked down to. We don’t do that and never will. We’re fans, too, and we don’t believe it jeopardizes our professionalism to proudly admit that.”
And while the Time acquisition has definitely given FanSided’s fan perspective a greater platform to reach audiences, it’s still business as usual for Adam. Retaining his role as company CEO, he’s responsible for overseeing all of the internal departments of the network, as well as planning for their continued growth in both traffic and revenue. All of this may sound a bit out of the traditional career trajectory for a Film student, but Adam is able to connect the dots between what he learned during his time at Full Sail and what he is responsible for today with FanSided.
“Filmmaking – and especially writing, producing, and directing – teaches you to pay attention to your audience. Whether you want to create something five percent of folks will obsess over or something that the majority of people will have interest in, you have to pay attention to what’s in demand, while staying true to yourself,” he says. “Additionally, filmmaking – especially low-budget indie filmmaking – teaches you to both maximize limited budgets and pivot, adjust, and adapt on the fly. Leading a bootstrapped company is a lot like spearheading an indie film production. Whether you are launching a company or making a film, you have to surround yourself with a fantastic team where everybody is willing to wear multiple hats. Media ventures are typically collaborative, so you really can’t pull it off on your own. I’ve been fortunate to work with such a great team everyday. Go out and find people as passionate and determined as you are.”
And although making films is not his primary focus these days, Adam still has his hands in the world of video content, as FanSided has recently started producing their own video – their Game of Thrones site Winter is Coming has produced the biggest Game of Thrones after-show for the last two years. With various sites having just launched (Star Wars fan site Dork Side of the Force, Netflix site Netflix Life, and Taylor Swift site Fans of Taylor, to name a few), FanSided isn’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
“This isn’t what I envisioned for myself when I went to Full Sail, but I’m so grateful regardless. I get to create for a living, and that’s what I’ve always wanted,” Adam says. “I get to create communities where fans are represented and can connect, create new content models and methods, and create opportunities for undiscovered and emerging writers. I made up my mind very early in the FanSided process that I was going to make this huge, no matter how long it took or how much I struggled. I can’t tell you how many people looked at me funny when I told them I wanted to basically run blogs for a living. They don’t look at me funny now.”