Editor's note: Our History is taken from an interview done by Draft Sharks co-founder and Chief Editor, Lenny Pappano in May 2010 with Fantasy Sports Business (fantasysportsbusiness.com
What led you to create Draft Sharks back in 1999?
LP: Back in 1999, I was working as a copywriter at a political fundraising firm in the DC-area. It struck me that a lot of the fantasy sites that existed were being run by tech geeks, and not by anyone who could write well or had any background in journalism. I convinced my wife to drain our bank account to build a site and put some ads in a couple fantasy mags. We got a fairly large and loyal following in the first few years, and the rest, as they say, is history...
I always envisioned our fantasy football community being a bit more exclusive, and one way to do that is to charge for content. At bottom, if you're giving advice to everyone for free, what good are you doing your readership? Anyone and everyone can come and read your stuff - and they're competing against each other, so there isn't a competitive advantage for your readership...
Looking back, was there a particular event or time that indicated Draft Sharks had "arrived"?
LP: Yeah, in the very first year, I wrote what has been become one of our marquee articles – our "First Round Bust Candidate." We called out Steve Young, who was coming off a monster year in 1998, and warned our subscribers away from drafting him. That preseason, we started to get some emails from readers who loved the pick – and some flames from readers who thought we were nuts. I knew then that we were relevant and that folks were reading our stuff – and it was making them think outside the box. As I recall, Young got knocked out by the Cards on a Monday night game in Week 3 – and that concussion forced him into retirement. I actually cheered when it happened. I met Young 5 or 6 years later. And after talking to him for a few minutes, I didn't feel bad for having cheered when he got hurt!
How important are the customized fantasy football cheatsheetsto your platform? How long did that system take to develop, and how quickly did it catch on with users?
LP: It's pretty popular, as we get quite a bit of positive customer feedback on it. The rankings are based on a Value Based Drafting system – which is to say, it measures relative player scarcity at each position based on the particular scoring rules of your league. Conceptually, it's something that came from Rotisserie Baseball and was introduced to fantasy football by Joe Bryant. I think I'm right in saying that Draft Sharks was the first site to have a VBD tool, as it was part of our original site in 1999.
What do you envision for the future of DraftSharks.com?
LP: Good question. I've seen a lot of changes in the industry since 1999. And my biggest concern is that the industry used to be defined by a bunch of regular guys who were passionate about fantasy football. What I see now is a corporate takeover of the industry. Look at how many sites have been bought out by billion-dollar, multi-media corporations. Look at how ESPN, NBC, CBS, and even the NFL itself, has entered into the marketplace. Maybe it's me – but it just rubs me the wrong way at times. There seems to be a "sameness" that infects the landscape of fantasy football content. That said, maybe all the movement toward the corporatization of the hobby has helped more clearly define who we are at Draft Sharks. We don't want to be everywhere on the web; we don't want to be all things to all people; we don't want to become a mega-site that churns out words by the pound. In the end, we're just a small, tightly-knit group of writers who drink beer in the office, work crazy hours, and absolutely love what we do. I always tell our writers: "Think outside the box. Be bold. Make people think. Tell them something they don't already know."