Whotheman.com: Sports talk TV, web-style
Necessity has been called the mother of invention and in this case it was some fans' need for more air time that gave birth to an Internet sports business.
It was the spring of 2007 and the Toronto Raptors were battling in the NBA playoffs. Basketball nuts Ali Ghafour and Jesse Moeinifar tuned in to a FAN 590 post-game show to do what basketball nuts like to do: express their opinions. But the lines were jammed, time was short and they didn't get on.
``All we could get was a busy signal," says Moeinifar. ``So we're sitting there thinking there's got to be a better way to do this."
Thus was born whotheman.com, an interactive online forum for sports nuts.It's call-in radio -- actually TV -- on the web. But this isn't just one of those message boards that usually degenerate into name-calling by BigDoggy17 or Studmuffin69. The debates on this website, spurred by the site's latest news offerings, are done by video.
They keep score, too, with members voting on which side of the debate won them over. Should Jose Calderon stay or go? Should Brett Favre retire? They're all fodder for members, some of whom provide some pretty creative videos.
While much of it involves Joe looking into a webcam and professing his undying love or hatred for a certain athlete or team, many go way beyond that. One guy offers his opinions apparently while making pizzas in a restaurant. Others are just very funny.
There are tournaments, too, with members deciding who moves on to the next round.
``They'll challenge each other to a battle, then members vote on who's right," says Moeinifar. ``It's no longer about the person with the loudest voice. It's about the voice of the collective. It's very democratic."
The beauty of the video approach is that people tend to be a bit more civilized than those on message boards.
``They don't come across as nasty as they do on message boards because their faces are up there," says Moeinifar. ``They're not using their real names in most cases, but things are more civilized when it's your face out there. And there are a lot of people doing the debating.
Since launching last August, it's getting more than 20,000 visitors a day from 70 countries. Ghafour and Moeinifar believe this is only a start.
The two have so much belief in the concept they quit their jobs -- Moeinifar was selling real estate and Ghafour was working in IT -- and invested more than $100,000 in the business.
They believe they're only a few months away from turning a profit, but not in the usual way. While the site has a few ads, they plan to license the news-gathering and video technology that drives the site.
``We're pleasantly surprised to find we're the only ones out there," says Ghafour.