SEATTLE - Five years ago, which may as well have been decades in the warp-speed-traveling Internet industry, Alan McDonald swallowed hard and went for it. The publisher of magazines covering college sports in Indiana and Wisconsin, he took the digital plunge. And that leap into the virtual unknown, provoked by fellow College Sports Publishers Association member Jim Heckman, became the makings of a high-profile online sports network.
A couple of transformations later, McDonald and Heckman are back on the same trail, as McDonald's InsideUW.com, the highly respected site covering University of Wisconsin sports, will join Heckman's TheInsiders.com network. The agreement, announced today, will be implemented when McDonald's contract expires with Alliance Sports.
It was the promise of dramatically fanning subscription sales to his Web site that reunited McDonald with Heckman, the Rivals.com founder and current TheInsiders.com co-founder and chief executive officer. Heckman's current network recently entered into a blockbuster marketing and syndication deal with Yahoo!, the sprawling Internet portal that has become virtually synonymous with online business success.
"Yahoo! invited me out to their headquarters, and I saw what they will do for TheInsiders.com," McDonald said. "It blew me away. I think I'll be the first of many Alliance publishers who will switch and join the Yahoo!/TheInsiders network.
"I've been a longtime Yahoo! user. I even use My Yahoo! as my homepage. So I understand how big a deal that is for TheInsiders.com. You're talking about ABC, NBC and CBS; Yahoo! is one of those."
TheInsiders.com is gaining a Web site that, according to Heckman, is an industry leader in Big Ten recruiting coverage. McDonald says his magazine and site "like to focus on doing what the daily newspapers don't do."
McDonald recalls being reeled into Heckman's vision back in 1997, leading him and a collection of other CSPA publishers into forming the original Rivals.com network. McDonald shared most of that vision, but not all.
"Even back then Jim said we all should start charging for content online,'' McDonald said. "I said there's no way it would ever work.
"Of course," he added with a smile, "I might have been wrong about that."