Are you ready for some fantasy football?

A football on a field with the ESPN Fantasy Football logo behind it.

Football is back. The NFL preseason starts this week, which means football fans like Andrew Norton, who runs a fantasy football blog, are about to get a whole lot busier.

"I have a lot to do in the next few weeks," Andrew says. "Lots of different player rankings and posting a lot of draft strategy."

If you haven't played fantasy football, it works like this: at the beginning of the season, you sign up with a group of other people as a league. Each person in your group takes turns drafting real NFL players to their team, and then, each week, your team squares off against the team of someone else in your group.

Paul Charchian heads the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and runs the website Fantasy Victory. "This industry is almost entirely Internet-driven," he says. "Fantasy games are complex." Paul says it's really hard to do the types of calculations fantasy football requires by hand. "Having online destinations for administration of leagues, was absolutely critical. We estimate pre-Internet, there were two million people playing fantasy sports. There are 36 million now."

All that interest has spurred some intense competition among the fantasy league providers including Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS and NFL.com.

"It's vicious right now," Paul says. "These companies are really competing for eyeballs and players. With 36 million people, you can really drive a lot of page views, and that becomes really attractive to advertisers for sponsorship." He says the sites are adding more interactive content, multimedia features and working to improve their mobile applications so they can do things like text fantasy players when someone on their team gets hurt.

Paul says fantasy football's influence is so significant that it's changed the way people watch. "It wasn't that long ago the preseason was the forgotten part of the schedule nobody cared about. Now the NFL, largely driven by fantasy, has decided to start playing all of the preseason games from every single team."

Also on today's show: cyber-crooks are looking to cash in on wizard wannabes.

In October, JK Rowling launches the website Pottermore, to add information and stories about the world of Harry Potter. As part of the launch, some fans are being given access to the site early.

Security researcher Chris Boyd from GFI Software says the excitement about Pottermore and the exclusivity of the beta site invites make it fertile ground for online conmen.

Boyd says he's spotted three types of scams so far: he's seen eBay sales of Pottermore access; he's spotted YouTube videos that lead to surveys asking for personal information; and, he says, there are poisoned search results popping up.

His advice for Potter fans: be wary, make sure your computer is protected, and just relax -- everyone will have access to Pottermore in October.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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