10 Ways WWE Has Been Affected by the Digital Age
We are in a technical renaissance right now, with information and media available at the touch of a button.
It was not that long ago that schools had a few computers in a lab, and less than half the households in the United States had some kind of computer.
These days it is hard to find someone without at least two different means of accessing the Internet. With smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming devices with apps and smart TVs, there are more options available than ever.
This technical revolution has affected nearly every part of our life, from how we absorb news and information to how we communicate with each other.
WWE has been affected by this more than most sports organizations because they rely on fans not knowing what will happen in order to make them tune in.
People watch football and other sports because they don't always know what will happen, but fans of wrestling watch because they like the entertainment value of it.
With more ways to access information than ever before, WWE has been forced to adapt on a yearly basis to keep up with the trends.
Let's look at 10 ways the digital age has affected WWE, and how they do business.
Information about pre-taped events has always been something WWE has tried to keep under wraps, but that has become impossible.
With thousands of fans tweeting, texting and communicating in a myriad of other ways, keeping results a secret simply is not an option.
There are hundreds of wrestling websites that will post spoilers the second they have a chance, and this has severely affected WWE's viewing audience.
Fans used to have to tune in to see what would happen, but now they can make that decision after reading a quick recap of events from someone who was there.
WWE Raw is live and so are PPV events, but everything else is almost always pre-taped, and that means WWE has to try to find ways to make fans want to tune in after knowing what will happen in advance.
When I was a kid there were exactly three ways to order WWE merchandise: Order from a catalog, be lucky enough to find something in a store or attend a live event.
These days, thanks to the Internet, fans can get whatever they want delivered right to their door within days.
This has allowed WWE to expand their product line to include more items and more varieties of merchandise.
WWEShop.com features hundreds of items, as opposed to the few dozen that WWE used to sell at any given time.
People Can See Matches They Could Have Never Seen Years Ago
WWE Home Video has allowed people to relive their favorite WWE memories for over two decades, but the Internet has allowed all generations to experience any match they can find.
You could spend years on YouTube watching every wrestling match that is available today, and by the time you were done there would be years of new matches to go through.
Unless he was on TV, I had no way of watching The Great Muta when I was a kid. Now I can go watch matches taped throughout his entire career with the click of a mouse.
This kind of availability of media has made fans smarter over the years, because they can educate themselves more than ever before.
Knowing the Real Lives of Wrestlers
Twenty years ago you couldn't easily find out the real names of many wrestlers without buying publications that delved into the behind-the-scenes aspects of wrestling.
Now all one needs to do is Google someone and they can find their name, where they grew up, how they got into the business and maybe even more personal info these men and women would not normally have shared given the choice.
Had it not been for the way information is shared, we might not have known about Paul Bearer's passing until Monday.
With the way things are today, we knew within hours. Nothing is as private as we would like it to be, and for the people who live in the public eye, it is a million times worse.
Twitter, Facebook and Other Social Networks
Thanks to Twitter, I know things about my favorite Superstars I could not care any less about.
Social networking might be the biggest way things have changed over the last 10 years, and it has both upsides and downsides.
Being able to communicate directly with Shawn Michaels through Twitter is something nobody would have dreamed of when he was first forming DX.
Now we can actually ask these men and women questions, and possibly get answers.
This has also allowed some Superstars to reveal their true nature to the world. Social networking has had more headlines for people going on bitter rants than they have positive stories, and that is the new way of the world.
Communication has changed in more ways over the last 20 years than any other industry on earth, and considering a lot of what goes on takes place in the digital realm, we are almost too available.
The Opinions of Fans Impacting Decisions
How did sports franchises and promotions find out the opinions of their fans in the '80s?
Besides listening to their cheers and boos, they would conduct phone surveys, in-person surveys at events and surveys through the mail. This was a long and expensive way for a company to find out what people thought.
Now all WWE has to do is search Twitter for #WWE and they will find millions upon millions of opinions on what they are doing right and wrong.
WWE can also have a pop-up ask you for your opinion on any of their websites, which takes only a few seconds for results to be calculated and added to other results.
The digital age has given companies like WWE a way to change on a moments notice based on the wants and needs of their fans, which is invaluable to their longevity as a company.
Instant Gratification/15 Seconds of Fame
WWE uses social networking more effectively than anyone else out there, and this is something that actually makes some fans happy.
If you have ever sent in a tweet or a tout, and WWE has used it on TV, you have probably felt pretty good about yourself despite not actually accomplishing anything.
Being on TV or knowing millions of people know your take on the situation is something that makes the average Joe feel special, and if WWE can make their fans feel special then they will be more profitable fans.
Any businessman worth his salt knows a happy customer is a customer who spends more, and one way WWE can make their fans happy is to make them feel like they are part of the show.
Being in the crowd is cool, but being the only one on the screen when WWE plays your tout means you know for a fact that millions of people just listened to what you have to say.
WWE Is Not Just a Wrestling Company Anymore
WWE is built around wrestling, but their Superstars are more than just wrestlers thanks to the way technology has changed.
Take Zack Ryder for example. How he would have fared 20 years ago with the same gimmick is something we cannot know, but we can know that he would not have had as many ways to get himself over.
When management didn't use him, Ryder embraced the Internet and created a YouTube show that inspired WWE to create several more of their own shows.
WWE Superstars are acting in TV shows and movies, doing their own digital series or radio shows and even running their own empires outside of the WWE confines.
Lou Thesz is a pro wrestler. John Cena is a sports entertainer, and a lot of the reason behind the distinction has to do with how technology has allowed WWE to feature Cena.
Multiple Platforms to Tie Together into One Product
It used to be all you had to do to keep up with WWE was watch the shows and maybe buy the magazine.
Now WWE uses every platform it has to create an experience that stretches across multiple mediums.
Storylines are developed on Twitter off-screen, YouTube shows sometimes factor into what is happening on the weekly TV shows and WWE has made the use of their app a top priority.
In order to truly know everything that is going on in WWE you would have to follow at least 100 people on Twitter, watch Youtube about two hours each week on top of the other six hours of TV shows, and you would have to read their website and see updates during the show on a smartphone or tablet.
Oh yeah, there's also Tout, Pinterest, FaceBook, SMS alerts and about a dozen other ways to keep up on WWE news. The Magazine still exists, too.
It's too much for some consumers, but for others it is ideal to make the experience as immersive as possible.
Like I have said a few times, the way we ingest information changes every day and WWE has kept up with that in what some might consider too many ways to keep track of.
I am going to share something with you guys that you might not know about what I do. As many of you reading may know, I do the live Raw coverage every week for Bleacher Report.
During the show I have browser windows open to the page I am creating the article on, the actual live article with comments section, Twitter, WWE.com, YouTube and Google.
I also run a program that allows me to use the WWE app on my PC. Doing all of this allows me to create the best possible live coverage, but it is also a lot of work.
I am typing all throughout the live action, and during commercials I am responding to comments, finding photos and videos to use, checking the app and website for updates and checking Twitter for anything important.
I enjoy doing the work, but it is over three straight hours of fast computer use that leaves me drained at the end of the show.
WWE makes things interesting by using so many forms of communication, but they are making my job a lot harder, too. I don't complain because I love it, but the way things have to be done has changed a lot in the last few years.
The Creation of Smarks
There are new terms relating to wrestling that have evolved out of the Internet that are common these days.
The word Smark might be the most prevalent due to the fact that they were created by the Internet. It stand for Smart Mark, or at least a mark who thinks they are smart.
You used to have to have some kind of connection to the business to know the backstage happenings and real-life situations these Superstars are in.
Now all you have to do is a quick Google search to find anything you want to know, from mugshots to divorce deals and even the occasional naughty home movie gone public.
I could make a bunch of references to Haystacks Calhoun and Verne Gagne to try and sound smart, but the fact is all I might have done was checked Wikipedia for five minutes and picked the names of two classic wrestlers from the old days to prove a point.
The digital age has made regular fans into smarks, which are essentially people who think they are in the know.
Fans who scour wrestling sites everyday feel informed, and because of that they might feel like their opinion is more important than that of the casual fan.
Not all smarks are like this, but it is a negative connotation that goes along with the term for sure.
Everyone in the crowd who doesn't know why some fans chant Albert when Tensai is in the ring don't care that they know less about wrestling, but the people who think themselves clever certainly care.
In many ways, WWE has been affected by the digital era, and the way it has changed the way we take things in more than any other company or sport.
Hollywood and the music industry all tie in to what WWE does, and WWE does things nobody else is doing on top of that.
Even with all the advances in technology we have seen, baseball is still baseball. Nothing about it has changed because of the Internet.
The same cannot be said for WWE or pro wrestling.
Thanks for reading and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor