Monday, September 22, 2008

What fans want

I’m semi-literate when it come to the internet. Most of what I know about it I learned from Tom Terronez, owner of Terrostar , the company that created and maintains my business website. From day one Tom has preached the value of search marketing and the use of site analytics.

When I started the blog in July of ’07 it was an experiment. Did anyone really want to read the opinions of a wrestling fan in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Well – it turns out that a few people do. Just before Fargo this year I started a research project on my readership. The first year was a little hard because myspace was the primary home for the blog and all I had were the view statistics for each edition. In early July I moved the primary home to blogger and extended my google analytics account to include the blog.


Here’s what I’ve found.

Editions with video are overwhelmingly the most popular. With over 3,200 views, by far the most popular blog was, “Banach is in trouble.” That one was written to thank Iowa Public Television for their years of supporting college wrestling. Pat Rowen of IPTV had graciously provided me with video of one of the biggest upset matches in the history of their broadcasts – Iowa State’s Dave Osenbaugh over Iowa’s Lou Banach. I agreed to leave the video posted for just one week and there was quite a clamor when I took it down (mostly from Cyclone fans).

The most visited page in my archives is “A short video history of American freestyle wrestling”. It became especially popular during the Olympics.

On average, the inclusion of a video in my blog will increase weekly visitors by 400+.

The most prevalent theme in the search phrases that drive people to the blog is “video”. There are a lot of folks out there looking for video of past wrestling greats. Since the first of July this year people have been driven to my site in their search for tape of Rick Sanders (the most popular), Wade Schalles, Doug Blubaugh, Lou Banach, Dan Hodge, Wayne Wells, Cael Sanderson and Sergei Beloglazov.

My conclusion – wrestling fans want more video. The sport lends itself to online viewing. Most match videos last around 10 minutes (so you can sneak one in at work). You can choose who you want to watch and which matches. So why isn’t their more available? In the case of the NCAA and its member institutions, it’s licensing. Last March I got press credentials for the Division II and Division III National Championships. I was classified as “new media” and admonished to read the appropriate rules carefully. Those rules clearly forbid the posting of match videos in their entirety. I can post a 3 minute “representation” (highlight clip), but not a complete match.

All governing bodies: USA Wrestling, the NCAA, the NWCA, individual colleges and tournaments, etc. are cracking down on the unauthorized shooting, copying and posting of videos. Why? If so many fans want to watch these matches, why not, “for the good of the sport”, let them? The week after Fargo the top search phrases for my blog were related to video of the Nate Moore/Eric Grajales match. Clearly, online video is a key medium for the promotion of the sport.

Answer – it just isn’t that simple. When my daughter was in law school she asked her attorney uncle for specialization suggestions. His reply, “Well, if you want to get rich – go into intellectual property law. That’s going to be in the courts for the next 20 years.” Each entity that sponsors or holds an event (i.e. invests the money) has the right to determine how that “final product” is used. In many cases this is further complicated by the web of relationships that frequently must be developed to promote or broadcast the event. Just try any kind of advertising use of that phrase that implies that only four college basketball teams remain in the tournament and see what happens.

I’m not sure that the real issue is availability. It might be cost. There are a number of places that offer match video, but some charge membership fees. Typically, the costs are quite reasonable, but wrestling fans seem to like to pinch pennies.

I also wonder this - if people can watch wrestling for free on the computer will they get off their butts and go to live matches – typically paying $6 - $10 per meet. Attendance at college dual meets is already a problem. Will greater internet exposure serve to motivate fans to attend live events – or will it keep them at home? We don’t have enough data to know yet.

Obviously, there is still a lot to be learned

Anyway, if you have the day off from work and want to watch some wrestling here are a couple of options.

Live Sports Video charges for some things and offers other things free. The 2008 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals are in their archives.

The Wrestling Talk has an excellent collection of videos at all levels including the 2008 Olympics.

USA Wrestling has a video collection on youtube. Many are interview videos, but there are a lot of matches from 2007 Senior Nationals.

intermat has a great collection of technique videos in their premium section. As a fan, I have found them very informative.

Oh yeah – for that person looking for Sergei Beloglasov – here he is against John Smith.


Gantry said...

Also don't forget Flowrestling, which has a TON of wrestling interviews and videos, including a very respectable amount of full matches.

Chris said...

Can you post the highlight videos you described of rick sanders?