A wrestling fan’s take on Net Neutrality

“Wrestling fans” and “net neutrality” are not concepts likely to be paired in most people’s minds, but from the site ProWrestling.com comes a take on the net neutrality topic I hadn’t heard before:

Essentially, many websites and services would only be available if they were the highest bidder to a cable company. Then, all other internet users would be blocked from that site or service. Imagine a world where only special users could access MySpace!

Is this fair? Is it right? No, to the common internet user it’s not. But cable companies are frothing at the mouth for this to happen. They are shilling out millions to lobby their cases in Washington as we speak. To make things worse, if you didn’t like your internet provider, you have little or no chance of switching, since many internet companies are monopolies in certain regions. For instance, I use Comcast, and as much I hate their services, it’s the only choice in my city, and I’m stuck with it.

Going with this theory, what would stop billionaire Vince McMahon from coming along and making a deal with several or more cable companies? Since he knows the internet is always a detriment to his WWE, he might be able to throw money at cable companies just so they can provide WWE.com, but in return, he would want pwtorch.com to be blocked off. Or he could say “I’m going to pull my pay-per-view programming unless you block out wrestlingobserver.com.”

Could you imagine one day not having an Internet Wrestling Community? To many wrestling fans, the internet is the lifeblood that fuels their passion for the product. Without the internet, fans can’t interact with each other, they can’t get all the juicy backstage gossip, they can’t download their favorite matches, and the acclaimed critics like Meltzer and Keller could take a hit on their income.

I’m nowhere near insider enough to get the backstory amongst the specific players here — McMahon controls pro wrestling and (at least some of) the online fans don’t like him is about as deep as I can go — but it’s interesting to see net neutrality cast as anti-internet-billionaires-who-control-the-industry vs. the fans.

Don’t JudgeOJ(.com)

Remember back in August when OJ Simpson was going to launch a website, judgeoj.com where fans would be “able to watch Simpson conduct radio interviews, chat to fans at bus shelters and enjoy the company of lapdancers at clubs?” The site, “shot by one of Simpson’s longtime pals, was created to serve as a chance for the NAKED GUN star to clean up his image, tarnished by the 1994 trial into his wife’s murder.”

Well, as if that image needed any more tarnishing given the lashing his not-getting-published book has received (you know things are bad when Murdoch says it’s crossed a line of decency), the site doesn’t seem to have worked out either. It’s now being used to seek a partner (publisher? film company? download on demand?) to make use of the hours and hours of OJ footage that apparently never quite got going on the site.

Call me crazy, but this guy’s got some strange ideas about how to clean up an image.

When users are abusers

Running a fan board is a tremendous act of love and a helluva lot of effort. In the best cases, the site masters are adored and appreciated by the people who use the boards. In the worst cases, stuff like this happens:

THE SaintsForever website has shut down its popular message boards after the man who runs it was subjected to “a never ending stream of abuse.”

Over the last eight years Keith Legg has seen SaintsForever become one of the most popular forums on the internet for Saints fans to discuss everything from tactics and signings to the price of pies in the concourses at St Mary’s.

In a statement posted on the site to explain the closure of the forums, Legg said: “Unfortunately, this site has become more of a burden than a pleasure.

Here’s an excerpt from his statement:

Unfortunately, this site has become more of a burden than a pleasure to me and I have to constantly deal with issues created by a minority of people who have it in for the site, or me in particular.

I fully appreciate this is allowing the minority to spoil it for the majority and for a long time now, I’ve resisted my gut feeling to shut the site for the very reason that I “didn’t want to let the bastards win”. I have met many great people via this site and had some superb support over the years, which has made this decision all the harder.

But when I receive a never ending stream of abusive emails, threats, lies spread about my private and professional life, damage to my property, abusive phonecalls, anonymous letters to my employer and hacking attempts to the site and my emails… it really is not worth it when it effects me and most importantly, my family.

Of course, all the above is done by gutless anonymous cowards with little grasp on living in the real world and being able to act like normal human beings. Unfortunately the internet is a haven for these type of saddos and I can only see it getting worse.

I don’t know the backstory here, but it’s easy to imagine it happening in any fan site. I wish I had a magic solution to this kind of garbage. In this case, the board’s admin team decided to step in and pick up where Legg left off, but not without disruption:

As already stated, the Admin Team have been busy setting up a brand-new message board.

We are starting from scratch, so everyone will need to re-register – but, once you’ve created an account, you should be able to post straight away.

As it’s a brand-new board, on a new host, there is always the possibility of teething problems – if this happens, please accept our apologies and bear with us as we sort it out.

I guess it serves as a reminder of the fragility of fan communities.

Getting sports fans engaged

Brandweek interviews David Katz head of Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Studios, who discusses the importance of sports fans, particularly fantasy football players, to Yahoo! Sports, the most profitable sector of Yahoo!:

BW: What is the attraction for marketers looking to reach that audience?

DK: Since the beginning of sports on TV, there have been armchair quarterbacks who feel they know what to do better than the coach or general manager. But they had to wait for the newspaper, write down stats, recalculate info. It wasn’t efficient. The Internet changed that. The growth has been tremendous, and there’s still a lot of room for growth. The beauty for advertisers is that the fantasy audience is by far the most engaged audience on the Internet. And the NFL is the most important sport for online sites.

Meanwhile, over at the Sports Marketing blog, Pat Coyle notes that they have so many more lurkers than posters on sports fans forums and connects it to fans’ inclination to fan-watch:

We did a survey last season and asked our season ticket holders what they like to do before the games. A large percentage to out to eat, or tailgate; and many like to watch the players warm up, but by far the most popular thing to do before games is PEOPLE WATCH. Fans go to games to watch other fans in addition to watching players. That strikes me as oddly interesting. I can see living vicariously through the players, but I wonder why this fascination with watching other people?


Maybe I’m crazy. But at the very least, I believe we need to find more ways to get people to engage so that we can better understand who they are and what makes them tick. Knowing more about our fans will help us keep them as customers (consumers of our content) and help us develop better opportunities for our sponsors. We need to engage with our fans (and they with us) so that we can represent their QUALITY as much their QUANTITY to our sponsors. Currently, all I can tell a sponsor is the number of eyeballs viewing our screens.

It’s a long known fact that most people who read net forums won’t ever post, and most of those who do, will only do so once or twice while a tiny minority will dominate the discussion (something I wrote about way back in the early 90s and which has been found over and over again in many other studies). Connecting the dots, maybe one way to get more sports fans participating is to give them a way to play instead of just talk. But even so, I think ultimately we all have to just accept that we’re always going to have a lot more lurkers than posters.

Fans&Boxer for Charity

From the world of boxing comes news of a fan-organized charitable event that sounds like it was a huge success:

It would be hard to find better examples of the power of the Internet and fans interacting with their boxing hero. Australian based supporters of Kostya Tszyu held a sparring day on Saturday titled “Crewfighter” at the former undisputed champion’s gymnasium in Sydney. All of the details, including the matches, catering, prizes, merchandise, video filming, after fight dinner and designated charity for proceeds were all organised via the Internet and in the Forum at www.KostyaTszyu.com. Organiser Mark “Seafarer” Fellows came up with the idea whilst speaking with a fellow Tszyu Crewer late one night.


Fellows took the concept to Tszyu, who loved the idea. The 37 year-old junior welterweight star has always had a close relationship with his fans and regularly holds live web-chats with them through his website as well as making advertised public appearances to meet fans, sign autographs and pose for photos.

I know even less about boxing than I do other sports, but I know I like it when I see someone willing to go out of his way to support his fans when they organize meaningful events in his name.

There are a lot of charity events in which celebrities participate, and this suggests what could be a fruitful way to channel fans’ creativity toward good causes while enhancing the bonds between artists and fans.