Archive for the ‘wrestling’ tag
Tout, the service that lets you post real-time status updates, and another spin-out from SRI, the research institute that birthed Apple’s Siri, is announcing today that it has closed $13.4 million in Series B funding. The investor line-up in this one is interesting, as it includes WWE – yes, that’s “World Wrestling Entertainment!” Others in the round included 819 Capital and individual investors Gordon Crawford, Stan Shuman and Jack Schneider from Allen & Co. The round follows Tout’s $2 million Series A in December 2010, which saw investment from Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Horizons Ventures, and Seavest Ventures.
The company has seen its fair share of high-profile users, including Shaquille O’Neal (who announced his retirement on Tout) and Survivor host Jeff Probst, for example, as well as Ryan Seacrest, Erin Andrews, Dr. Oz, and a number of news stations and major media networks including CBS, National Geographic Channel, CNBC’s “Fast Money,” C-SPAN, ESPN and even presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Tout, for those unfamiliar, allows you to post video messages of up to 15 seconds. People who follow you and see the message can then reply with their own 15-second videos. Twitter-for-video and other video messaging startups (e.g. Seesmic, Vlix) haven’t really caught on (unless you count YouTube, and perhaps you should), but Tout believes that its inroads with the celeb/media crowd will be to its advantage. Apparently, WWE agrees.
The company says it now has 23 million users. In March, the company said it had 12 million users visiting its website, so it’s unclear if Tout is counting unique visitors or those with registered accounts here. (We’ll update when we hear back). That’s kind of a big deal – after all, celebs can easily get fans to click through, but how many users then stick around to participate themselves?
But even if they don’t, maybe that’s OK with Tout, it seems. In an earlier interview, CEO Michael Downing told TechCrunch that the company’s vision was not to be “a destination social network,” but wants to enable video messaging for everyone else. The company was then testing an API and teasing “some major partners” in the works. I guess we have some insight into WWE’s interest, then. By the way, if you’re interested in sending your messages to WWE’s “superstars and divas” – and c’mon, you know you are, right? – the company is prompting Tout on its homepage here. Hold my calls.
Wrestling with a puzzle, a project or a problem, the likeliest reason to give up is the belief that it can’t be done. What’s the point of persevering if it’s actually impossible to succeed?
“It can’t be done,” we say, throwing up our hands. Not “I can’t do it,” or “It’s not worth my time,” but “It can’t be done.”
In the year after Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, the record was broken again and again. Once people realized it could be done, it wasn’t an impossible task any longer. And that’s why there’s a flood of tablets on the market, many from companies that had what they needed to build the first one, but didn’t until Apple showed them the way.
Two things you might take away from this: First, there’s solace in finding someone who has done it before, whatever “it” is you’re trying to do. Knowing that it’s possible and studying how it was done can’t help but increase the chances you’ll stick it out.
Second: huge value accrues to the few able to actually do a thing for the very first time.
WrestleMania has transformed itself from a small wrestling event to an international media spectacle. In its 28th incarnation, held at the beginning of this month, there were no signs of it stopping.
The WWE did something unique last year – it announced the main event for Wrestlemania over a year in advance. The big match featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a huge cross-over star, and John Cena, the current flag bearer for the company. Recognizing the challenges of trying to keep interest for the match a year in advance, the WWE turned to social media. I wanted to some of the people driving this initiative, both on- and off-screen. Jason Hoch, SVP of Digital Operations for the WWE, discussed his social media strategies for fan engagement and social TV.
Since joining the WWE, Hoch undertook a huge project to re-launch WWE.com with a totally new UX with social media at its core. Rather than just putting as Jason says “plug-ins” or social areas, they have tried to build the entire site to be socially enabled. This included deep integration so users could follow their favorite stars on multiple social networks and interact with them seamlessly. Throughout the event, WrestleMania and related hashtags dominated Twitter. As they push hard into social, Jason specifically recognizes that social media fatigue is a key element that needs to be closely monitored to determine what level of interaction is appropriate and doesn’t turn off fans in its broadcasts and other media.
I also interviewed Zack Ryder, who talked about how he has elevated his career due to social media. Zack has been one of the key individuals who helped push social onto the WWE radar and elevate its corporate importance. While he isn’t the biggest star in the WWE, his usage of social has elevated his position in the company and allowed him to better engage his fans. He points to this and says if he didn’t embrace social media and make some waves he would have likely been fired. This is a good example of how employees are using social media to elevate their status within a company and make themselves more valuable employees in the eyes of their employers.
So far, their engagement strategy appears to be working. The WWE feels like they are more up-to-date and engaged. In many cases, WWE wrestlers were actively retweeted, followed and engaged by fans. One stat that is very telling was the number of followers and likes they have on Facebook and Twitter.
The numbers behind this are impressive. Between all of the stars’ accounts, they have over 60 million Twitter followers and 20 million Facebook likes. In 2011, they received over 1 billion views on their YouTube channel (those are Justin Bieber-like numbers, folks). Aside from social statistics, the actual event WrestleMania broke both attendance and gate records at the Sun Life Stadium with over 78,000 fans. However, the real telling statistic will be PPV buy-rates and how many the WWE is able to generate. Like all live PPV events, the WWE fights piracy from multiple live streaming sites online. The expectations and pressure are high, especially bringing back The Rock in such a marquee match to help raise buy-rates.
Last night at Wrestlemania, over 110 individual terms trended during the night. The #Wrestlemania hashtag was mentioned over 600k times delivering nearly a billion potential impressions with a reach of over 130 million people.
Echo is one of WWE’s technical partners. They provide technology that translates the thousands of tweets/likes they receive per second into actionable information that they can integrate into their live broadcasts. Khris Loux, CEO of Echo, says that whenever someone tweets or likes something in the “WWE Universe” it is like a synapse firing and they are able to track and analyze it. Since the WWE is so vertically integrated (between talent, production and content), they were able to execute an integrated social media strategy that ties into web, broadcasts and live events. Khris said that WWE definitely has an advantage over other mediums. Khris cited other examples that have multiple legal entities that need to be coordinated and get approval from for rights and access.
People who quickly dismiss the social WWE’s success due to it being “wrestling” are missing the boat. The reality is that it is a well-oiled media machine integrating multiple moving parts seamlessly with social at its core.
Editor’s note: Guest contributor Joseph Puopolo is an entrepreneur and start-up enthusiast. He is also an Ultimate Fighting enthusiast. He took his camera to a Ultimate Fighting Championship event and came back with this interview with UFC president Dana White. His last post was on the social media strategies of professional wrestling
I got to meet and interview Dana White ahead of UFC 140. The event takes place on December 10th in Toronto, Canada and like every UFC event, heavily hyped via social media. Over the past 3 years, Dana White and the UFC have built a very strong social media presence, with 1.7 million followers on Twitter. I wanted to speak to the president of the UFC himself and get some more detail on what he thinks of Twitter and other social media tools. Dana talks about how he got into Twitter, how he uses it to help his business, what are the pitfalls and benefits.
He’s a huge fan. “It’s the greatest marketing tool in the history of the world and it is free,” he tells me. Watch the video.