Before we can answer the question that is posed in the title of this column, we need to better understand what it means to be an “independent news” website. By “independent news” website I am not referring to an official site like WWE.com or any of the corporate sites like PWTorch.com, 1Wrestling.com, or F4Wonline.com. Nor am I referring to the new group of great, blog-based and fan-centric websites like TNAsylum.com and TNAMecca.com. And by using the word “independent” I’m not referring to those websites who only focus on independent wrestling results.
Instead, I’m referring to the group of websites that populated the internet when I started in this game back in 1996. Websites like the original 411 Info and Al Isaac’s Scoops. Frankly, my original wrestling website – The Balrog’s Lair – was one of the internet originals as a “news” websites. What made these website unique was that there was true, independent reporting taking place. Isaacs would talk to wrestlers in the New York City area and bring their comments to the internet. Many of us reached out to wrestlers via their e-mail addresses (this was in the mid-to-late 1990s so e-mail was a lot less secure and much less spammy). And since the wrestlers didn’t get swarmed with ridiculous e-mails on a daily basis, they were forthcoming about answering a question or two via e-mail – particularly the independent wrestlers who had connections to the then-WWF and WCW. Actually, the interactions that many of us had with the wrestlers via e-mail back then is similar to what happens on Twitter today.
Some folks might read the title of this column and think that it’s silly because you’re reading this column on an independent wrestling “news” website. Okay, I’ll give you that one. On it’s face, the title of this column would seem to be contradicted by the location where it is being published. However, as the owner and primary operator of this website, I can tell you for sure that I am not pleased with the direction that the internet wrestling “news” website industry has moved – and I include my own website in that categorization. There is almost no independent reporting left on the internet. None. There is a severe lack of thought put into what people write in their “news” updates. Without sounding too much like a self-serving egomaniac (or an old internet codger), the only truly independent news reports that you’ll read on any websites these days are the ratings reports that I publish for iMPACT Wrestling. Other than those reports you’re likely reading a mix of not-quite-real-news stories heavily peppered with the opinion of a small handful of internet wrestling click-bait content generators.
Think about that for a moment: Almost every piece of information on the internet regarding professional wrestling comes from the personal opinions of a small handful of “news” reporters. That goes for Wikipedia (check the vast majority of sources in the footnotes) and for nearly all of the “news” websites that proliferated over the last decade and a half. One of the only wrestling websites that I frequent outside of my own is WrestleView.com. I love the breadth of what Adam has put together over there. However, even the news that is posted on his website is rehashed bits of information from other sources. Even still, though, Adam and his website are very successful and they deserve to be because he puts a lot of time and effort into making WrestleView.com the best site that it can be (and one of the best professional wrestling websites on the internet).
Sites like IWHeadlines.com and TNAStars.com before it, and TBLWrestling.com before it, and even TheBalrogsLair.com before it are a dying breed. In fact, they may be a dead breed. If you try to find the group of websites that some folks might consider peers to any of these domains, chances are very strong that they don’t exist any more. And if they do exist, then they either exist as a shell of their former selves with updates aggregated from off-site sources or they exist as corporate websites with absolutely no independent thought or independent news reporting. If they’ve survived, then they’ve survived as copy and paste farms.
For a guy who has been playing in this field for nearly 20 years, that’s very troubling.
And why has the independent news website gone by the wayside? Well, I’d suggest there are three reasons. First, you have natural attrition. Not every website that opens today will be in existence one, two, five, or ten years from now. Second, I believe that many of the independent “news” website operators grew frustrated at the lack of traffic and the expansive proliferation of very poor quality “news” stories. In my view, that frustration led to many of these independent operators to leave the internet wrestling space and allow the poorer quality, but much higher traffic generating websites to dominate the space. And third, the rise of the hybrid blog/news website seems to be expanding. I listed both TNAsylum and TNAMecca above – I’m sure that there are more websites like these for WWE fans, ROH fans, etc. For my part, I think that you can’t find a better conversation during iMPACT Wrestling than you’ll find on those two websites. They remind me of the Java chat rooms from 20 years ago!
I was going to write that a fourth reason for the failure of independent wrestling sites is that they are spotty in both their readership and authors. However, after not paying attention to most other sites for the last half decade or so, I didn’t want to make that suggestion. Writers, “reporters,” and editors come and go too frequently on the independent websites, but that may just be part of the game for the sites that I’ve been watching and involved with over the years.
Are independent internet wrestling “news” websites a thing of the past? Are they a dead or even a dying breed? Unfortunately, my answer is “yes.”
And with that in mind, I think that IWHeadlines.com may have run its course in its current form. I feel strongly that the current format and focus of IWHeadlines.com is not as successful as it should be (I may discuss the reasons why in a future column). I also feel strongly that some of our content is the best on the internet (again, I refer to the viewership and ratings reports). And yet, this website needs change. The entire approach that I’ve employed for IWHeadlines.com and its predecessor sites needs change because that approach is no longer a successful method of achieving success in this space.
Perhaps the change is moving away from a news-centric website and, instead, focusing the entire website on being an opinion/blog website. Part of that change might be reducing the amount of content available at IWHeadlines.com because, in truth, not many people are taking advantage of our content.
Even still perhaps the change is more fundamental. Maybe this entire game plan needs to be scrapped as I alluded to above – and replaced with a former domain with a much simpler, much more pared down version of a “wrestling” website. It might be time to bring back TBLWrestling.com and simply make it a place where I blog about professional wrestling from time to time.
And where, of course, I post the best iMPACT Wrestling viewership and ratings reports on the internet.
Even I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this website, the content from its predecessor sites, and my time spent on internet wrestling. Who knows which direction this will go in?
Maybe a more concerning question, though, is who cares? Google has certainly done its best to destroy my viewership (and I admit that they’ve largely won that battle). Aside from Google, I have some 2,300 e-mail addresses on an old mailing list where maybe a third of them are dead, another third doesn’t care, and my e-mail blasts wind up in the spam folder of the remaining third. When the masters of the internet have decided that you don’t get to play any more, what’s the point in trying?
What keeps me engaged here is that I have an opinion that I think is nonexistent in the internet wrestling world. And that opinion is one of a professional, successful businessman and entrepreneur who understands the business aspects of WWE and TNA (and independent promotions) better than the rank and file wrasslin’ fan who is browsing the internet for the latest news on their favorite promotion. That fan is not going to read a successful businessman’s opinion on any of the moves being made by any of the promotions. Instead, they’re probably going to read an editorial written by a poorly educated individual who still wonders whether the McMahons are all really related (I’m not kidding – I’ve met people like that in real life).
The question that I’m struggling with now, though, is whether or not the opinion of a successful businessman even deserves a place in the online wrestling theater. When you add up the negatives – Google being against you, a contact list that doesn’t really lead to anything, and the vast majority of internet wrestling readers not caring or having the capacity to care – it makes you wonder whether the effort is worth it.
Change is coming to IWHeadlines.com. I don’t know what and I don’t know when, but it’s coming.