As the subheading on last week's New York Times article by Noam Cohen said, "wrestling is more than just a fake sport. It's a lifestyle." With all the discussions we've been having here over the past few months about lifestyle brands, this raises an interesting question--is WWE a lifestyle brand? As I've mentioned here before, WWE is trying to reposition itself as a cool hunter for its target demographic. But can a wrestling company be a lifestyle brand, or just incorporate elements of one?
The company is hoping to change the nature of its magazine department, which has suffered from waning sales in recent years. Instead of just being focused on the current television product, as both of the magazines previously were, this lifestyle magazine is going to look instead at providing a service close to other men's magazines, such as Maxim. Previously, the wrestling magazines focused on current storylines and on being part of the fictional universe.
In years past, feuds were analyzed, explained, and elaborated on in the magazine and, on rare occasions, even started based on something that happened in the magazine, such as a 1992 feud between wrestlers Randy Savage and Ric Flair in which Savage was angered by a set of photos run in the WWF Magazine that featured his wife, Elizabeth, with Flair.
The new magazine--instead of containing the potential for these transmedia types of stories--will include reviews of new entertainment and products targeted toward the young male demographic that the WWE is geared toward.
The WWE's shift in magazine content likely stems from the fact that the publications are not as successful as they once were. Further, WWE has seemed to put a lot less emphasis on their magazine than they used to, a move that roughly coincides with the rise in popularity of the WWE's new media division. Under the direction of WWE commentator and former CBS news correspondent Michael Cole (his WWE stage name), the company Web site has taken over many of the aspects of news delivery and storytelling that were formerly the magazine's domain. Becuase the Web site can update instantly, rather than just running monthly features, the online medium is just a much better way to give fans up-to-the-minute news behind-the-scenes within the WWE fictional universe. In the past, ther have been times that injuries or other factors have caused storylines to change after the magazines had already gone to press, leading to issues that would discuss or tease upcoming matches or feuds that had already been scrapped. The company has also launched their text messaging service for breaking news, called WWE Mobile Alerts, demonstrating yet another medium that can better handle the transmedia function regarding news within the fictional universe, as opposed to the magazine.
The magazine will still heavily feature WWE wrestlers but will not rely on being within the fictional universe and will focus on the world outside the wrestling ring--the WWE lifestyle. In advertisements for the premiere issue, the cover boasts some features similar to the old magazine--insider news, discussions with returning wrestlers, etc.--but also features quizzes, reviews and more behind-the-scenes interviews. But can WWE be a lifestyle brand, centered around a wrestling product?