Ah, content. That most misunderstood of concepts. The boon of marketing professionals and the bane of Martin Scorsese. Well, whatever your opinion is on so-called ‘content’, perhaps we can all agree that the term is most readily associated with one place: YouTube.
Enter Cultaholic Wrestling, a YouTube channel producing a variety of video features about the world of professional wrestling. Since joining YouTube in July 2017, Cultaholic has amassed nearly 350,000,000 views across all of its videos and a loyal fanbase of 664,000 subscribers. Their output includes a website featuring news updates and in-depth articles, a weekly podcast, and a burgeoning presence on live-streaming platform Twitch. Hell, they were even profiled in Forbes magazine.
But what makes Cultaholic’s content so interesting, and the secret to their success, is that they’re not really a wrestling channel at all.
(Note: this article contains too many references to pro wrestling. In the words of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels: I’m sorry. I love you.)
What is content and why is it important?
Before we tope suicida (or, dive headfirst) into the world of YouTube pro wrestling, a brief word on content. Contrary to what Mr Scorsese would have you believe, content isn’t all that scary. Nor is it, as YouTube would have you believe, solely video production. It’s much more than that, and though it can be difficult to produce effectively, it can be distilled into five key components:
- Strategy (St): understanding who you are making content for and why
- Tone of Voice (TV): not what you say, but how you say it
- Content Writing (CW): well-written copy tailored to your goals, that also resonates with your audience
- Social Media (SM): an engaging presence on social media that attracts and retains your audience
- Video (V): quality video production that entertains your audience and educates them about your brand
As we will see, Cultaholic’s rapid success can be traced to a firm understanding and implementation of these five components and how they interlink.
You just made the list!
So, what is so special about Cultaholic Wrestling’s content, and how has it evolved? First, a (very) quick history lesson.
Cultaholic Wrestling was born out of WhatCulture Wrestling, another YouTube channel affiliated with online entertainment conglomerate WhatCulture. Best known for its Top 10 lists, WhatCulture Wrestling continues to publish daily news updates, features, and comedy sketches to over 2 million subscribers. Its uncomplicated presentation and embrace of nostalgia has helped rekindle many lapsed pro wrestling fans’ love of ‘the graps’, myself included.
Central to WhatCulture Wrestling’s early success were four of its original presenters – Adam Pacitti, Ross Tweddell, Jack King, and Sam Driver – four distinct personalities whose relatability, authenticity, and self-deprecating humour kept audiences coming back for more. Eventually, these four presenters broke away from WhatCulture and formed Cultaholic, recognising that it was they who their audience were invested in (St), and trusting their audience to join them on their new venture.
Unable to promote Cultaholic through WhatCulture’s channels, the quartet turned to Twitter, their personal accounts already well-established from their time with WhatCulture. Cryptic countdowns encouraging followers to ‘Join Us’ (SM), reminiscent of wrestler Chris Jericho’s Y2J gimmick, appealed to their audience’s shared experience (St) and generated considerable online intrigue ahead of the channel’s official launch.
Evolution is (not) a mystery
Now, despite what Messrs Helmsley, Flair, Batista, and Orton will tell you, evolution is not a mystery; it’s observable, and the evolution of Cultaholic Wrestling’s content is no different! Early videos published on the channel consisted of the same Top 10 lists both the presenters and their audience were familiar with (V, St), albeit exhibiting more creative freedom and license to experiment.
As the channel grew, video content diversified. Short documentaries, such as ‘The True Story of…’, and long-form series, such as ‘War Stories’ and ‘This Week in Wrestling’, earned viewerships alongside more typical YouTube content like reaction videos and video game play-alongs (V); serious analysis stood shoulder to shoulder with lighthearted entertainment (CW, TV).
The introduction of new presenters – Jen Louise, Tom Campbell, and Andrew Hodkinson, to name a few – ensured old formats remained fresh and new formats came with unique perspectives and personas, each of them amplifying Cultaholic’s optimistic point of view and welcoming, good-humoured atmosphere (TV, St). Their website became home to more serious reporting – the same quality research and writing (CW) with less frivolity – for fans who prefer their wrestling news more Ken Shamrock than No Way Jose.
Nowadays, with the channel flourishing, news-oriented videos dominate the YouTube feed, signalling a shift in production to shorter, more digestible content (V). Though news videos amass less views per video when compared to the longer lists and rankings videos the channel built its name on (a news video typically attains 30k-60k views, lists and rankings upwards of one million), they take much less time to produce, can be published multiple times a day, and amass more views collectively than a single list does. And they are still just as likely to feature a singalong as actual news (TV)!
Active (and verified) social media accounts – both personal and company – have remained important tools for engaging Cultaholic’s fans (SM), and the channel’s evolving content owes a lot to Cultaholic’s willingness to listen. Going beyond the bland ‘like, share, and subscribe’ sign-off of most YouTubers, the Cultaholic team engage their audience personally and personably on Twitter, Reddit, and in YouTube’s comment section, always encouraging feedback and channel participation (SM, TV, St).
We, the people!
Such an active role interacting with and amplifying their community has led to collaborations with other YouTube wrestling channels (Botchamania’s Matthew ‘Maffew’ Gregg co-hosts the Cultaholic Wrestling Podcast), a sister channel (video game channel Triple Jump, itself made up of former WhatCulture employees and boasting 170k subscribers), and fruitful relationships with independent businesses in their local community (Newcastle’s famous COOP Chicken House is a regular venue for Prediction/Punishment videos). All of this on top of regular charity donations and monetised live-streaming campaigns raising funds for good causes.
The cult of personality
So, to return to where we began: what is Cultaholic Wrestling if not a wrestling channel?
It’s a place of openness and honesty, of optimism and positivity; a place where people come first and their personalities are front and centre, which allows their audience to connect with them in a more meaningful way. Delving into the YouTube comments section, it’s not uncommon to see fans express the feeling that they’re with friends every time they tune in – a feature of many other successful YouTube channels.
Though Cultaholic’s content has evolved, the people behind it – and the value they place on themselves – have remained. It’s more than just a wrestling channel. It’s a cult.
What can your business learn from Cultaholic Wrestling’s evolving content?
- Content is multifaceted. Implementing each component of content, and understanding how they interlink, can help your brand or business thrive.
- Listen to your audience. Engaging with your audience goes a long way. Treating them as equals, as friends, as people goes even further.
- Value yourself. People come before anything, business included. Ironically, putting people before business helps business grow unlike anything else.
Want to better understand content and how it interlinks?
Why not reach out to our Content Team, better known as Ruth, Amber, Faye, and Charlie? There’s also a bunch of content-y goodness over on our Helpful Stuff blog, free to use and leave you feeling, well, content.