A big thanks to reader Christ_OFF for pointing out that NHK World will start having a sumo highlights show. The page for the highlight show is here, or click on the picture above. They’ve got place holders for On-Demand videos for Day 1, Day 8, and Day 15. They also have a “Sumopedia” feature. The first is a brief explanation about the rank of Yokozuna. At the bottom of the page are links to more videos with sumo content. Among them are features on Osunaarashi and the sumo ushers.
One quick note: this content is being offered by NHK but I tend to think of NHK as an arm of the Sumo Association since every tournament is broadcast in Japan on NHK. I realize they’re distinct but I sort of view them, jointly, as the official word on sumo.
This is a good start. It is recognition of the sport’s foreign fans. I love the idea behind the Sumopedia. If successful, I’m sure they’ll work to expand the offering. There are a few key points that I hope they will address. First, they need to take advantage of the Web 2.0 model with rich, user driven content. As I noted in my rant about YouTube, this deepens the connection with the audience. Second, I hope the On Demand videos will be available for each day…this is a prime advantage of the YouTube and Vimeo channels since we can still go back at any time to watch great bouts. Third, I hope there are many more Sumopedia videos to come and I hope they offer more content and explanation.
I work for the US Government and manage a website and the databases behind it. Our website basically exists to provide safety statistics to the public. It was originally built two decades ago and unfortunately still retains that early internet, Web 1.0 model: we have content, we push it to users, very few avenues for feedback. I’m leading redesign efforts there to take advantage of the Web 2.0 model which makes sites like YouTube and Facebook so successful.
“Web 2.0” is the idea that user-driven content provides a richer experience. Critically, it depends on transparent, two-way feedback with users as a first step to better understand the needs of users. Allowing users to comment, and see the comments from other users, allows the content generator to not only fix problems and bugs, but also to steer the official content in a direction more suited to its audience. It’s an important piece of the Digital Services Playbook used by CIOs in the US Government.
Going beyond this simple open feedback to actually embracing user generated content is the next step. For example, there is a lot of great sumo data available at the SumoDB. If the NHK/JSA were able to leverage that dataset, again via Web 2.0 concepts, work with them to provide access to more data, both sites would actually grow and improve together. It gets hard when they become truly interconnected but that’s when we shift from having an “audience” to having a “community.” It doesn’t need to go THAT far to be successful but taking the first step and engaging users via transparent, two-way feedback (like having a comment section) is imperative. Otherwise, how do you know anyone’s actually being served? (Don’t mention statistics on page views or readers from things like Google Analytics. It’s so hollow. That provides helpful data, to be sure, but nothing’s more helpful and rewarding than actual feedback from your audience.)
As I noted above, I really hope they offer each day’s highlights on demand and I hope at least all makuuchi bouts are shown. We’re sumo fans. We know the people already and many of us have favorite wrestlers who are not necessarily in the top ranks. I hope they also show footage of promising upstarts, like Ura. It’s great to watch these guys grow. It’s also important to watch as the greats gradually fade away, too. Kyokutenho is a good example.
Lastly, it’s great to have basic explanations for newbies. But we’re die-hard fans. We know what the Yokozuna rank is. We know that the term yokozuna comes from the belt (tsuna) that they wear. That first version of the Sumopedia is good for the newbie. But we fans want more. We want to know the meaning of the different styles of dohyo-iri and the different ways of tying the belt: the turtle and the crane, for example. That video didn’t even mention any of this historic greats. Nothing about Taiho or the late Kitanoumi. It was great that they mentioned the yokozuna deliberation council but there is so much more. One more minute of content targeted to teaching even the most advanced fan, would be much more engaging.
I sincerely hope this is only a first step in trying to engage sumo fans. It’s an absolutely necessary, critical first step. Offering these highlight videos offers an opportunity to expand the sport to new fans. The background and context videos, likewise, will help educate new fans. Established fans, though, clearly need more. And that’s good. I just hope the NHK and JSA will keep up with the demand. It’s smart to do this first cut in English but I hope they will offer more content in other languages, too. French, German, Mongolian, and Portuguese would be a good start, no?
One policy that I will set out for this site is that if the Sumo Association or NHK has video of bouts, I will link to that content rather than to other channels. However, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that a lot of content will only be available in the YouTube fan channels so I want to be clear on that point. I will still link to and encourage fan participation and content on YouTube. I don’t expect NHK’s initial offering to meet the demands of us hard-core fans, yet. They’re finally acknowledging we exist with this show.