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Tensai's inappropriate Tout spawns questions on WWE's future use of the product

It's been half a month since WWE announced an official partnership with Tout, the online video service that allows users to post 15-second videos in a similar environment to Twitter.

Since that announcement, some interesting things have happened in the WWE Tout-iverse.

We have seen official integration of fan Touts onWWE Raw,in response to questions posed by Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. It appears from doing a search Monday night that there are several hundred Touts being created live during the course of Raw. This number is expected to grow as Tout becomes more popular, particularly among the WWE Universe. Personally, I don't find these series of Touts on Raw annoying at the moment (save for some videos where the cameras are angled with a ceiling light in the shot, blinding you as you watch from home). I do forsee celebrity Touts in the future, planned or not – a sort of, “hey, look who is Touting about Raw this week – Mr. Belding and Judah Freidlander!” I'd like to know who (whether it's one person or a team) is monitoring the Touts. Unlike Tweets, it takes time (even if several seconds) to vet these videos and I would imagine it would be very difficult to watch them all. Perhaps someone will discover the optimal time to send a Tout, where the team (or person) is most likely to start checking Touts and therefore flag them for use on Raw.

The more interesting Touts, however, have come from WWE superstars. The most controversial Tout has come from Tensai (Matt Bloom). The Tout has since been deleted from Tensai's account (but you can watch it here). WWE has issued an apology for the Tout, saying that Bloom will be “reprimanded for his inappropriate comments.”

Many Touts have been harmless yet entertaining. For example, Chris Jericho's account of the fire that spawned on the Raw set this week. These are my favourite kinds of Touts – simple, harmless, value-adding Touts that don't necessarily revolve around or enhance a storyline but are still interesting, entertaining and/or make you laugh.

Predominantly, superstars have been furthering rivalries. Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler have had a back and forth on Tout already. Zack Ryder uses the medium to further his developments on TV (or lack thereof). John Cena likely currently posts the most WWE-story friendly Touts.

It's no secret that Tout is an extension of Twitter, so I absolutely see the same patterns and challenges being posed on Tout that were posed with Twitter. Will WWE superstars not be able to Tout after midnight as was once rumored with Twitter? How many Touts will be deleted because they were seen as offensive and/or counterproductive in hindsight?

This situation might be a little different. Because there is an official relationship with Tout, it might become more expected, if not mandatory, for WWE superstars to Tout. Twitter remains a hot topic on telecasts and also a valuable tool, however it remains simply that, with no official partnership. Tout may very well eventually surpass Twitter in terms of importance once Tout has passed the early adopter stage.

So how should WWE superstars Tout? I've decided to take a guess at what the rules and regulations are or would be:

Do not use any language, slurs, gestures or jokes in your Touts that would go against WWE branding

This would include swear words, or any verbiage that would be deemed to be unacceptable.

More generally, don't Tout anything that would get you in trouble

I just can't see Kofi Kingston Touting a video of CM Punk (actually) stealing a box of Diet Pepsi from a convenience store and them running off. Mostly because that would be a dumb Tout, but it's an example of a Tout that also just doesn't make sense and would bring on nothing but negative reaction and consequence. That being said...

Tout often

At this critical stage of pushing adoption of the product, it would be wise to have all superstars get on board and use it as much as possible. If superstars are Touting several times a day, the WWE Universe will want to join them.

Tout to your fans often

One trick I learned working at theScore Television Network is the concept of “thank you” videos, where you pick a fan or a group of fans and thank them for something – for sending an email, a tweet, a question, something. It's one of those “pleasant surprises” when a fan receives a response that's more than just text on a screen. Tout makes this easy for superstars to do something similar. By answering fan questions in video form, fans feel closer and more engaged than ever before, continuing to further the branding of WWE becoming the most socially interactive show in the world.

Do not Tout anything that contradicts your involvement on WWE TV

I assume this one goes without saying, however, I'm sure it would be said anyway. I would guess that we won't see Touts involving current rivals in an unofficial and friendly capacity.

Another subset of the pro wrestling world of Tout will be former WWE superstars. I'm equally interested to see how former WWE superstars, no matter their relationship with WWE or superstars in WWE, will adopt Tout. Kenn Doane, for example, has been very vocal about certain news items and issues during his WWE tenure. Twitter has become a source for instant news and gossip validation, but a video of someone saying it will always be more believable than someone tweeting it, even with a blue checkmark beside their name (not really consequential side note – Kenn Doane is not currently verified on Twitter). I can't verify how much WWE decision makers read former WWE superstars' Twitter accounts, or the dirt sheet reports that have been spawned from Tweets, but I would guess it's more than we think. I wonder how much more anonymous Touts will be to that segment; more specifically, if Tout will become a “sounding board to the fans but hidden from the boys” sort of situation. While a Tweet takes a second to read, a Tout takes 15. Way too much for some!

What is your opinion on Tout? Is a picture worth a thousand words, and has Tout eliminated the element of imagination? Are you happy there is finally another dimension to your favorite superstar's posts? Comment below and tell me what you think.

Arda Ocal is an on-air personality with theScore Television Network. Follow him on Twitter and watch his video interviews with WWE Superstars, MMA fighters and other athletes past and present here.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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