These days, it seems like I’m getting half my fandom news from Mashable. It has so many news items that have fandom related impact. There was an article about 50 Cent creating an official social networking site for his fans today. Totally fantastic. I bet that catches on. One of the reasons that I think official sites don’t get more traffic is they offer limited interaction and limited new content. Fansites are generally better at providing a certain type of content and allowing increased increased interactivity between like minded fans and the musicians. Major pluses. Major incentive to use a site: Better product for fans. In terms of fan interaction on a pan fannish level though, if it catches on, it might likely spell a step back in interaction between various fan groups from different fandoms and less let me get to know you and everything about you. That could be seen as a minus. Or it could be seen as sort of a major plus: We’re getting back to the heart of monofannish behavior that some people loved. Long term, I predict that this will be seen as a positive thing for fan communities and that more musicians and intellectual property holders try to get on board with similar concepts.
Archive for March, 2008
One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I’m a huge casual sports fan. I read books about sport. I will watch a lot of sport on television. I own one or two shirts, a couple of caps. I was reading a book about football: Love & Blood, At the World Cup with the footballers, fans and freaks by Jamie Trecker. As you could probably guess from the title, it discusses fans. The following quote really stood out for me:
The so-called casual fans actually make up the most important group for every American sport; without them, no league or sport can really succeed. Why? Because there are a lot of them. These folks are the people who drive the ratings during the World Series. They turn the NBA from a little-watched TV sport into a big deal come the playoffs in June. And they make the Super Bowl the most-watched one-day sporting event in the world. (pg. 45)
In terms of broader fandom, most fan run projects just do not catch on and reach a point where they operate like a business or get large amounts of media attention. Those that do sometimes transition to become commercial sites. One of the major stumbling blocks in their failure to gain that attention, or to appeal to a wider audience, is that fan creators are focused on the normal fan inside of fandom. They don’t think about fandom in terms of the casual fan, the drop in fan who might participate for a few days, weeks or months before moving on. If they do think of them, they might think of them in dismissive terms, claiming that their experiences are invalid or irrelevant to the project they are involved with. And that is a huge problem. The potential audience is small and if you market to only that audience, if you don’t reach beyond it, you’re not going to get big. FanFiction.Net is an example of a site that appeals to a large segment of drop in fans. How drop in is that audience? Roughly 75% of the accounts on the site have no fan fiction attached to them. The site’s easy to use, easy to update features mean that you don’t need to know fandom to navigate and participate. Other sites, which cater explicitly to hard core fans or fans enmeshed in a specific fan subculture, don’t generally take off find themselves with a huge audience and have less traffic than sites that do.
That inability to translate from hardcore fandom to appeal to the average fan is one of the major reasons why fans frequently turn to commercial services on which they can build their own. Those commercial services fans adopt generally have figured out how to attract the average fan and provide a framework for fans to later help integrate people into the subculture which develops around the site. This trend is likely to continue: Infrastructure for fandom will be built by outsiders who can connect to the average fan more readily than hardcore fans.