Back in the day in fandom, say 10 years ago, fans were forced to stay together out of necessity. If you wanted access to information, there were very few places to get it. Information was just very centralized. People who entered that at the right time succeeded. Some of those centralized resources are still around. Think FanFiction.Net.
But then along came services like egroups, onelist, GeoCities and Tripod. Suddenly, fandom information was really decentralized. Fans could create small websites for extremely niche audience. If you were an author, that might just be your own stories. By posting them to your own private mailing list, by posting them to your own little website, you could have a lot more control. Power in fandom decentralized. And it became easier to have a much more specific fandom identity and not lack for new content.
But that model appears to have gone out the window with the advent of Web 2.0. Good fansites are increasingly hard to find because the maintainers either lose interest, can’t keep up with new fandom content, or a good fansite needs to be almost commercial in order to attract traffic and interest. (Try to find a good Office fansite. I dare you.) And fandom sites have to cater to a really broad audience: Regular entertainment fans who aren’t fandom people (who will watch the latest Robin Sparkles video and squee over Britney Spears showing up on the How I Met Your Mother but won’t do much else) and fandom people. The fandom people audience gets even more precarious for good fansites because you have multiple identity groups going on at the same time. And some times these groups share membership. You’ve got your vidders, fanartists, fan fiction writers. You’ve got slashers, genfen and het shippers. You’ve got character driven subcomponents. It’s a big old mess of different groups with different needs and desires.
If a fansite wants to attract an audience and keep it on their fansite, they need to attract all those various groups that make up your target audience. And most importantly: Those groups need to maintain their group identity. Slashers need to be able to continue on with their identity as slashers in regards to the site they’re on. If the fansite is open to everyone, then slashers need to co-exist with genfen, vidders, and specific character fans. If a fansite requires that users take on the identity of the fansite, the fansite loses. If there is one mindset, a sort of universal group think going on on forums and in all the posts, the fansite loses. It becomes so much easier to walk away when they don’t share that identity. If they walk away, chances are they won’t be back unless they are offered something you can’t get elsewhere.
A good fansite needs moderators, programmers, writers, readers, members who can help foster multiple identities on their site. Getting those people in place can be a problem but it is one that needs to be worked on early if a fansite or fan project wants to succeed.