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13 May, 2009 – one comment

fans: rise of the machines


You see those trending topics on Twitter? Those are fans talking about things they love, to their friends, and anyone else that will listen.

Oprah mentions Twitter and registrations surge. That’s not the power of Twitter, that’s the power of Oprah’s fan community. CNN and Ashton go at it for new followers. Again, that wasn’t Twitter, it wasn’t a virus, it was fans acting on a leader’s nudge, and to connect to each other to share information and social currency.

You don’t scan your tweets every day because of Twitter either. You’re looking for people you know, friends, and also people you’re a fan of. Twitter can connect anyone: you to Ashton, Ashton to your third grade english teacher, and so on. Twitter is a bit of technology that better enables what fans want and need to do: connect with each other, express their fandom/define their identity, gather information, and feel more connected to what they love.

Fandom makes or breaks technology. took off because fans of beanie babies needed a place to swap and collect. Friendster cracked down on fakesters and it reduced a way fans could engage. Facebook is the center of a brand’s digital world because users can now ‘fan’ things.

Still think focusing on fans is too narrow? Or do you mean, ‘we just don’t have any fans?’ Those are two separate things: one is bullshit, the other is fixable. One is kidding yourself, the other is killing yourself (or at least resigning yourself to a slow extinction, better hope for no meteor showers). Brands should be out there courting and supporting these vocal fan communities. They’re right there, they aren’t hiding; in fact they’re doing very much the opposite.

11 May, 2009 – leave a comment

fans: format magazine on fan made films

Right now, Format Magazine has a great post on fan made films about our favorite comic book heroes.

04 May, 2009 – 3 comments

fans: fight for your survival, eat subway sandwiches

According to a study done by Initiative Media, the average network program was identified as a “favorite series” by only 6 percent of its viewers. But in some cases, as many as 50 or 60 percent of viewers may rank a program as their favorites. Early evidence suggests that these loyals have a higher rate of brand recall and are much less likely to be lured away from the networks toward competing cable content. Loyals are twice as likely to pay attention to advertisements and two to three times more likely to remember product categories than more casual viewers. And they are between 5 to 20 percent more likely to recall specific sponsors – not huge numbers, perhaps, but big enough that they can give a competitive edge to advertisers who consistently target shows with a high degree of viewer loyalty. Historically, networks ignored those fan bases in making decisions about renewing series, seeing fans as unrepresentative of the general public; but advertisers are increasingly realizing that they may be better advised investing their dollars behind shows that have high favorability than shows that have high ratings.

- Convergence Culture: where old and new media collide. HENRY JENKINS, 2006. (p 76)

A lot of tv shows are on the chopping block right now. But not all shows have the same kind of favorability, or fan communities willing to work to keep their shows on-air. And what’s more, these communities (and a star or two) seem to be taking a page out of Henry’s book (and the referenced study) to prove why their fandom is so critical to both the network and its advertisers.


Fans have rallied to prove their loyalty to Chuck. The owner and blogger at Give Me My Remote has called fans to action: to flood Facebook and Twitter during the show’s airing, to download images to use as their Twitter backgrounds, and even to print and send custom postcards directly to NBC. But these are all fairly routine actions taken by fan communities (see Friday Night Lights). What makes Chuck so interesting is what the star, Zach Levi, is doing to rally his community. Levi has asked fans of the show to eat Subway sandwiches. Specifically, Levi asked fans to show up at Subway on April 27th, buy a footlong, and leave a comment card letting Subway know that fans really do care about the show’s sponsor. Fans have even begun calling on Subway itself to finance the show’s renewal. From Levi, “Again…the intent is to let the network and their sponsor know that we’ve received their message. This is something a Nielson box can’t do…this is a translation of fan loyalty into real dollars that NBC & Subway can measure.” Read more about the campaign to save Chuck at Mashable.

3498055358_b4663e71c6Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

In a recent E! online poll, fans voted Terminator the show most worth saving this season. So sci-fi blog io9 decided to help fans take action. They’ve started a Flickr group where fans can post photos of themselves with products advertised during the show. Like the photo here, fans attribute their purchase to the advertiser’s sponsorship of their favorite show. The pool is still pretty small (14 photos/75 members) so far, but it was only started on May 1st. I’ll be keeping an eye on the pool to see how or if it grows. And fans are certainly encouraging friend tune-in and increased activity within Twitter and Facebook.

All in all, both campaigns represent a significant shift in how fans lobby for their favorite programs. There seems to be a genuine change in how fans view the economies that their shows live and operate in. Research had shown that loyal fans are more likely to recall brand sponsorship; but this is proof that they’re willing to mobilize (with their wallets) in order to save a favorite program. If their efforts do prove successful, the next question will center around how fans interact with these brands that they patronized in order to save a show, after the show is back on-air. Henry and many others have long posited that there is an incentive for brands to sponsor shows with more well connected and fervent fan communities, rather than those simply with high ratings; and this could be further proof of that supposition.

If you care about either of these shows, or the power of fans, help spread this post, or the posts linked to from here. Long live fans.

04 May, 2009 – leave a comment

fans: curating content


One important function that fans of media play is to help curate the best bits of content for the more casual fan. Like the tumblr blog, I Like the Part Where, fans have always shared their favorite moments as social currency among other fans. At one point this behavior centered around common spaces like the office watercooler. The behavior still exists; the common spaces have just shifted to online networks and platforms as well. Fans create wikis, blogs, or toss up clips on YouTube to share with their fan friends. All of this fan to fan communication creates perfect entry points for the casual fan or uncommitted observer. They know which episode to jump into, or get caught up on a complicated plot line to rejoin a program during its current season. It has also allowed shows themselves to become more complex in their story arcs and self allusion.

Just another reason why you shouldn’t sue your fans.

03 May, 2009 – leave a comment

fans: the hunt for gollum

THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM – FULL Trailer 1 from Independent Online Cinema on Vimeo.

Called The Hunt for Gollum, the film is the work of 150 volunteers, says director Chris Bouchard. “We’re essentially a bunch of fans and enthusiast filmmakers,” says Bouchard, who has put two years into the project. He made up the plot, which focuses on a search to find the deranged Gollum. The fear is that the wizened creature might reveal the whereabouts of the magic ring to the powers of darkness.

Fred Von Lohman, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says it’s not really clear whether Bouchard and his crew of volunteers are in violation of the copyright for Tolkien’s work. Von Lohman says fans have always written their own stories based on TV shows and movies. That’s legal. But a high-quality movie available over the Internet ['The Hunt for Gollum' is set to premiere on DailyMotion this Sunday] could change the game. [via NPR]

And best yet, the full HD film went online today. Go watch The Hunt for Gollum at Dailymotion.

(h/t to Matt for sending this over to me)

The Hunt for Gollum is just one work in a long history of fans creating their own films. Some use their fan work to help them find jobs within the film industry, and all do it for the love of their fellow fans. While I’m happy that NPR covered the film, it’s a bit disappointing they used their air-time to debate whether the fans would get sued or not. There’s so much more to the story, and so many opportunities here besides slapping down your biggest fans.

Give the film a watch and help spread this well produced piece of fandom. Do it for the fans.

29 Apr, 2009 – 10 comments

fans are the future of digital marketing

Thanks to everyone that commented and shared my posts last week. I hope I sparked a few thoughts.

Now here it is, my fan week round-up…

Today, brands must learn how to earn fans. This begins with courting existing communities to earn (not fabricate) credibility. After that, brands must provide the means to connect fans and give them something to do. After all, a dollar spent on fans is a dollar spent on R&D, retention, recruitment, loyalty and longevity.

- a week dedicated to fans and the future of marketing

here’s my rule of thumb for the question, “is it worthy of earning fans?” How many existing communities can you identify as being ‘courtable’ and demonstrate fandom? As Henry puts it, communities aren’t created, they’re courted. And if everything new is constructed from bits and pieces of pre-existing stuff (as Faris says), then you should be able to measure anything new by investigating which communities could be courted based on the stuff inside your new product or show.

- fans: will we earn any?

The mantra of web 2.0 has always been, “ask not what your users can do for you, ask what you can do for your users.” Mike Arauz, a fellow Strategist at Undercurrent, likes to say, “if I choose to tell my friend about your brand, it’s not because I like your brand, but rather because I like my friend.” So the mantra of our brave new world might be, “ask not what people can do for you, ask what you can do for their friends.”

- fans: will they go along for the ride?

When I urge clients to look more closely at niche fan communities, I’m urging them to study the actions and social norms within these groups in order to identify any lead user behaviors that could go mainstream. Fans are creating unanticipated connections between technology, social groups, and media that will reward our attention. And the pace of the web demands we stay focused on centers of innovation, and more often, fan communities represent the undersea chimneys which give life to the next evolution of species.

- fans: lead users

Fan communities are indeed “self-organizing groups focused around the collective production, debate, and circulation of meanings, interpretations, and fantasies in response to various artifacts of contemporary popular culture.” Moreover, fan communities mobilize around unanswered questions.

Advertising is made for people who care… to pay attention. Fans care. Fans pay attention. But most messaging doesn’t create the tension that activates full fan communities. We’re still stuck on saturating a crowd of unwilling participants instead of mobilizing a community to create and spread a conversation.

- fans: mobilize a conversation

Images from my posts: (click the image to read the full post)

Quotes from more brilliant women and men: (click the image to read the full post)

And finally, if you’re interested in more fandom, get to know Joshua Green:

24 Apr, 2009 – leave a comment

fans: piracy


photo credit

I’ve argued here that piracy often reflects market failures on the part of producers rather than moral failures on the part of consumers. It isn’t that people will turn to illegal downloads because they want the content for free. My bet is that many of them would pay for this content but it is not legally being offered to them. We can compare this to the global interest generated by Ken Jenning’s phenomenal run on Jeopardy: Jeopardy was already syndicated in markets around the world so when he generated buzz, he drew people back to the local broadcaster who was selling the content in their markets. They could tune in and see day by day whether he stayed in the game. Right now, everyone’s still acting as if Susan Boyle was only one video but they will wake up tomorrow or the next day and discover that lots of those people want to see what happens to her next.

- Henry Jenkins, How Sarah Spread and What It Means (2009)

Part of my week of posts dedicated to fans and the future of digital marketing. Tell your friends.

23 Apr, 2009 – one comment

fans: choose your own adventure


Something’s missing here; the road most taken: calling your lawyer.

Treat your fan communities like the most valuable research project you’ve got – because they are. Give them space and give yourself time to take it all in. And when you’re ready to engage them, when you have something to offer them, court them wisely – as partners.

23 Apr, 2009 – 2 comments

fans: mobilize a conversation

To be marketable the new cultural works will have to provoke and reward collective meaning production through elaborate back stories, unresolved enigmas, excess information, and extratextual expansions of the program universe.

- Jonathan Gray (Editor), Cornel Sandvoss (Editor), C. Lee Harrington (Editor), Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World

The best conversations are ones where I know something you don’t and you know something I don’t. We share what’s new. Too bad this isn’t how most marketing and advertising works; marketers love conversations (about their products).

Advertisers look for the big message. They spend weeks in front of a white board crafting the perfect tag-line, one that says it all. Then they buy up all the mass media airtime they can afford to make sure that big message saturates the most people. End of conversation.

As if attention is a commodity you can buy…

In Pierre Levy’s Collective Intelligence, he describes a future societal power structure that transitions from ownership over commodities to mastery of knowledge. In particular, this ‘thinking community’ taps a ‘cosmopedia’ or ‘knowledge space’ of vast information provided by the type of many-to-many connections the web facilitates. Members of this group search, inscribe, connect, consult and explore together. Pierre describes what we might call a ‘hive mind,’ where if one has knowledge, soon all will. And in this hive mind, “unanswered questions will create tension within cosmopedic space, indicating regions where invention and innovation are required.”

The authors of Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World argue that digital fan communities might be the most fully realized versions of Levy’s cosmopedia. Fan communities are indeed “self-organizing groups focused around the collective production, debate, and circulation of meanings, interpretations, and fantasies in response to various artifacts of contemporary popular culture.” Moreover, fan communities mobilize around unanswered questions. This is what spawned fan fiction, ARGs and other multi-player transmedia storytelling games. Fans rush to create meaning where meaning appears to be missing.

Advertising is made for people who care… to pay attention. Fans care. Fans pay attention. But most messaging doesn’t create the tension that activates full fan communities. We’re still stuck on saturating a crowd of unwilling participants instead of mobilizing a community to create and spread a conversation.

22 Apr, 2009 – one comment

fans: copyright


photo credit

Corporations will allow the public to participate in the construction and representation of its creations or they will, eventually, compromise the commercial value of their properties. The new consumer will help create value or they will refuse it. Corporations have a right to keep copyright but they have an interest in releasing it. The economics of scarcity may dictate the first. Th e economics of plenitude dictate the second.

- Grant McCracken, Plenitude: Culture by Commotion (1997)

Part of my week of posts dedicated to fans and the future of digital marketing. Tell your friends.