It’s All In The Shoes

The other day I offered my pithy words of wisdom that you can tell everything you need to know about a person from the knees down. Here’s a fandom that agrees with me:

It’s an obsession that has been gaining traction in recent years, even as overall sneaker sales have grown slowly. There are Web sites, magazines, books, movies and radio shows dedicated to sneaker culture. There have been television shows, such as ESPN2’s “It’s About the Shoes,” which include tours of collectors’ enormous closets.

“I think people are more aware (of sneaker culture), the general public, because of the media and Internet,” said Alex Wang, creative director for Sole Collector magazine and an admitted shoe aficionado.

Sneakers have been a part of urban culture for decades. Run DMC rapped about “My Adidas” in the 1980s, and it remains a part of hip-hop culture with famous sneakerhead artists such as Missy Elliot and Fat Joe.

But sneaker love might be spreading. Everyone from Manhattan business men to Midwestern teens are coming in with a hankering for shoes, store owners say.

You can tell so much about a person by what they have on their feet,” said Andre Speed, 36, at the Portland specialty sneaker shop Lifted. “You might not have the freshest outfit, but if you have the kicks, you are going to get the respect.”

See for yourself, here at Nice Kicks, where they’re blogging shoes like crazy. No forums though that I can find . Or here at the premiere webzine for sneaker fans where they offer this much-used message board. 62,000 messages about skateboard shoes.

Sneakers seem to be about the only form of apparel in which men and boys get a wider color range and more fun selection than women and girls. I have always resented that at age 2 you have to start dressing your sons like mini-dads on casual Fridays (hmmm, should I go for the khaki, maroon, navy blue, or hunter green? BORING!!!), so I’m not surprised to see fandom emerge around the one apparel offering that recognizes that men are creative fun-loving spirits as well.

Creating a sponsored community

synecdochic at Live Journal writes about being approached by the makers of the forthcoming film Blood & Chocolate to create a fan community to accompany the film:

A month and a half or so ago, the marketing agency for MGM Studios contacted us — us being LJ — and said they wanted to set up a sponsored community for the upcoming release of their movie “Blood & Chocolate”. Except they were totally clueless about how LJ worked, what would be successful, what would sink like a rock without even leaving a splash, etc, so they said: why don’t you guys figure out what would work best? And then they said, hey, we hear that LJ is a place where online fandom tends to congregate. What could we do to reach out to that community?

I want to be really careful about the disclaimers up front here, but I also want to talk about it, because it’s one of the most intriguing challenges I’ve had as a writer so far, and also, I think the end result that we all came up with is one of the most interesting, compelling, and just plain fucking cool premises for a marketing campaign I’ve ever seen.

The whole post is well worth reading as a fascinating example of an industry reaching out to online fans and the thought processes behind how you get people to invest in a community they didn’t generate and how to translate that into spending money on the product. In brief, they came up with a scheme to create a livejournal diary written by the main character, getting synecdochic, a fanfic writer, to pen the diary and (I’m assuming) to respond to comments on the diary in character. All in all, totally cool concept and it’ll be fascinating to see how it works.

Music charts for geeks like me

One of the interesting things about all these different social music sites is the different sorts of charts they make of your listening habits. I’m much more taken with the ones that attend to actual listening or collection contents than the ones where you list the bands you like (as on MySpace) because it’s a bit less open to gaming (though certainly people leave their computer playing something cool while they’re out so they will appear more cool to the outside world, or turn off the plugin when they listen to something embarrassing). So it’s fun to compare the different kinds of charts the different sites generate for you. Everything you’ve listened to (since you signed up and started using the plugin) that its plugins capture. You can look at it by overall artists, albums, or songs by the week (any week), or rolling 3 month, six month, or year charts. There are some problems (of course) — some listens don’t get captured, like if you listened to your iPod then on your computer without updating the iPod it loses the iPod listens or if you stream radio from something other than Pandora (it can now listen in on Pandora with a plugin), and the site is slow to learn about new albums so the artist charts tend to be more accurate.
iLike: Sucks up the whole iTunes history by most-listened, so you get an overall chart that goes back as far as your iTunes library. If you don’t use iTunes, too bad (for now), and there’s no ways to vary the charts by time period, though you can look at artists or songs. Since it gets everything on iTunes, for those who use iTunes and only listen to that and iPods, it’s pretty accurate.
MOG: Sucks up the iTunes library and sorts it by the number of songs, and gives most listened to this week, but doesn’t give overall most listened to charts. On MOG, it notes that I have more REM songs in my catalogue than Madrugada songs, whereas on that information is lost, but it knows that these days I listen to Madrugada three times as much as I listen to REM.

All of these have their strengths, and it’s amazing how, once you’ve got personal charts, there’s no going back. It becomes an essential part of understanding your own musical taste and, for some anyway, an essential part of self-presentation to others ( gives you code so you can export a variety of chart types to any web site, iLike and MOG let you export your chart to MySpace).

But what it’s got me thinking is, for all Apple’s brilliance, why isn’t this stuff built into iTunes? How much cooler would it be if we could use the music libraries on our computers to display wide varieties of charts and export them to websites with ease.

CBS gets in on the action

Yesterday I reported on Disney’s talk at the CES in which they talked about the importance of online fans. Now CBS, in their talk there, are also talking that talk:

LAS VEGAS – Fans of CBS shows will soon be able to slice clips from prime-time shows, send them to friends and even “mash” them together in ways that only a short time ago would have triggered complaints of copyright infringement.

CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said Tuesday during his first keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show that his company would embrace products and technologies that allow viewers to “time shift” and “place shift” his network’s shows and interact with them in new ways.

Moonves said college basketball fans, for instance, would be able to use videoconferencing to hang out in a “virtual skybox,” cheering in a group and discussing plays along the way.

Fans of “Star Trek” could visit a computer-generated Starship Enterprise in the virtual world of “Second Life.”

CBS is also designing its Web sites to encourage interaction among fans of the CBS crime drama “CSI” and “The L-Word,” which appears on the CBS-owned Showtime cable channel.

Corporate-sponsored mashing up seems to be the new trend, and a cool one . It’s good to see a shift from “THEY’RE STEALING OUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY!!!!” to, as Moonves says, “letting fans share snippets makes sense because it allows the network to tap into the passion dedicated viewers have for a particular show.”

The power of fans according to Disney

Online TV fans often question whether anyone behind the screen is paying attention to them. Toward that end, this report on Disney Company CEO Robert Iger’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show has a couple of interesting tidibits. First, we know that sports pages are the killer apps for network websites, but it’s still pretty amazing to hear Iger’s stats:

He said, sports fans spend an average of two hours each day on ESPN’s website, researching their teams. Disney owns ESPN. Shows offered on the company’s website have been played or download 120 million times over the past year and Disney was the first to offer its movie catalogue to viewers over Apple’s iTunes music service.

Appearing with him was Evangeline Lilly from Lost since, as he put it, “there is no show that demonstrates the importance of the Internet, than Lost”

“ABC created this worldwide phenomena called Lost,” he said. “It has become the most successful multi-platform show ever. has been overrun with fans coming to watch podcasts, discuss the show or view full length episodes.”

I especially liked Lilly’s comment about why “it’s particularly challenging to work on a show that has such a loyal online following”:

“The fans have a lot more control over the show than we do as actors,” she told the attendees at the conference. “We are really at the mercy of the fans. Producers go online to look at what is being said and they react to that.”

Of course, what’s often left out of these discussions is that fans never seem to speak with a single voice (Agnes Nixon, one of the best and most revered soap opera writers of all time, once noted that they know they’ve got it right when fan letters were evenly split between loving and hating what they were doing). Still, it’s unusual to see it recognized that to a great extent celebrities serve at the pleasure of the fans, and that the internet only enhances this power dynamic.