TIME offers some fanfic search stats

Bill Tancer of Hitwise has a brief article just up at TIME that has some interesting stats about fan fiction on the net. Hitwise tracks over 700 Books and Writing sites. Fanfiction.net gets 34.7% of visits to the ENTIRE category, making it first by the longshot, doing better than even Apple.com (159th most popular of all websites they track):

Top 10 Internet Searches Containing “Fan Fiction” (12 weeks ending 8/25/07):

1. Harry Potter
2. Bonanza World
3. Adult
4. Gunsmoke
5. South of Nowhere
6. Clark and Chloe
7. Supernatural
8. Firefly
9. Triple H
10. CSI
Source: Hitwise

On adult content he adds:

Of the 40,491 sites in our Adult category, the site with the highest percentage of female visitors (64.3%) is AdultFanfiction.net (proceed at your risk).

Now can we stop pretending that fan fiction is a quirky tiny little corner of the net made up of weirdos? If that’s not mainstream, what is? I get a lot of hits on here just because I use the words “fanfic” or “fan fiction” sometimes.

And I don’t mind adult content, but the amount of searches that land on my site that also include words that describe criminal sexual activities is kind of disturbing. But hey, at least it’s fiction.

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Usync: A music fan relationship management site

I’ve written before about sites like ReverbNation, Urbanited, and FanCorps that are providing tools for bands to organize street teams directly. Australian site Usync, one of 8 finalists at the Popkomm Innovation in Music & Entertainment Award (IMEA), seems to be taking this even further. Their rhetoric couldn’t be more like my own, very heavy emphasis on recognizing the value of direct relationships with fans and fan bases and figuring out how (or in this case, providing the means) to work it.

Usync looks very slick, and wonderfully customizable (more Virb than MySpace) so every band can have their own look, feel, system on there. One of ReverbNation’s very clever insights has been that you can’t tie the bands or the fans to their URL, so they’re big on providing exportable content, widgets and the like, so that bands can use it as a base to reach fans all over the place.  While Usync looks like they’ve got a great set up on their own site –everything from posting (and selling) merchandise to organizing street teams to blogging — I am not clear on whether the expectation is that fans sign up on Usync and spend their time on there to hang out “backstage” (to use their central metaphor) with the band or if it’s more of a base for wider distribution like ReverbNation. If it’s the former, I don’t think it’s gonna fly on a large scale in the long run. Fans have favorite haunts, but they just aren’t hanging out in one place anymore.

I am all for this notion that bands (and everyone else who has fans) need to understand the power of direct relationship with fans, but I also feel some concern about the top-down version of events sites like this impose. We mustn’t lose sight of the importance of fans building their own spaces around the things they love, or of the value of reaching out to fans through fan-built spaces. The internet disrupts the hierarchy where the artists have total control. Part of learning to work the fan-artist relationship is learning how to give fans power and like it. There are by definition limits on the extent to which that can happen in a space that the artist controls. Artists should use their own spaces to relate to fans, but they should encourage fan-built spaces too.

Have any readers spent any time with Usync? I would love to hear feedback from users or explorers.

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What are Last.fm Friends, Part 1

As regular readers know, I have been working on a survey about the nature of “friending” on Last.fm. The study is motivated by a few concerns:

Developers have given us the term “friend” to use, yet it often seems a poor fit. How do people within these relationships define them?

What is the quality of these relationships?

What motivates these friendships and, in the context of a fan-based site like Last.fm, what role does shared taste (in this case musical) play in forming and maintaining these relationships?

    I’ve now completed the survey, and my former Ph.D. student and now faculty member at Ohio University, Andrew Ledbetter, and I have started crunching in order to figure these things out. Here’s some early descriptive findings for the curious:

    After data cleaning (eliminating partial surveys, eliminating minors’ surveys, eliminating those with no friends — I’ll use the no-friends data in qualitative analyses), there were responses from 559 people in 47 countries who had at least one friend on Last.fm. People were asked to describe their relationship with the first friend that appeared when they opened their profile page (which is random).

    THERE ARE MANY CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS ON LAST.FM:

    Most (51.6%) of the friendships are between people of the same-sex, though there were many (46.6%) cross-sex friendships. Though it’s hard to get real numbers on this, it’s certainly higher than the ‘offline’ norm.

    THOUGH THERE ARE FRIENDSHIPS THAT SPAN BIG AGE DIFFERENCES, MOST ARE THE SAME AGE:

    The mean age difference between friends was 0.89 years.

    MORE LAST.FM FRIENDSHIPS ARE INTERNATIONAL THAN LOCAL:

    40.4% of friends live in different countries. 25.4% in the same country. 10% in the same part of the country. 16% in the same town, and 5% in the same neighborhood. In a few cases, the internationalism was part of the friendship’s appeal. For instance, a handful said that the chance to practice a foreign language was important in their decision to friend the person.

    MANY LAST.FM FRIENDS HAVE MET FACE-TO-FACE:

    41% of Last.fm friends have met face-to-face. 9% of those met only once, 14% more than once but not often, 17% used to see one another but don’t anymore, 40.5% see one another regularly, and 7.5% see one another all the time. That said, only 47% of Last.fm friends first met through the site. The rest had pre-existing connections either offline or in other online sites (fan boards, for example). It would be really interesting to know how this compares with other sites. It suggests that though there are new relationships being formed through the site, to a very large extent it is providing an additional means for people in pre-existing relationships to keep in touch. I am reminded of danah boyd’s argument that these should be called “Social Network Sites” rather than “Social NetworkING Sites” because there is so little new relationship formation happening through them. That said, 47% is no small percentage, so there are clearly new connections being formed through the site.

    MANY WHO HAVE NOT MET WOULD LIKE TO, THOUGH SOME HAVE NO INTEREST:

    Of the 59% who have not met face-to-face, 59% would meet their friend were it convenient, 7% would go out of their way to meet their friend, 7% have plans to meet their friend, and 15.6% are not interested in meeting their friend.

    FOR THOSE WHO USE THEM, THERE IS A LOT OF OVERLAP BETWEEN LAST.FM FRIENDS AND FRIENDS ON OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES:

    66% use other social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook, 34.2 don’t.

    Of those who use other social networking sites, 51% of the Last.fm friends are also friends on another site: 18.2% of all respondents with friends were friends on one other SNS, 10.2% on two, 2.5% on 3, and a few participants reported being friends with their Last.fm friend on four or more social networking sites. This strongly resonates with the claim I made in my recent paper on Swedish indie fandom online about how people are spreading their relationships across multiple sites.

    I have several thoughts about this — I expected more people to have met through Last.fm, I expected fewer to have met face-to-face. I was surprised and pleased to see the number of international friendships. I was disappointed to see the age-similarity of the friendships (perhaps because my friends are on average considerably younger than I). Even given the age-range of users, less than a year’s average distance suggests people are not generally reaching out across generations via the site.

    I am very interested to hear any thoughts readers might have on what here is surprising, obvious, connects with things you’ve seen going on elsewhere, etc.

    Many more findings to come as the more complicated analyses get going. Stay tuned.

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    Using Last.fm to Measure Fan Devotion

    David at  Digital Audio Insider wrote a neat post earlier this week:

    I thought it’d be fun to use Last.fm statistics to try to devise a measure of “audience devotion.” Using the most popular act in the Last.fm database (The Beatles) as a comparison point, I looked up the total number of listeners and the total number of plays for 49 other acts. They include some of the biggest names in “indie” rock, some fairly unknown local acts, and a few various names from my iTunes library. I divided the number of plays for each artist by the total number of listeners to create a “plays-per-listener” ratio and then ranked the spreadsheet by that number.

    I’ve found Last.fm fun for tracking the rise of some bands (why I remember the days when the now-ubiquitous Peter, Bjorn and John just barely topped 1,000 total listeners, for instance), but this is a particularly clever approach. It’d be fascinating to track these bands over time and see if he’s right in his predictions about who will last and who will crash.

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    What Makes Young People Happy?

    There is a lot of coverage of this week’s report from MTV and the Associated Press about what makes young people happy. Most of the coverage is all about time with family ranking first. When asked “What one thing in your life makes you most happy?” 20% of respondents, a plurality, chose “family/spending time with family.” Good news, said this mother.

    What is getting NO coverage is that in the other set of questions where they asked, item by item, “please tell us how happy or unhappy this makes you,” the OVERWHELMING top thing that made most people either very happy or happy was “listening to music.”

    72% said their relationship with their parents made them very or somewhat happy.

    76% said their relationship with their family made them very or somewhat happy.

    84% said their relationship with their friends made them very or somewhat happy.

    88% said listening to music made them very or somewhat happy.

    Listening to music did not just have the most “very or somewhat” votes, it had the most “very” votes.

    It came in 8th on the “what one thing” question, with 4% choosing listening to music as their one thing.

    So one interpretation of the poll is that family make kids happiest, but another equally valid interpretation of the data (all available here in PDF form), especially given that people are not limited to one thing in real life, is that music makes kids happiest. I find that amazing — more than sports, sex, friends, ANYTHING ELSE, kids said listening to music makes them happy.

    Why is that not worthy of news coverage?

    Socializing online made 42% very or somewhat happy, and made only 3% unhappy.

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