Though we Americans have rarely heard of him, on the other side of the pond, Robbie Williams is big big news. And he’s got a big big fan following to go along with that. I recently spoke with Shell, the webmaster for PureRobbie.com, a very successful fansite. Shell is a mid-30s student of English, living in England, who turned her interest in online community management toward her interest in Robbie Williams about a year ago. She also works with others helping them manage fan communities. Today and tomorrow, I’m happy to share her insights into this and other fan sites:
Can you give us some background on PureRobbie? How old is it, how many users do you have? What do people do on it?
Pure Robbie opened in April 2006. I began researching this project in Nov 05 because he was embarking on a massive world wide tour and although he has some good fansites out there i wanted to create one with a focus on original articles and reviews written by fans, to bring them together in one place to share their experience of the tour and admiration of the artist and his work and one that was able to accomodate a large membership base that spans the globe. Alot of his fansites are small groups and country specific, whereas Pure Robbie was intended to accomodate fans from around the globe. I was in contact with the artists management who knew of my plans and offered advice when i needed it.
In just over a year the site has 6,000 members and 30,000 visitors every month. The members have created a massive 11,338 threads/articles and made 630,228 posts.
On the site you can find all the latest news, reviews and interviews relating to the artist from the media and discuss these with other fans plus original reviews, interviews and news written by the site staff, reporters and members. In the year we have been open we have exclusivly interviewed members of his band, management and collaborators, the latest being Mark Ronson who is currently having alot of success in the UK album charts and he has just released an album in the US featuring Robbie Williams.
There’s a large image gallery full of pictures from the start of his career to the present day. We also have an amazing fan fiction section where members actively post and read fiction, poetry and drama relating to Robbie Williams. On the site there is also a live chat room and we run monthly Superfan prize competitions that are very popular.We also have a ‘blog to Rob’ section where members can blog about anything or send messages to Robbie in the hope he pops by and reads them.
There are also sections on the site to discuss his music, books, films, videos, gossip, tv and radio appearances, L.A Vale (celebrity soccer team managed by Robbie Williams) as well as a download section. There’s also advertising space for fans to exchange Robbie goods.
As distractions from discussing Rob we have a very active general chat area and a games and quiz section and we run alot of prize competitions. Members have also organised meets offline in London, Germany, America and the next one is planned for Amsterdam. All of which have been very popular and fun.
You mentioned that there are a number of related resources outside the site, can you tell us more about them?
As well as the main site we have a Myspace social network. The Myspace links members of the site to other fans on the www as well as promoting our exclusive interviews, news and reviews around the www and puts fans in touch with others fans spaces which helps develop friendships.
We then have our own blogspot where again our news, reviews and interviews are promoted around the www. The news on this blog often contradicts the lies the tabloids write about him in the hope the ‘truth’ gets a shot of being heard too. Subscribers to this blog recieve daily email alerts.
We also have our own store where Robbie Williams music and goods can be bought new or second hand.
What has the attitude of Robbie Williams and his associates been toward the site?
ie music management, who have looked after Rob for over a decade have been great. They assist us in the kind of content we post on the site to keep our download section legal and pass on things the community wish to send to Rob such as messages of support, fan feedback and birthday cards/gifts. They’ve been very supportive, sending us congratulations on our first year and advising us on how to handle any media inquiries which was a great help in light of recent events surrounding our artist/subject.
Robbie has met a number of Pure Robbie members and has taken alot of time to speak with them, pose for pictures and sign Pure Robbie banners, cds, pictures etc.
Why do you think this is?
I believe they have been very positive towards the fansite as they know it is managed with experience and assists in the online promotion of the artist and his work in a very positive way. Our fansite works alongside the artists official site and does not compete with it, we offer something completly different, interaction. We offer fans a place to discuss the artist and his work and we also promote the latest additions and goods published on the official site.
Speaking to a fan recently Robbie Williams expressed that fansites like Pure Robbie were good because we could post and discuss both negative and positive media articles relating to him whereas the official site is not able to do this. For me this showed approval of his fansites and what they can achieve online.
Do you feel like you and your site have any influence on Robbie Williams and his career?
I’d like to hope so. Hopefully he and his management gain an insight into what fans think about his music etc through our comments and reviews but our main aim is to dilute all the negative articles from the tabloids, especially the UK ones, online by publishing our own news which show the tabloid lies for what they are and to get the truth, as we know it, out there.
For example, there’s just been a media frenzy relating to a new video blog he published on his official site. The UK tabloids wrote headlines like ‘Rob found God’, and questioned his mental health, whereas our news article stated what had really occured on the video blog which was an artist playing a sample of a new tune in his studio and having a joke or two. In the search engine results relating to this, our article stood beside the negative ones, hopefully helping to ‘counter attack’ it. We were also lucky enough to recieve Rob’s reaction to the media story when a fan interviewed him at a soccer game and was able to add this quote to our news article, adding strength to our ‘truth’, and helping to dilute the lies. Rob admitted the tabloid story was lies, to put it mildly.
The site also promotes respecting the artists privacy wherever possible. We do not allow any of his personal details or private engagements to be published on the site and advise fans on how to respect his personal space when around him.
We also advise on safety etc at concert venues, giving advise on parking, buying tickets, the best gates for the best view, food, accomodation and travel to these events in the hope both fans and the venue’s organises have an event that runs as safe, and smoothly as possible, giving everyone involved a great experience when seeing their idol.
Tomorrow, more from Shell on the insights she’s gained from working on this site and others.