Yahoo Building Brand Fan Sites

The Los Angeles Times reports that Yahoo is building websites for fans of “the 100 hottest entertainment brands,” a project modestly dubbed “Brand Universe.” Their notion is that there are zillions of brand fans out there and the site that gives them a place to rally around their brand fandom will reap the benefits of that fandom. If it’s not the brand sites themselves, well then, they figure, let us step into the breach:

Most of the brands selected by Yahoo already have their own websites. But what sets this project apart is that Yahoo is using other companies’ products to promote its own — with or without the cooperation of those companies. “We’d like to work with brand owners,” said Vince Broady, Yahoo’s head of games, entertainment and youth properties. “But we don’t necessarily need the brand owners to do this.”

They have used their own internal statistics to figure out which brands have the most “passionate audiences” in the demographics desirable to advertisers. Among the brands they plan on promoting this way: Wii, The Office, The Sims, Lost, and all things Harry Potter. They’ve already made one for Wii:

The site,, aims to be a central depository of all things Wii. It has attracted an audience of 1.2 million unique viewers, the company said. For the Wii-obsessed, it offers pictures by Yahoo’s Flickr photo service and links to articles and blogs about Wii. The Wii site will be “pushed” to places on Yahoo where Wii fans might be, Broady said.

Techdirt is down on the whole idea, offering this take:

So Yahoo is re-creating the fan site, plenty of which already exist elsewhere on the internet. Except that while those can draw their content from a wide range of sources, Yahoo’s sites will only have content from a select group of content providers with whom the company enters into deals. Basically, it sounds like Yahoo thinks it has a bunch of content that is somehow getting lost among all of its properties (not hard to imagine, since Yahoo has such a plethora of disparate sites and services), and it’s looking for new ways to draw traffic and sell advertising. Because these sites will be cheap to put up, and won’t require the company to create any original content, the economics of it doesn’t differ all that much from splogs, which throw up content on a site and hope to draw some traffic to it.

And of course they’re right, but that’s what makes it a good strategy on Yahoo’s part. The point about there already being loads of existing fan sites is dead on, but this could serve as an entree into fandom for new fans and I don’t see any danger of their replacing fan-driven fan sites that are almost inherently opposed to self-monitization. It will be interesting to see who these sites appeal to, and whether they will serve different niches than the fan-driven sites that already exist for any popular brand.

Yahoo’s interest in doing this is a recognition that passionate fans are not lifeless weirdos, but normal people with disposable income whom companies are better off cultivating than suing or marginalizing. I don’t have any problem with companies trying to make money off of fandom so long as there is a balance between the fans’ labor and the fans’ rewards. Because they are big players, I think Yahoo doing this is on balance a good thing.

From another vantage point, it’s also interesting to see the merger of “brand” and “tv show/gaming console/fill-in-the-blank-with-things-that-people-don’t-usually-call-brands.” When I first saw “Brand Universe” I thought this was going to be about Nike and Louis Vuitton, but it could just as easily be called “Fan Universe.”

Registering Fan Sites?

Via Techdirt comes word that Dragonball is requesting, demanding, insisting that all fans who want to start a fan site register it first with them.

First I think “ha ha ho ho he he.” Then I think “are they going to run around suing those who don’t? what a pain for the fans and what a way to make them hate them, but probably an effective way to chill their fan activity.” And ultimately I agree completely with the Techdirt take:

In this case, it seems like the company is trying to find a balance between protecting its own trademark and allowing fans to continue, but at some point people need to realize that any attempt at controlling word of mouth efforts pretty much destroys the whole point of any word of mouth promotion.

It’s not viral, bottom-up, grassroots, or quite as much fun if it’s on a short corporate leash. Anyway, a google search turns up 1,450,000 hits for “Dragonball fan site” so the genie’s probably out of the bottle on that one…

Mavericks launch fan wiki

Earlier this week, Mark Cuban, ever up to something, launched a wiki for his basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks. From the announcement:

The Dallas Mavericks have launched, a new moderated, informational website that is the first of its kind in professional sports. The site will be a collaboration between the Mavs and their fans, with the goal being to document every game the Mavs have played.“This site will provide fans a great way to share their Mavs experiences with us and other fans,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “It will also give new fans a chance to catch up on the history of the Mavs.”

As a new Madrugada fan, it was extremely fun and interesting and informative for me to be able to go through the history of set lists for almost every concert that die-hard fans had compiled at their fan site, and I can imagine what an appealing thing this could be for fans of a sports team (despite the really ugly interface on this one). I’m curious how accurate the entries about older games will be, and whether people will end up in big old arguments over what really happened or what its significance was. But hey, that’s what being a fan is all about, and if it gets too out of hand, I guess that’s what moderation is all about, so cheers to Cuban for giving them yet another platform through which to do it. This could be a big and good trend.

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.