Welcome to our last C3 Weekly Update of 2007. We
appreciate all the interest among our consulting researchers and at
each of our partner corporations over the past year and hope you have
enjoyed the work that has appeared in the C3 Weekly Update over the
past 12 months.
Looking back at some of the pieces included in the
opening and closing notes of the newsletter, we've had some exciting
research covered in the C3 Weekly Update over the past year. Not only
has the C3 team contributed research from the graduate projects of Ivan
Askwith, Alec Austin, Geoffrey Long, and myself, as well as Joshua
Green's work on the current state and future of television, network
brands, and spreadable media, but our consulting researchers have
provided a variety of interesting pieces as well.
From the video game work of Stefan Werning, Doris
Rusch, and David Edery to the media history work of William Uricchio
and Ted Hovet, we have covered the media industries' past, present, and
future. We've also had great work on fans and consumers, from the
excerpts Robert V. Kozinets' provided from the Consumer Tribes
book he co-edited to Henry Jenkins' and Aswin Punathambekar's work on
We've covered the proliferation of online video
content (see Jason Mittell's interview with the creators of The
West Side, for instance), the evolution of long-standing media
properties (see Kevin Sandler's pieces on Scooby-Doo from his
forthcoming book), current events (see Stacy L. Wood's piece on media
violence in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings), music (see Shenja
van der Graaf's "Bands and Brands," for instance), and notes from
conferences from the likes of Parmesh Shahani and Grant McCracken.
We round out 2007 by featuring work from two of
our outstanding graduate student researchers here at C3. Xiaochang Li
concludes her two-part piece on Fanlib.com in this week's Opening Note,
while Eleanor Baird finishes her "Valuing Fans" series with the fifth
and final piece in the Closing Note. If you would like to request past
issues from their series, or any of the pieces mentioned above, don't
hesitate to contact me directly about how to get back issues of the
Otherwise, we are going to be back in mid-January
with the next edition of our newsletter. Our blog will also be on
hiatus through New Year's while we switch servers to better accommodate
site traffic. There may be times in which the site is down during these
changes, and comments may be temporarily disabled on the site. If you
have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. Joshua Green and/or I
will be available throughout the holidays. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you all for a wonderful year at the
Consortium, and we will have news forthcoming in the new year about our
spring retreat and the work that we're doing here in C3. Hope everyone
has a happy holiday season!
If you have any questions or comments or would
like to request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford,
Editor of the Weekly Update, at email@example.com.
In This Issue
Opening Note: Xiaochang Li on the Fanlib.com
Controversy (2 of 2)
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: Eleanor Baird on Valuing Fans (5 of
Fanfic, Inc.: Another Look at
Fanlib.com (2 of 2)
Last time, I recapped the controversy over Fanlib.com
that occurred this past summer. I suggested that we might be able to
better explain and assess Fanlib.com's current popularity despite the
firestorm of criticism by thinking of fanfiction writing as
encompassing two major forms of fan engagement. More specifically, I
think it is necessarily to tease out the differences between fanfiction
as a textual practice and fanfiction as a community.
I would like to be clear that, while I see these as two
generally different types of participation, I do not believe them to be
mutually exclusive and that the degree to which an individual fan
writer will engage in either varies depending on the writer, the
fandom, and the online space. I also don't mean to suggest that the
Fanlib.com writers I interviewed are completely representative of the
whole. However, they do share certain attitudes about fanfiction that
differ from the rhetoric of other, perhaps more vocal, communities. In
addition, I would suggest that the social and technical architecture of
places like Fanlib.com, Fanfiction.net, and Livejournal generally
attract particular types of fans based on what sort of practices they
The portion of fanfiction writers usually referred to as
the "fanfiction community" -- those who self-consciously refer to
themselves as such and foreground the social and participatory aspects
of fanfiction writing and exchange -- do not account for all fanfiction
writers, or even all of the prolific and widely read writers. One
writer on Fanlib, who uses the name Iced Blood and regularly gets
hundreds of comments on her stories on fanfiction.net, claimed to be
unable to answer one of my questions about fanfiction in-groups because
she was "not exactly well-versed in the social aspects of fanfiction"
due to the fact that she is "introverted by nature, and very rarely . .
. socialize[s] with people [she does] not know personally." Another
said that, while she had visited community sites to read fiction, she
had never posted in the forums and doesn't participate in what she
calls "fan communities," such as message boards or livejournal, because
she has simply "never been a fan of those communities." In fact, of all
of people I interviewed, only one had been aware of the controversy
surrounding Fanlib.com's launch, suggesting that there are significant
portions of fanfiction writers who were simply not engaged in the
circulation of information and discourse that characterizes fanfiction
as a fan community.
Part of the reason for this lack of engagement is that
these writers, for various reasons ranging from lack of experience to a
conscious choice not to get involved with particular communities, did
not think of fanfiction explicitly in terms of a community. For them,
fanfiction was predominantly a form of personal fan activity they
shared with others who might enjoy it as a product of their work,
instead of as a social process. Most had come from other fiction
archives, such as fanfiction.net, and considered Fanlib.com primarily a
"fic archive" in which to publish their work. When asked questions
regarding communities surrounding fanfiction, most of the writers I
talked with gave answers that specifically discussed the type of
feedback they received as a writer. On the whole, the Fanlib.com
writers I talked with primarily emphasized the creation and reception
of content within a writer/audience dynamic, while that type of
interaction is only one small part of larger, more varied social
practices for fanfiction groups like the Livejournal community that was
so adamant in their stance against Fanlib.com.
The difference in these social practices is particularly
striking when you consider that Fanlib.com, in addition to espousing a
great deal of rhetoric about community and "bringing fans together,"
uses a number of Web 2.0 technologies and thinks of itself as a
fanfiction "social network." But, in contrast to actual fanfiction
social networks, they have gained a reputation as an archive -- a
shinier, slicker fanfiction.net with iPod giveaways. The problem, of
course, is that, while Fanlib.com employs a number of social
technologies, it does not build a structure that accommodates social
practices. For instance, the "featured stories" are chosen not by other
fans, but by Fanlib.com staff, thus short circuiting the sense of an
organic value hierarchy dictated by the writers and readers themselves.
The contest format as well appeals to a particular view of fanfiction
as a deliverable to be valued, and thus rewarded, by an outside power.
It is then natural that this system would attract
writers that find value in fanfiction outside its circulation within a
community and as a contribution to a larger "fanon".
Though highly prolific and popular fic writers, the Fanlib.com members
that I spoke to were on the whole less engaged with fanfiction as a
community than those who were vehemently opposed to the site. In light
of this, their participation makes a great deal of sense, as they were
either excluded from or remained unconvinced by the arguments against
Fanlib.com. Outside the notion of the fanfiction gift economy, wherein
value is created through engagement and exchange with other fans, the
prizes and recognition system of Fanlib.com then becomes just a
logical, perhaps more lucrative, extension of receiving feedback and
comments on fics - just another way to be rewarded for a job well done.
Livejournal, then, becomes an interesting case as it was
the site of the most intense and informed backlash. Livejournal works
in many ways as an antithesis of the contest/reward model of
Fanlib.com. All of the Fanlib.com writers that I interviewed were aware
of the Livejournal community but did not actively take part. Those that
had livejournals kept them mainly for personal use, or only very rarely
posted to them. One writer noted that Livejournal was "more focused on
social interaction than fanfiction" and therefore would not post fic
there. Another added that livejournal in particular made her "leery"
while yet another writer cited the "fiction approval" quality standards
of those communities to be a barrier.
It is important to note that, in communities such as
Livejournal, the notion of a fanfiction community contains many
individuals who produce little or no actual fanfiction. As a community,
fanfiction requires a variety of practices. People who are aggressive
fanfic recommenders, or who provide screencaps, or who generate active
and insightful discussion can achieve equal status within the community
as the most highly respected writers. There are, in fact, many
communities across Livejournal that are devoted entirely to the
discussion of fan writing as a social practice and community. During
the Fanlib.com controversy, fan writers aggregated and shared
information on everything from the legal precedents regarding fair use
and transformative works
to the histories of every employee of Fanlib they ever came into
contact with down to what high school they attended. In such spaces,
the writing of fanfiction is only a small part of a larger whole.
At the same time, the very nature of Livejournal's
structure and the community that grew up around it effectively created
a silo where 'experts' talked amongst a long-established community and
excluded nearly everyone else. This might be attributable to the
structure of Livejournal as a blogging community where content is not
centralized like on a message board, but spread across personal fan
journals. Thus, though postings are public, in order to access them,
one must already be aware of their existence, making it difficult for
newcomers or those unfamiliar with the social systems and hierarchies
of a particular fandom to discover content.
What results is essentially an expert community that
echoes itself. I don't mean, however, to undermine the influence of the
Livejournal fanfiction community; they are consistently among the most
widely read and most influential writers. However, the closed-off
nature and the high barrier for participation has a tendency to exclude
many fanfic writers, particularly those who are new to the practice and
less versed in Livejournal's social conventions.
The explanation of Fanlib.com's popularity therefore
seems to emerge as the result of a combination of factors -- most
prominently the differences in how fanfiction is valued and
conceptualized by different writers and fans, the segmentation of
fanfic across different levels of participation, and the
disenfranchisement of certain portions of the fanfiction writing
community due to the hierarchies that structure established fanfic
If we are to believe, then, that Fanlib.com, with its
flashy technologies and rewards, attracts in general a different type
of fanfiction writer -- namely those who have made a conscious decision
not to engage in the social economy of fanfiction writing or those who
are new or unfamiliar with it -- the question becomes whether this
particular type of fan is useful for Fanlib's purposes. That is, if the
goal is simply to have high membership numbers and site hits and large
volumes of content, Fanlib.com is certainly on the way to accomplishing
If the value of fans, however, as suggested by the
imediaconnection case study cited earlier, is to create active
promoters and advocates for media properties, then they have entirely
missed the mark by failing to draw the most socially active fans. While
the tightly networked writers on Livejournal and across message boards
are not necessarily "better" fans, they are undoubtedly the most active
taste-makers among not only fanfiction writers, but fandom as a whole.
These socially active fans are most likely to be responsible for large
scale migrations and adoptions of new shows, books, and films. In order
for a company to leverage the social networking power of fanfiction
writers as a viral marketing strategy, they cannot rely upon just any
fanfiction writer. They need to attract those fans who think of
fanfiction writing as a social practice and participate in the
expansion and development of the communities around it.
So, while it's certainly valuable for there to be a
community that rewards writers who do not envision themselves as part
of the fanfiction community as such and new writers who are sharpening
their skills before entering professional work or communities with a
higher barrier of quality, it is perhaps not a purpose best served by
corporations out to turn a profit, nor are these the fans that are best
suited for Fanlib's goals of near-free promotion and viral marketing.
In the end, it remains to be seen if their current popularity is proof
that Fanlib.com has managed to achieve success despite heavy resistance
from the very community they hoped to mobilize, or if their membership
numbers are ultimately not as meaningful as they would hope, and yet
further evidence of how little they understand fanfiction writers as a
Xiaochang Li is a graduate
student investigator with the Convergence Culture Consortium and a
member of the Program in Comparative Media Studies' Class of 2009 here
MIT. Her work includes a focus on emerging narrative forms in the
digital landscape and production and community-building in fandom.
Glancing at the C3 Blog
Holidays from the C3 Team. The C3 team wishes everyone Happy
Holidays as the blog will be on hiatus through New Year's Day. In the
meantime, be sure to read the many recent updates we've made to the
site. As noted in the Editor's Note, the site may and/or comments may
be down temporarily due to technological improvements being made over
the next two weeks, but the blog should be fully functional once again
by next week.
Viewing. C3 Research Manager Joshua Green provides links to video
of his and Mark Deuze's presentations from the InVerge convergence
conference in Portland back in September. Deuze was a member of the fan
labor panel at Futures of Entertainment 2.
Smart Folks: Optaros and LocaModa. Sam Ford writes about his recent
interaction with open source company Optaros and Boston-based mobile
company LocaModa and the many interesting small media companies in the
by Smart Folks: Fanscape and Communispace. Sam Ford writes about
recent interactions he has had with a couple of forward-thinking
companies who are doing work in the media industries space,
particularly on finding ways to create communication between fans and
the Consortium: The Press and Consulting Researchers. FoE2 was
covered recently in Meio & Mensagem, while Sam Ford was
recently interviewed on a piece about the Amazon Kindle for De
Morgen. Meanwhile, see links to a variety of recent blog pieces by
Consortium consulting researchers.
and Control Issues: Cell Phone Jamming. C3 Graduate Student
Researcher Lauren Silberman looks at cell phone jamming and some of the
privacy issues involved in the use of social defense technologies.
in Cambridge. C3 Graduate Student Researcher Ana Domb looks at the
image of Che Guevara and various appropriations of that image through
the years, and how the use of that image compares to the ideology of
Digital Immigrants. C3 Director Henry Jenkins provides a post from
his blog looking at the term "digital immigrants" and the "digital
native" and unpacking what is meant by the use of that language.
Podcast: Cult Media. The final panel of the Futures of
Entertainment 2 conference, featuring speakers Heroes' Jesse
Alexander, transmedia creator Danny Bilson, Jeff Gomez of Starlight
Runner, and Gordon Tichell from Walden Media, is available for video
and audio download.
Podcast: Advertising and Convergence Culture. The first full panel
on the second day of the FoE2 conference, with a
discussion on the current state of advertising and marketing, is
available in video and audio podcast.
Podcast: Jason Mittell, Jonathan Gray, and Lee Harrington. The
academic panel that opened the second day of the Futures of
Entertainment 2 conference is now available for video and audio
Engagement Metric: A Conversation Piece. C3 Graduate Student
Investigator Eleanor Baird presents some of the work she's been doing
of late on working toward proposing an engagement metric and presents
it to C3's blog readership for further thoughts. We appreciate any
feedback our partners might have.
Had So Many Stories to Tell": The Heroes Comics as Transmedia
Storytelling." C3 Director Henry Jenkins writes about the Heroes
franchise in detail, based in part on part of the team's recent visit
to CMS for the MIT Communications Forum and FoE 2.
Follow the Blog
Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
Valuing Fans: Producers,
Audiences, and the Worst Episode Ever
Part V - Modeling Fan Value: Numbers to Behaviors
Comic Book Guy: Last night's Itchy & Scratchy
without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured I was on the
internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world.
Bart Simpson: Hey, I know it wasn't great, but what
right do you have to complain?
CBG: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
Bart: What? They're giving you thousands of hours of
entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if
anything, you owe them.
CBG: Worst episode ever.
Source: The Simpsons Archive: Comic Book Guy File, http://www.snpp.com/guides/cbg.file.html
In this ﬁnal installment of my series on fan valuation,
there are three questions I will cover:
1. Can we use consumer lifetime value (CLV) to draft a
model for fan value?
2. How might the model be different for television
content versus television advertising?
3. How are long- and short-term value different?
CLV and Fan Value
In Part IV, I talked a bit about how one could adapt a
CLV model from the marketing literature to fan valuation. This time,
I'd like to talk through the preliminary stages of developing a model
for the value of one thousand "average" fans of a television program.
Recall from the second part of the series I deﬁned three
categories of fan activity: consumption, activism and socializing. To
quantify these, there will be four key, interrelated elements to the
1. Time spent relative to other media properties
2. Advocacy and promotional activity
3. Ancillary product consumption (DVD, VOD, branded
merchandise, conferences, fan fiction)
Let's look at each, and my assumptions, in turn:
Time spent relative to other media properties
This element is valuable because it indicates a share of
mind and time among fans. According to a recent study by Veronis Suhler
Stevenson, the average American uses media for 9.5 hours a day, and a
Ball State University study estimated that "almost one-third or more of
the time spent with any one medium was time also spent with another
medium." (For more, look here.
So, effectively the average daily consumption is a whopping 12.6 hours
a day, about 88 hours a week and just under 4,600 hours a year.
Since our example is television, let's take the Nielsen
Media Research estimate
for the average amount of TV watched per day, including DVR (i.e. Live
+7), as 4 hours and 34 minutes, or 4.57 hours. This means that about
36% of media consumption time is television time, either by DVR or
So, in our model for television, we'll want to look at
current run or syndicated television as a proportion of 1,663 hours a
year, and other types of viewing (online, DVD, etc.) that are not
counted in that ﬁgure, as a proportion of the remaining 2,937 hours in
the year of media consumption.
Advocacy and promotional activity
This category encompasses a variety of activities,
outlined in earlier parts of this series about behaviors in the
activism category. The table below outlines the ones that I think can
be quantiﬁed and the source of that data. I am assuming that the
average marketing budget for a TV show is 25-40% of the cost of
producing it - this would depend on the genre of the show, network,
etc. (Related to this, see "Reaching Influencers with Word-of-Mouth," eMarketer,
06 August 2007.)
Ancillary product consumption
This is a relatively simple thing to calculate for a
studio, distributor, or consumer product company. Within a speciﬁed
period of time, it could simply be the percentage change in sales of
ancillary products (i.e. DVDs, branded merchandise, etc), of which
we'll assume most of the purchasers are fans. For advertisers, this
could also be a ratio of the change in product sales while the ad was
running in a particular program to sales of ancillary products. I have
deliberately left rentals through bricks-and-mortar stores and online
using services like Netﬂix out of this list, for two reasons. First, I
am more comfortable making an assumption that people who buy DVDs are
either fans or are buying for fans than renters, which could well be
more casual and less expensive, low commitment way to catch up on a
program. Second, rentals contain minimal ads, which reduces their
effectiveness as a metric for advertisers as well, which makes also
them a less useful number to look at for this analysis than DVD sales.
Towards a model
The model basically has three parts, each of which
involves different levels of engagement. As discussed in previous
installments of this series, a higher level of engagement - such as
developing fan ﬁction, videos, etc - does not necessarily translate
into a greater monetary value. Although these activities may retain
existing fans by increasing the social dimensions to their afﬁnity for
a media property or brand, I am working under the assumption that those
reading fan ﬁction are already somewhat knowledgeable about the
property, and that these creation activities are not changing activity
in a material way for the purposes of this exercise.
What does generate monetary value for content producers
and advertisers is attracting new viewers and fans and retaining them
through syndication, downloads and video purchases.
Television Content Versus Advertising
Some of the differences in calculating the components of
the model are discussed above, but a similar format can be used. There
are more similar elements to a traditional CLV model on the
advertiser's side, however, such as a clear way to measure consumption
of a good that is often something that is "used up" over time, giving a
different meaning to a "loyal customer". (Although loyalty is not the
same as engagement, it is an important component.) The presence of
compliments and substitutes for the product also changes the playing
ﬁeld for consumer goods and services in this analysis.
That said, the ability to track consumption of media for
a particular group in aggregate provides a very interesting opportunity
to understand the compliments and substitutes. For example, taking
census-style data from cable boxes of a speciﬁc group of viewers as
well as data from network websites with streaming content and download
sites like iTunes and Amazon Unbox would help us to understand more
about how program afﬁnity translates across DVR, VOD, online and
downloads. Although time consuming, this would help to better
understand the behavior of audiences and how being a fan has an impact
on viewing behaviors in a more holistic way.
Short Vs. Long-Term Value
As I have said in previous installments of this series,
I think that short and long-term fan value are different things that
warrant a different calculation over time. In the short-term, some
variation on Nielsen ratings is probably an effective metric for
content producers and advertisers (see my attempt to further discussion
on this subject with a proposed metric of my own on
the C3 blog.); however as priority shifts to the long-term value of
the franchise, a more complex metric is warranted in order to make
decisions about how to invest in a fan base that can be sold to
advertisers and distributors.
This is by no means the last word on the subject, but an
effort to begin to discuss it and develop tools to help decide what
sorts of investments should be made in audience development and
retention over time.
Conclusion: Next Steps and Takeaways
First, I would like to thank everyone who read the
essays in this series, particularly those who provided comments, whose
input was really invaluable. In the next couple of months, I plan to
edit all ﬁve parts together as a complete and more formal paper,
incorporating some of that feedback.
For the paper, I am also planning to delve more into CLV
and ad metrics to write actual formulas for some of the metrics I have
proposed here, and draw a clearer relationship between the levels of
engagement and the types of fans I outlined in parts 2 and 3, using the
metrics as a way of categorizing the prevalent fan behaviors and
determining how to invest in audience development. Of course, this is
all conceptual until someone puts it into practice; if there is anyone
reading this who would like to experiment, either on the advertising or
the content side, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I think there are three main takeaways here:
1. Fan activism is a valuable mechanism for attracting
and retaining viewers, rivaling consumption behaviors, yet it is
2. Higher degrees of engagement do not necessarily
translate into materially greater economic impact to the advertiser or
the content creator; there is a saturation point.
3. Much of fan activity is about spending time with a
property and building an afﬁnity for it; although this is difﬁcult to
measure, there are proxies available that suggest that there is value
to these activities that content creators and providers should, at the
very least, encourage if not support.
As I said in part I, what I would like to achieve with
this thought piece, and possibly more like it is to stimulate
discussion between content creators, distributors, advertisers,
audiences and fans, in hopes of eventually getting to a point that each
group's contribution to the economic health of the industry is
recognized and valued. Including the Comic Book Guys of the world.
is an MBA
Candidate, Class of 2008, at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She
has worked as a Research Assistant with the Convergence Culture
Consortium since February 2007. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org