How do you measure who the most avid fan community is? Well, to turn the question around a little bit, which fan community do people seek out the most? That was my initial project last January when I wrote a blurb for the C3 Weekly Update asking about the popularity of fan communities themselves. Looking back at that question now, I have found that a few things have changed yet others have not.
In order to find the answer to this question, I am going to enlist the help of one of our partners here in the Convergence Culture Consortium, Yahoo! Well, actually, I'm just using the search engine in this case. And, for the sake of balance, I'm also going to check Google to see what it finds is the top page for a Web search of "fan community."
When I conducted this experiment last year, I joked about how there might be a page from some major conglomerate media property which was trying to create a space for the fan community surrounding that property, or else a picture of Henry Jenkins or some of the other great scholars here in C3 who have engaged in fan studies at one point or another. Instead, I found the Web site for the Glasgow-based alternative rock band Franz Ferdinand was the top hit on Google for "fan community." I will have to say that I'm shocked, but it shows that music communities in particular have appropriated the language "fan community" into its very fiber, especially based on the celebrity involved with individual vocal performers or bands.
Number two on the list last year? The Artist Currently Known as Prince!
This year, though, things have changed. There has been slight movement in what was the first post that came up. On Yahoo!, the Firefly fan site is the top hit for a search for "fan community," followed by the Web site for the Official Duran Duran Fan Community.
Actuall, Franz Ferdinand still ranks third, and Prince made number five in the search for Fan Community, with a site for A-ha fans in between.
Interestingly, of the sites represented, six are for music groups, one for a television show, and one for a media brand.
This exercise may seem somewhat frivolous, but I was talked with a colleague recently about what does and does not constitute a fan community, and it can be an awfully fascinating discussion. Are all gathering places of fans to be called communities? It's interesting to see what sites officially label themselves as a home for the fan community. Some are officially run sites for music performers, while other are fan tributes to them. Seeing which sites seem to be the top hits for a "fan community" search is quite illuminating. As my list has shown, not knowing the exact formula for how Google and Yahoo! comes up with what's at the top of each search, is that certain groups appear to be awfully consistent as the most sought destinations for people looking to find a "fan community." Instead of a generic definition page or something surrounding a television show--with the exception of the Firefly fans--it appears music dominates online usage of the term "fan community" within the media industry.
What can other media properties and/or brands learn from the way these groups have appropriated the language to explicitly form online communities rather than just gather places with resources for fans? Give some of these sites a look and see if you have any idea why they would be sought out in particular for fans searching for a community, quite literally in this case.