Around about the end of last year, all the big shit web 2.0 blogs started to pull together their prediction list for 2010. I was very close to pulling up such a list myself until I concluded that there was absolutely nothing that I wanted to put out there as a sure-fire prediction? Everything in this online world changes way to quickly for anyone to have a real handle on what the next big thing is, and it’s all subjective anyway.
But yesterday, i started thinking about many of the online trends in fandom, and specifically many of the topics we’ve covered here at The Learned Fangirl, and they all seem to point to a particular trend that may come to a head in coming year. So, here’s my one prediction for 2010:
This year will be the year where fans/fan labor becomes a major, influential player in online (and offline) entertainment.
Of course, this has already been happening. Recent TLF posts on anime fansubbing and streaming video have explored how not-quite-legal fan labor has impacted how corporate media producers distribute their products. Earlier in the year, we talked about the Nine Inch Nails crowdsourced fan concert video that was officially condoned and encouraged by Trent Reznor. We also talked about a fan-driven campaign that kept the NBC spy drama Chuck on the air (for at least this season) while managing to raise money for charity as well.
Between anecdotes like this and the seemingly unabated growth and influence of social media marketing – an industry where customer input and interaction is not just key, but crucial to success, I think we’re gonna see a real push toward “professionalizing” fandom in a way that we’ve never seen before. Particularly in the music industry we’ll see fan culture and user-generated fan content become integrated into marketing and public relations campaigns as a first line of defense, rather than an afterthought.
And not in the form of goofy contests, either, but really taking the street team approach to marketing seriously and using fan and fan labor as a dedicated and intentful marketing strategy.
I’m not sure if this is always good thing. Maybe this is a bit quaint, but as a fan, I don’t like to think that my genuine enthusiasm over a product/TV show/band has the potential to be exploited or commodified in such a blatant way. But the fact is i’ve been a willing participant in that process for a few years now, every time I post on my blog about some new song I love, or become a fan of some product/actor/organization on Facebook. It’s just a lot easier now for entertainment professionals to follow and evaluate this kind of stuff online and make strategic decisions about what to do about it, if anything. Savvy marketers are just taking advantage of a great opportunity to connect with their supporters, and in many cases, they should.
At the same time, I’d hate for some of the random creativity that’s displayed online via blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc. to be shoe horned into always having to have some kind of profit/promotion motive, or risk being shut down.
My questions for 2010:
- Can entertainment companies connect with fans through user-generated content without exploiting their labor?
- Will fans be able to show their love/support for a product/artist/performer through user generated content without violating copyright as a default?