Fanfiction dates back to Star Trek: The Original Series (ST-TOS) when fans published their own “fanzines” – anthologies of stories, complete with artwork. Written almost exclusively by women, fanfic is the fore-mother of user-generated content.
Now most fanfiction is published on the Internet, scattered across Livejournals and personal websites. It’s a huge phenomenon. Some popular fandoms include Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, Lord of the Rings (LotR), The Sentinel and Supernatural. According to one estimate, there are over 285,000 Harry Potter stories on fanfiction.net alone.
Very little money changes hands. It’s simply fans expressing their pop-culture passion.
Enter former Yahoo! executive Chris M. Williams (and others) along with investors and advisors that include film producer Jon Landau, entertainment attorney Jon Moonves (brother to CBS Corp. Chairman Les), and Anil Singh, former Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Yahoo!
In “co-promotional partner[ship]” with Showtime, Simon & Schuster (both CBS Corp. owned), and Starz,the players set out to harness and monetize fanfic content, MySpace-style, on a new Web site called FanLib.com.
Their mission: to “bring fan fiction out of the shadows and into the limelight.”
Writers were invited to aggregate their fanfic on FanLib.com, lured with promises of free t-shirts, DVD’s and private movie screenings.
“In sync with the participation age…” says the H.I.G. website of FanLib.Showtime and CBS are running ads on the site as we speak.
Business Week touted the project last March: “The genius of FanLib is realizing that fans can be happy just being recognized.”
Actually, this patronizing assumption is FanLib’s Achilles Heel.
Instead of creating the Myspace of fanfic since the launch two weeks ago, FanLib.com sparked a white-hot Internet firestorm. The meltdown is a hard lesson in how not to conduct business on the Internet. But it’s a firestorm of FanLib’s own making because, in spite of the Yahoo pedigree (or maybe because of it), they plowed in like china shop bulls.
They distributed ads with adolescent boy appeal that the women hated.
And they behaved badly. FanLib spammed emailed form letters and joined at least one online fanfic community to steal recruit users.
Worse, a marketing pdf., posted prominently on the Website of parent company my2centences, seemed far more exploitative than the happy, happy we’re here-to-serve Fanlib (now chipped) veneer.
(UPDATE: shortly after this blog entry was posted, the pdf. was removed from the my2sentences website. But I captured the document for my files. It can be viewed here.)
Finally, Chris Williams distanced Fanlib from the marketing materials, saying they have “NOTHING to do with fan fiction submitted on the FanLib.com site.”
Well, okay. But…same name, same people.
My2centences appears to be running two parallel efforts to monetize fanfic. One is FanLib.com, the fanfic aggregator website that has caused the big stir; the other is just plain FanLib, their on-line fanfic events organized on behalf of Showtime, CBS, and others.
The verbiage below lifted directly from the pdf. is still enough to give anyone - not to mention the freewheeling fanfic culture – pause about the players involved in Fanlib.com and their intentions.
MANAGED & MODERATED TO THE MAX …As with a coloring book, players must stay within the lines..
Lines? Coloring books? Moderated to the max?
CLICK HERE for PART TWO
CLICK HERE for Part THREE: From Henry Jenkins to Old School Marxist Analysis of FanLib vs. Fandom
CLICK HERE for Part FOUR (my response to comments)
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