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August 22, 2006 10:29 PM   Subscribe

What are the characteristics of the best fansites?

Examples are welcome, but of course the subject material is really not the question. I'm looking for a top-down view of what makes a great fansite great. Thoughts, URLs, and analysis would be appreciated.
posted by BruceL to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What type of fan-site do you mean?

I started a site called Loves Threadless to function as a Threadless (shirt company) fan site. It's basically a simple blog that follows the happenings in the community and in their product lines.

I've been interviewed for a book about the fansite concept and an article in the South China Morning Post, both of which amused me, since it's a really simple concept.

Something concrete people can read is nice, but making things a one-stop-shop for news of something they love to follow is paramount. That's why I read Nintendo Wii Fanboy. And so on.
posted by disillusioned at 10:50 PM on August 22, 2006

Let's say it's a fansite for a current musician. His/her best fansite would have a busy forum, a constantly updated blog on the main page featuring news about the site itself, a up-to-date news section dedicated to the musician, tour dates, photos, article scans from magazines, a media section featuring audio clips and video clips (likely hosted by YouTube), a discography and possibly a singles discography, links to other good sites, lots of bio info, lyrics, and lots of other stuff that's not coming to me right now. Mainly though, the most important thing is that there always has to be something new, whether it's a leaked clip of the artist's demo or new posts at the forums. The second thing is that it has to make it very easy for me to find site updates (like on the blog on the main page, which can point me in the right direction).
posted by apple scruff at 11:29 PM on August 22, 2006

Community. People can adore in private, in their head. The best reason to seek out fansites because they want to express that adoration. Give them an outlet for expressing and communing, whether that be by commenting on blog posts, giving feedback to fic writers, discussing mintutia on a forum, sharing relevant files, showing off their collectibles, arranging meetups and conferences, or organizing for a shared cause.

Also, if the people running the site don't love and know the subject really well, that fact will stand out and be a turnoff. As a fan, I'm looking to hang with people whose deep appreciation for the subject can elevate my own.

It would help to know what and who, at least generally, this is for. There are things that are better when applied to, say, Singer sewing machine fansites vs. White Stripes fansites.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2006

I think it depends on your goal.

If you want your fansite to be the go-to place for info about someone/something, then I think it helps to go for as much reference material as you can muster: episode guides and analysis, bibliography/discography, lyrics, image and multimedia galleries, link directories, FAQs, news articles, etc.

If you want your fansite to be a center of activity for the community, then it helps to have things like message board forums, periodic fresh content for discussion (especially news and spoiler material), and interactive features like polls/meme-quizzes/etc. Plus it helps to have a lot of the reference material I mentioned above so that people don't have to leave your site to look things up.
posted by cadge at 4:48 AM on August 23, 2006

Definitely you need a well-organized discussion forum, historical information about the subject, as much detail as you can (lyrics, news, trivia, images, rumours, etc.) And you also need the site to look good and consistent, and have a logical and user-friendly interface. For design examples: I like Whedonesque and Greenplastic, they're nicely laid out, pleasing to look at and easy to navigate, I don't like Always On The Run or iAudiophile, even though both have really good content, the designs and interfaces are messy, annoying (don't make me scroll down that far to actually find anything useful) and busy-looking.
posted by biscotti at 5:31 AM on August 23, 2006

I'm specifically thinking about a site for a movie franchise, but it would still seem to me that the whole 'fansite' idea could be generalized for this discussion. Maybe not! Good stuff so far, thanks.
posted by BruceL at 5:39 AM on August 23, 2006

Agree with most of the above, especially about the importance of community. Also, "the best" fansites eventually develop some connection to the creator of the content they admire, thus elevating them to stratospheric heights among fans. For example: The-Leaky-Cauldron has contacts at Scholastic Books and Warner Brothers; when rumors about the Harry Potter books or movies go flying around the Intarweb, they touch base with their sources and provide the fan-base with reliable information. And Buffy creator Joss Whedon is now known to post occasionaly at Whedonesque.

These connections were only earned after years of establishing credibility as a trusted source of information, but I think that this is sort of the gold standard a fan site would aspire to. A site that can simultaneously maintain its independence from the studio/publisher/marketing machine (by allowing criticism, supporting divergent viewpoints, etc) and provide credible information direct from the creators is what most fans are looking for.
posted by junkbox at 7:23 AM on August 23, 2006

posted by poppo at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2006

Yea, obsession is it. When I was younger, I was into fan fiction for a certain boy band (I know, I know). Some of the sites were frightening, but I didn't care- I just wanted to read good stories featuring my favorite band.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

A gallery. A truly awesome gallery. Preferably one with hi-res images, preferable one with outtake images from various photoshoots rather than bad scans of the same images everybody else scanned badly from their latest copy of People. While I may stop to look at the news, more often than not when I'm searching for a fan site, what I want is good-quality pictures, and lots of them.
posted by headspace at 8:07 AM on August 23, 2006

If you're looking for specifics then it really depends on the movie franchise; a fansite for a single film on its own will be vastly different to something for, say, a trilogy of films based on a popular series of books.

Fansites have two primary uses: to connect fans with information about their interest and to connect fans with other fen.

In the first case what makes the site good is vast, mountainous piles of information. Fans are by nature obsessive and they want to know everything they possibly can about their interest. Thus nothing is too small or inconsequential - newspaper clippings of the barest mentions, biography information about minor characters, they want it all. Some girls in the N*Sync fandom once created a timeline of the bandmember's actions for a period of two years or so. What they did. Where they were. Every day. For two years.

Of course not every fan will need or require these things in such depth, but there'll be some, and they'll make their presence known. As mentioned above the basic categories involve every possible method of information you can display on the internet - pictures, media files, interviews, essays etc.

Now a fansite for information doesn't necessarily need a strong community around it, as long as they have a strong community reading it. Forums or comment areas on large sites are often viewed as the lowest common denominator of fen, they're not involved enough with the topic to bother going anywhere but the most popular site for information. This can be seen with popular Harry Potter sites such as The Leaky Cauldron - although it has a large and active forum, it's not regarded as a worthwhile place to chat and many choose to form their friendships and closer fannish interactions through the communities on LiveJournal.

Although the best fansites for information require popularity and enthusiasm, the best fansites for personal relationships are ones which require a commitment or intelligence (or, you know, willingness to spell) beyond basic fangirling. Be it the ability to set up a LiveJournal or paying $5 for entry.
posted by hugsnkisses at 8:31 AM on August 23, 2006

BruceL, there are probably plenty of generalizations that can be made about movie franchise fansites. But at core you're asking a marketing question, and for that it helps to define your demographic. People aren't just "fans". Is the fanbase for that particular franchise mostly one gender? -within a certain age range? -have at least/most a certain educational level? Etc. What attributes of the franchise are most attractive/important to the fans you've just described? (i.e the bodacious bod of some actor vs. the deep philosophical questions raised by the stories vs. the wicked cool CGI effects vs. the daredevil stunts) What do they perceive as the value of investing themselves in this franchise's fandom? (i.e free tickets vs. identifying with characters vs. taking an actor as a role model or fantasy love interest vs. educational/literary enrichment vs. collector completionism)

Of course the whole fanbase won't share that one profile, but the more you understand who the majority are, and define which part of the audience you're aiming at, the better you can serve their (thanks, poppo) obsession. For instance Whedonesque.com, BuffyWorld.com, Slayage.com, and JaneEspenson.com are all hugely popular websites within the Buffy fandom. It would be tempting to lump them together in that respect. But look closer, and you'll find they've earned their popularity by creating resources that cater to very different interest groups and deliver remarkably little that overlaps with one another.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2006

I third the suggestion of Whedonesque. It's based on the MetaFilter layout and the community is diverse, vibrant and interesting. They're also all fans of Joss Whedon and his creations.

I think the ability to have coherent, rational and intellectual discussions on the topic of choice while still promoting the "community" aspect of it all is the most important element.
posted by liquorice at 8:40 PM on August 23, 2006

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