I’m your number one fan: building impactful fandoms – Stephanie Fried, CMO Fandom

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Published on

November 11, 2020
Time to read: 5 minutes

For the latest interview in our Creator Conversations series, we caught up with Stephanie Fried, the CMO at Fandom to chat about the results of their 2020 State of Fandom Report – diving into the impact Covid-19 has had on audiences’ use and enjoyment of loved media over the past year.

While I don’t want to scoop the interview, the report really digs into the key themes of this strange, strange year. If I was to sum up 2020 in a word, it would probably be ‘isolation’ – wherever you are in the world, the Covid-19 virus has forced us into quarantines, separating us from our friends and loved ones. Another word I’d use is ‘Control’, or the lack thereof: it’s a precious commodity nowadays – something we’ve written about before – as we’ve moved from Lockdown to Lockdown, and all of the various Tiers and restrictions in between.

It’s clear that media – from TV, to films, to video games – is playing a crucial role in uniting our fragmented world and giving us the sense of control that we’re desperate to get back…

Hook Research: What is Fandom, Inc.?

Stephanie Fried: Fandom is a global media and entertainment platform powered by fan passion. Fandom helps fans explore, contribute to, and celebrate the world of movies, TV and gaming. We engage more than 315 million monthly users across 250,000-plus fan-trusted communities.

HR: What do you mean when you say “fans come first”?

SF: We are a two-sided platform: fans create content and fans consume content. Fans are at the heart of everything we do, the creator tools we develop and the discovery and community features we build. Everything on our platform is built and vetted by the biggest fans in the world and, as a result, 87% of Fandom.com visitors rate Fandom ‘very trustworthy.’

“Fans responded to the challenging year by sharing old favorites as well as exploring new digital experiences in search of connection”

HR:  I know you’ve just released the 2020 State of Fandom research report – what kinds of changes have you seen in the past year?

SF: The State of Fandom is a deep dive into the mindset of fans.  This year we examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fan experience. Fans responded to the challenging year by sharing old favorites as well as exploring new digital experiences in search of connection. We found that 76% of people turned to their movie, TV and gaming fandoms to connect and bond with one another, whether virtually or at home, an 80% increase over last year.

We saw four overarching trends emerge during COVID:

  • Entertainment took on increased importance in the home. Half of fans significantly increased their investment in home entertainment, spending more than previous years on new streaming services, consoles and family-friendly VOD releases.
  • More people turned to entertainment to cope and mentally relax – 53% percent more, according to our research.
  • Interest in nostalgic entertainment increased by 78% over last year, as fans rewatched old favorites and introduced their families to content they loved.
  • And gaming hit the mainstream as people used games as an additional way to connect and bond virtually. For example, female traffic to Fandom Gaming communities surged by 80% year-over-year.

Movies, television and video games brought people together in 2020.

HR: Are there any new and novel fandoms that you’ve seen emerge in the past year? What makes them so stand-out?

SF: This was an interesting year for entertainment as new content that was set to be released in 2020 has since been pushed back.

As a result, on the TV/Movie side, we saw user increase across nostalgic content such as Buffy, Sopranos, and 30 Rock, as fans turned to their favorites for a warm, familiar feeling


We also saw fans actively making emotional entertainment choices in 2020. For example, we saw fans leaning into virus and plague content such as I Am Legend and Virus Inc around Feb/March, followed by The Office and Community for comic relief in May/June. By the time summer was in full force, fans were leaning to fantasy content such as Back to the Future and Harry Potter as a form of escapism.

2020 wound up being a pivotal year for gaming as immersive/experiential games topped Fandom’s community rankers.

No surprise, Animal Crossing was the #1 game of 2020, but we also saw Open-World/Sandbox, Roblox and UGC games come forward as fans wanted to feel in control of something, since they couldn’t control real life.

HR: I think brands like Marvel and DC have shown us just how long fandoms can last – what do you think makes brands like these (and their characters/stories) so evergreen?

SF:  Marvel and DC are certainly top of mind when it comes to enduring fandoms, with regularly released big budget movies, top-tier actors, and excellent story-telling fueling the engine.  These franchises also transcend generations as fans pass down their fandoms to their children or grandchildren, making the fanbase larger and stronger.

At the end of the day, building a community around a fan base that enables them to engage deeply across platforms- fan theories, lore, deep reference, social media, and experience is what keeps fandoms strong.

HR: I recently interviewed the founder of PodUK about fan conventions, and she claimed that “good storytelling, told to the right people” is the key to building impactful fandoms. In your experience, what is the best way for up-and-coming content brands to create and engage with fandoms?

SF: Good storytelling told to the right people is definitely a cornerstone, but I would add “with authenticity” to that claim. Passionate fans know their fandoms inside out and they can spot an imposter instantly.

Fans come to Fandom for the content and experience provided by the communities. They keep coming back because they view us as trustworthy, reliable and unbiased. Keeping sight of the purpose we serve and the reasons fans engage with us enables us to help brands engage with fandoms in a meaningful and authentic way.

“Passionate fans know their fandoms inside out and they can spot an imposter instantly”

Marketers and content creators always need to understand who their audience is at its core, so that even when the world gets interrupted, you can still meet their changing needs and build your own loyal fan following.

HR:  Finally, if you are talking to someone who is not already engaged with Fandom, why would you tell them to visit?

SF: There is a community for everyone on Fandom. If you want to engage with folks who enjoy the same movies, TV or games as you, or if you want to learn about a new fandom and get recommendations for your next binge, you will find it among our 250,000 communities.

Thanks again to Stephanie for taking the time to speak with us! If you enjoyed this conversation, and want to find a community of your own, you can go and check out Fandom for yourself.

For more insights like this, you should check out the rest of Hook’s Creator Conversation series – we’ve spoken with the CEO of Pinna about the value of creating walled gardens of entertainment for kids, the founder of Broccoli Content about the importance of championing diversity in podcasts, and the Creator of Pop N’ Olly about producing LGBTQ youtube content for young people.


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