Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mis-reading Idle Conversation

I had a follow-up conversation with the CEO of Wahindia, and he wanted to know more about fan activity in online discussion groups. So I told him how it all began, the early days of newsgroups like rec.arts.movies.local.indian and and where things stand now with services like yahoogroups, fan-created websites, blogs, and so on. He also listened with interest to my descriptions of what goes on in these fan collectives, and then mentioned that he has been looking into some fan collectives in order to figure out how can tap into them as a potential revenue source. "Hardcore" fans, he went on to explain, are of particular interest to him as consumers who might be willing to pay for content. And I was nodding along, saying yes, that might indeed be worth looking into.

But then he also said that he wasn't particularly excited about what goes on in fan collectives. All they do is talk to each other, he exclaimed! Now I'm not sure what he was expecting, but on the whole, he sounded disappointed that fan activity, for the most part, involves talking and arguing at length about the star's life, his/her films or music, and so on. Of course, there is much else that happens, but he was saying this based on a couple of hours of browsing around.

Following this, he told me to go take a look at the revamped Wahindia website which is now more "interactive." One can now download clips, leave comments on the website, and even move the downloaded clips into a cellphone from where you can distribute it further. All very cool, and I could've probed him further for insights into how "interactivity" is thought through and how content is developed with this criterion in mind. But the fan in me just couldn't get past his casual dismissal of idle conversation that happens in fan collectives. The fan in me was miffed. Wtf do you mean idle, I wanted to yell. But I kept quiet, and he went on to tell me more about wahindia's expansion plans, and finally invited me to visit Ann Arbor, MI to take a look at their production process.

I am unsure at this point what to make of his assessment of fan activity. I understand his primary motive - to figure out how to get fans of major stars to migrate to Wahindia, and how to create content and a platform for participation which might make this happen. But what does he expect will happen if and when fans of, say Aishwarya Rai, migrate to Wahindia from a space like Yahoogroups? The central mistake here, imho, is in assuming that fans on yahoogroups are starved of content. Far from the truth. In the Rahman group, there are fans from all over the world, and each one of them has access to film, music, and television content that wahindia can never hope to rival. And, perhaps more important for strategy, fans revel in scouring different media for content and then bringing that into their discussions. So beginning with the goal of developing "loyal" fans isn't likely to work - fans will continue to go to different websites, TV channels, etc. and not be content with one source, no matter how good.

And, it doesn't matter that this content cannot be made available on yahoogroups for others to experience - multimedia content serves as a starting point for "idle conversation," and it is this "idle conversation" that is most pleasurable. The content that wahindia seeks to provide is merely a backdrop against which an "adda" comes into being.


  • Welcome to Capitalism! The capitalists give a shit about how or what happens in this process of M-C-M' as long as (M'-M) is significant enough to put more people to work.

    You better start tying up all your research to that end--putting more people to work--and silence that little voice in you that keeps wanting to yell :)


    By Anonymous Harsha, at 10/10/2005 8:57 AM  

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