These are the trends that I see in the current media landscape and its near future. I love to study them in great detail at my work, the Creative Business program in Utrecht, and with my academic colleagues from all over the world.
Fan-centric economy – Business models are changing. The power has shifted to the audience, the users, the fans. These are today’s influencers in an economy where everyone is, to some extent, a marketer. From Kickstarter to Ticketmaster, businesses are relying more and more on their devotees. These are diverse global communities, soon to be joined by non-humans as well. The value of an emerging field like fan studies lies in examining the changing consumer/producer relationships – what works, what doesn’t? How can participation be encouraged?
Affect – Selling today means love – likes, favorites, and hearts. We binge the stories that make us feel. This is what creates today’s tribes, today’s fandom. Once we feel, we invest in a story world, and want to co-create. Cosplay, fan fiction, conventions, there is an enormous wealth of creativity that fans show. Once we flip the consumer-producer binary, we get a powerful movement – the indie development scene that we see at Steam Workshop, the connectivity of YouTube and more.
Deep Data – To study feelings meaningfully, we need qualitative data. No survey, and no distant reading based on big data, could ever give us deep insights into people’s lives. We need to talk and interview. Above all, we need ethnography, both online and offline, and to immerse ourselves in these communities. Only by talking to people, and by using participatory methods, can we truly study audiences and their lived experiences, as well as their wants and needs.