Wikia Debuts Tentpole Site Fandom To Channel Pop Culture Nerds For Brands

Wikia-FandomWikia unveiled a new property called Fandom this week at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif. The slick-looking site features news articles contributed by readers, as well as bite-size stories designed for social sharing.

CEO Craig Palmer described it as “a one-stop shop if you’re a fan of pop culture.”

Behind the move is a strategic imperative to provide a central content hub for Wikia’s movie and TV show pages. The best way to do that is to build a loyal audience around a branded digital property.

“To have a real global brand … and have incredibly strategic relationships with advertisers, we were missing one piece of the puzzle,” Palmer said.

Wikia is the ad-supported, fan-focused version of Wikipedia, as the name suggests. Many users land on its pages after Googling the name of a planet in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or perhaps Binging a detail from a specific “Mad Men” episode. It has 189 million global uniques, according to Quantcast data.

But despite its growth and consistently high traffic, Wikia couldn’t capture the of-the-moment news and rumors fans crave. And its distributed model, with hundreds of individual pages but no hub to point to, made it a harder sell to advertisers.

That’s now changing.

Ten months ago Wikia brought on a COO, Turner Broadcasting vet Walker Jacobs, to build the brand and lead the advertising business. Jacobs realized that viewers and advertisers alike needed a home page, even in a search and social-driven world.

On the advertising side, Wikia’s revenue split has shifted from about 90% indirect and 10% direct-sold a few years ago, to 40% indirect and 60% direct-sold today. Movie and TV advertisers came first, but Wikia has also attracted brands that like its youthful audience, such as Taco Bell.

While programmatic banners appear on its encyclopedia pages, Wikia has restricted Fandom to custom, native programs, including sponsored quizzes that test a fan’s knowledge of a topic.

Next up, Wikia aims to harness fans’ knowledge and passion about certain entertainment franchises on behalf of its “Fan Studio” program.

As Warner Brothers prepared to release a video game, “Shadow of Mordor,” it worried about the fact that it took place with new characters and during a time between “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” Would Tolkien fans find the game inauthentic?

Wikia helped Warner Brothers harness fan feedback about the game and then develop early support for “Shadow of Mordor” through Fan Studio. The program is part influencer marketing and part focus group, with Wikia designing flexible programs depending on a marketer’s needs.

As Wikia develops its new tentpole site, Fandom, it plans to capitalize on the cultural rise of geeks and fan boys.

“That guy who put on the Darth Vader suit used to be the weird kid in Mom’s basement,” Palmer said. “The pop culture nerd wasn’t accepted before.”


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