How will we be fans in the future?

How will we be fans in the future?

I dare to state that fandom has moved almost 100 percent online. Whether it’s bench sports, ranting about the juicy plot twists of a reality show, or watching YouTubers unpack the latest gadgets, devoting and cheering for these things takes place almost invariably on electronic channels. Besides, the actual experiences, passion, and close-knit communities gained from being a fan of something have shifted more and more comprehensively from concert halls and stadiums to online channels, more precisely to platforms. This process has further accelerated thanks to the global shift to remote life.

Earning from fandom has moved online

In the 2020s, instead of trading t-shirts and floor tickets, revenue is gained by selling viewing rights. By paying a little more, you can also see more and closer. Fan merchandise brings in extra income on the side. However, your own channels may only succeed in creating occasional and momentary gains. Popular platforms like YouTube and Twitch, provide a playground for all kinds of actors, including impostors.

Some objects of fandom may also be in a better position to benefit from the platform era than others. It is understandable that, for example, many of the performing arts and traditional sports rely more heavily on the on-site atmosphere and the presence of other fellow fans, which may also make it more difficult for them to change their business models.

Instead, it will be interesting to see how e-sports, for example, will evolve as this business is just taking its shape. The situation is delightful since there are no established practices for business models in this fast-growing industry yet. Content subscription models, premium licenses, fan merchandise, donations, and collectibles are probably just the beginning. 

I firmly believe that practically any well-known revenue model can be applied to such transformative, fan-based industries, and new ones can be innovated all the time. I couldn’t come up with a single one that would by no means work or that I wouldn’t dare try. Taking a look in my imaginary consultant’s crystal ball, I see that the monthly subscription-based revenue models are about to reach their peak. And if we take a look deeper into the ball, we can also identify other factors and thrilling opportunities that should be considered in the fan-based business models.

Cooperation between different experts is essential

In addition to fans and the objects of their admiration, seamless functioning of these complex revenue models requires business knowledge, technology, design, and marketing expertise, as well as people who can facilitate and bring together the different skills and insights in a constructive way.

Online fandom is rapidly changing its shape

The phenomenon is fairly new, so many things will change in a single year. Fandom in e-sports, for example, will certainly be completely different in three years. Do you really think that consumers will be intensely refreshing their browsers when some tickets go on sale or buy something without being able to attach it in their digital form for long?

Fandom on platforms adapts to the events of the world

Fandom has not moved to platforms by chance, but there are numerous factors behind the trend. For the first time, technology has enabled business models based on streaming and online subscribing to exist. In a short space of time, our culture has also become more receptive to remote events and digital meeting places, although virtual fan communities have certainly existed since the prehistory of the Internet. The global isolation to remote conditions has further facilitated the transition. E-sports in particular are part of the winning team, as the fandom of gamers has rapidly shifted from joking about nerds into a multi-billion business. Even today, the future is being made, and I recommend being a part of it.

In the online fandom market, small streams form large rivers

In a digital environment where marginal costs are close to zero, it is often justified to invest in small revenue streams. For a few euros from here and there, every now and then. Digital sales are inherently scalable, so traditional sales bottlenecks can often be avoided.

Expanding the range of payment methods and cheaper viewing rights are likely to add spontaneous online purchasing patterns in the future: pop-up sales in exclusive virtual avatar costumes, badges, secret user levels for a small fee, or perhaps limited access to some information… the options are limitless. Before long, these virtual purchases are also likely to evolve into status symbols that people want others to see. From my crystal ball, I would try to see how this spontaneity could be incorporated into fan-based business models. Purchase decisions can be made in an instant just because you want to.

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Tomi Neulanen

Digital Business Consultant