How Fandom’s expanding into games journalism

Andrew Wooden
How Fandom’s expanding into games journalism

What do you get when cross a games review site, a hive-mind of self-publishing bloggers, and a depository of the most detailed game information ever assembled? Fandom, that’s what. 

The pan-entertainment consumer site has recently launched an in-house content team, but its heritage is in networks of online communities and its vast reserves of user-generated content.

Its previous incarnation – Wikia – was founded by Jimmy Wales, more famously known for launching Wikipedia – the indiscriminate online info-beast containing a billion encyclopedia-esque articles on anything from the history of the garden hoe to the particulars of quantum theory. 

Wikia quickly became a thriving community of people busily posting all sorts of articles covering every nook of entertainment minutia you can imagine. Keen gamers with in-depth knowledge of every sub-quest in Fallout 3 happily offloaded it all onto the site and thousands more gobbled it up. In this way, a loosely connected hub of communities were formed – 360,000 of them and counting, in fact.

The organisation took this hoard of eager contributors and brain-melting number of articles, and strapped a journalistic operation on top. The result is a hybrid publication sitting somewhere between a news and reviews site and the biggest collection of deep- dive community articles on the web, which has been rebranded as Fandom. This launched in the US last year, and has more recently expanded with a UK operation.

The new UK content team is headed up by Chris Tilly (pictured below, left) as UK managing editor, while Sam Loveridge (pictured below, middle), previously of Digital Spy and Trusted Reviews, has been brought on as games editor. We speak to Fandom’s SVP of content Dorth Raphaely (pictured below, right) as well as its pair of brand-new hires. 

How does Fandom differ from most gaming websites?

Dorth Raphaely: Well, there isn’t really anything quite like us. Fandom is truly fan-first. We not only provide the basic news and reviews, but in-depth stories using the expertise of our editors and fan contributors, and extensive information via our community platform. Anything you could possibly want to know about Mass Effect: Andromeda or Nintendo Switch? We have it. Want to learn all about the history of Tomb Raider while seeing the latest news on the movie? We’ve got you covered there, too. 

Our stories aren’t just written by our staff or curated from around the web, but are also written by the fans themselves through our fan contribution program. This program is open to anyone who wants to share their passion with others. We’ve had some great material, some of which has been among our most read pieces of content.

How does the site combine user-provided content with professional in-house content?

Raphaely: We have a solid mix of the two. True to our heritage and the nature of our community platform, we want to provide fans with the ability to contribute stories and have a voice; while the community platform isn’t the right place for editorial or opinionated content, our homepage and subpages absolutely are. 

The fan contributor program has been really well received, and we’ve brought a number of contributors into the Fandom fold. Some have come with us to major events, like Comic-Con, to report in a more official capacity, have been given access to talent, and we even hired on a new entertainment reporter in the US, who was one of our most popular fan contributors. Our intention is to create concrete benefits and an enhanced fan experience for contributors. This is something that’s a huge priority for us and we’ll be expanding on it a lot more in the coming year. 

In terms of our in-house content, we’re able to tap into specific expertise, established storytelling and play with a lot of different formats. Our professional writing staff is exactly that – professional writers who’ve been in the entertainment media business for five, ten, 15 years at other outlets you’d be familiar with. 

Both our professional writers and our fan contributors are important to who we are.

Is most of the content generated from the US? What’s the division of labour between the US and UK operations?

Chris Tilly: The UK office covers events, releases and news relevant to UK audiences, and the US does the same. But with more and more films and games receiving global release dates, and TV shows airing pretty much simultaneously, we’re taking a global approach to content creation. So we’re making the most of the different time zones to ensure that Fandom is delivering all things entertainment to fans 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What’s the ratio of aggregated media articles from the likes of Kotaku and so on to in-house written pieces?

Tilly: In an effort to provide a one-stop destination for our users, one that provides a deep-dive into all major fandoms, we’ve made a conscious effort to not compete in the ‘breaking news’ category, regurgitating the same stories that everyone else is covering.  

Instead, Fandom curates all big, relevant stories in a timely fashion. What we do do, however, is tap into the expertise of both our staff and fan contributors to provide timely news reactions that provide context and commentary to major news. That also means the staff has time for reviews, special video features, written features with expert insight and the like.

As the site is hinged on a lot of community participation, does this mean there will be multiple review articles from various members? Will this make it hard to have a ‘voice’?

Sam Loveridge: Although the fan contributors write features, it’s the in-house editorial team that handles reviews. On the gaming side of things, it’s myself in the UK, and our review team in the US, and we work together to ensure Fandom has a strong editorial voice when it comes to reviews. 

How would you sum up the differences between Fandom and more traditional consumer game sites?

Tilly: There are plenty of unique selling points for Fandom’s gaming coverage, but for me there are two main differences: the fandom focus and fan contributors. We’re a site that lives and breathes entertainment, so whether it’s movies, TV, comics, anime or gaming, Fandom is on it. This carries over to all of us staffers – we’re genuine fans of what we cover. We look at everything we do through an entertainment lens, look to see what’s trending in our communities and tap into the incredibly deep knowledge found there to provide additional expertise and context in our stories. 

Then there’s the fan contributors. While many also run the wiki pages, we also have a fan contributor program for mentoring talent. They’ll pitch and write articles based on the topics they’re experts in, and we’ll edit them and coach them on how to be better writers. That means we’re getting great content, filled with the passion of real fans. That’s something that no other publication can do. 

With the different game community sections it’s almost like a hybrid between a social media site and a more traditional news/reviews site – is that fair?

Loveridge: I’d agree that there’s nothing traditional about our approach to editorial – it’s all about collaboration and being truly fan-first. 

On the one hand we’ve got this massive fan-created database full of expertise on all entertainment. Then we’ve got our news and story side of the site that’s powered by a great team of experienced editors, who also work with the fan contributors on a daily basis. 

Of course, we’re also presenting our content using a range of formats, including our own social media channels and video, which plays a big part in our company and will only continue to grow. 

It’s that combination of elements that set Fandom apart from the competition, ensuring our content is fresh, compelling and unique.

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