Community Central
Community Central
Be sure to also read Part 1 of this blog series, "How Fandom is driving engagement to improve the user experience"
A slide from Community Connect that says “Better Ads for a Better Experience,” with the names of the sessions’ speakers: Brandon Rhea (VP of Community), Jeremy Steinberg (Chief Revenue Officer), and Peter Mansour (Chief Product Officer).

One of the biggest topics at last month’s Community Connect was about the ad situation on the Fandom wiki platform, and how one of our primary goals this year is making genuine improvements to the user experience – including improvements to the ad experience. We talked about some of that in the Staff Blog yesterday, “Driving Engagement to Improve the User Experience.” And today we put a finer point on the problem: “it sucks” is an exact quote you’ll see later in this interview.

We want to dive deeper into that topic, particularly the part about ads, because we went into a lot more depth at Connect than we could include in that one blog post yesterday. The best way we thought to do that was for you to just see exactly what was said – in the form of a transcript from interviews I hosted with Jeremy Steinberg, Fandom’s Chief Revenue Officer, and Peter Mansour, Fandom’s Chief Product Officer. Both Jeremy and Peter spend a lot of time thinking about and working on site improvements, and that includes making ads better.

This blog covers some key points from the interviews, including (but not limited to):

  • Fandom has a unique position in the market as being at the center of fan interests, and advertisers are taking a growing interest in community and fan engagement.
  • We have a lot of opportunities to better serve users and advertisers, despite economic challenges we (and the market) faced in 2023 – which led us to the difficult decision to add more ads in 2023 to face those economic challenges, leading to forking and other community pain points.
  • We don’t want our strategy to just be about adding more ads, though, and in fact our mantra for this year is “Better, Not More.”
  • We’ve already made important progress in positive monetization growth this year through improving site performance, without adding a single new ad unit, and we will continue to experiment with ways to improve the user experience through increased user engagement.
  • Improving the user experience, including building a better ad experience, is key to the future of the platform to ensure that we better serve editors, readers, advertisers, and the Fandom business.

Ready to learn more about that? First up is the interview with Jeremy, followed by the interview with Peter, before all three of us answer questions in an AMA. Note that these interviews and AMA have been lightly edited for clarity as they change from an audio/visual medium to a text-based medium.

Interview with Jeremy Steinberg[]

Brandon: So, now we turn to everybody’s favorite subject: ads. I’m actually really excited about this. Believe it or not, actually. I’ve wanted to talk about ads and Sales at Community Connect for a really long time, but it never really felt directly relevant.

But, last year, and we talked a bit about this yesterday, we faced some challenges. There were economic hardships throughout the entire market. There were pain points with ads on the platform. Now it’s super relevant to talk about.

So, I’m really excited for our next two guests to come up here and talk to you a little bit about how Sales works at Fandom and also how everything you’ve heard throughout the last day and a half is really building toward that better site experience, inclusive of ads. So, for our first guest, we’re going to actually sit here and do a little bit of a fireside chat. For our first guest I’m going to call up the Chief Revenue Officer at Fandom, Jeremy Steinberg.

A photo of Jeremy Steinberg and Brandon Rhea speaking at the “Better Ads for a Better Experience” session at Community Connect.

Jeremy and Brandon in the “Better Ads for a Better Experience” session at Community Connect.

Jeremy: Thanks Brandon. Hi everybody, it is great to be here. When Brandon said, “do you want to come and speak at Community Connect?” I was like, “absolutely I want to speak at Community Connect.”

I started at Fandom about a year ago. Barely missed this event last year. So I was bummed about that, but obviously really really excited to be here today. I am a fan, just so everyone knows. If you’ve seen me on a Zoom screen you’ll see a Raiders of the Lost Ark poster behind me. I’m a diehard Indiana Jones fan. I love anything action and adventure related, so James Bond, Mission Impossible, you name it. And of course, I have a 14 and a 12 year old so basically anything that they like is sort of my priority right now.

Brandon: Well it’s awesome to have you here. I’m really excited for this conversation. To start with, day to day, what do you actually do? How does the Sales team actually work at Fandom?

Jeremy: So let’s talk about this a little bit. You all here sit at the center of what I do, whether you know it or not. When my team or myself go and talk to customers, I talk about how our platform reaches 350 million people every month. And those people traverse 250 thousand different communities and 45 million pages of content about every movie, TV show, and video game you can ever possibly imagine, with an unbelievable amount of depth and detail for every fan. I give an anecdote that my team is like “oh my God, he’s doing the same damn anecdote.” About how if you’re interested in Harry Potter, you can read about the 3,700 different wizards that have been mentioned or appeared in the films on 3,700 plus different pages of content. It’s an extraordinary amount of information. And that really resonates with our clients.

When I talk about how people come to our platform because they’re looking to find more information about what they love, and when I talk about how we’re able to better understand consumer intent — like, the mindset of consumers through our FanDNA insights offering — and how we can then use that to help create authentic connections between marketers and fans, it really, really resonates. And that all sort of stems from the work that you all do.

And so, whether you realize it or not, and I think there’s many times where maybe you don’t feel as if there’s a lot of connectivity between our ads business and our community, but the reality is they’re very much intimately entwined and one of the primary selling points that we use in order to entice marketers to help drive value to our overall business.

Brandon: Kinda skipping ahead to the next question, you answered this a little bit, but the value prop, how do we pitch it? To editorialize for a second, I remember years ago — and it was even one of the reasons we rebranded from Wikia to Fandom — was we would get into these client meetings and it would be, say you have a half an hour, it would be like 25 minutes on “What is UGC? What is a wiki? What does this word Wikia mean?” How has it evolved since then? How do people in the market understand what the value is to them?

Jeremy: That’s a really great question. The notion of ‘fandom’ is really starting to become a bigger theme for marketers. Clearly we paved the path on this, but companies like Reddit and even YouTube for that matter are helping to fuel this idea of participation and the importance of fans for every brand, for every topic, that those are really the most important consumers. You know, I just heard recently that YouTube is now positioning themselves as the fan sidekick, which I thought was really interesting. And we’ve sort of, like, owned that. And that gives us an enormous right to win and I think is gonna help fuel growth over years to come.

And we service a variety of different types of advertisers. Obviously gaming and entertainment are our two largest categories of customers, and they love us because we help them launch their new titles. And that makes up probably a little over 50% of our business. But we actually also have a pretty large, we like to call it “non-endemic” business which is, like, consumer packaged goods, and retailers, and government advertisers who make up the rest of our advertiser base. And what they really like about us is that we have authenticity. We’re built for fans. We know more about fans than anybody else, and we can really design unique programs that hit their needs and drive important outcomes.

Brandon: So throughout 2023, I think a lot of people in the room probably even felt it too coming off of the pandemic and feeling the effects of inflation that obviously carried into the market, but what were some of the challenges that we faced and how did we have to adapt our strategy?

Jeremy: 2023 was a very challenging year. I mentioned that we have obviously gaming and entertainment advertisers as our two largest advertiser segments. Both are somewhat going through a bit of a reset right now. You have entertainment being severely impacted by the strike. You also have a change in dynamics of streaming platforms moving from really focusing on broad awareness to now being more focused on customer acquisition. We call that sort of ‘performance’ or ‘lower funnel’ advertiser tactics, and we’re really good at more awareness, the top of funnel tactics. And then you have sort of ongoing challenges tied to recessionary fears, other categories that really sort of impacted overall spend and our overall potential.

What that ended up leading to was more ads.

And, I should’ve started the conversation by saying — and I think you’ve heard this from Peter, and I’ll just reiterate this. I’m in charge of driving revenue, so in some ways you can think of me as like, “Clearly Jeremy likes more ads because the more ads we have, the more money we make.” And that’s entirely not the case.

Peter knows this, and we’re both on the same page. I don’t love our ad experience right now. I don’t think it’s optimized. I think that there’s a lot that we could be doing to make improvements to the work that the Product team and Technology teams are doing to improve our user experience, to improve engagement, and increase site visitation and pages per session which are all connected, whether you realize it or not, ultimately to how I also think about overall monetization and improving the experience.

But last year was hard. We did have to make some modifications to our ad experience and we know that there are many people here and many people on the video con who maybe are frustrated by that. And I don’t want to shy away from it, I want to have an honest dialogue about this because I don’t think that that is the optimal approach. But it’s things that we had to do given the challenging market conditions.

Brandon: And even when we were talking about more ads last year, you could sometimes in these conversations feel peoples’ frustrations come through. And I think part of that was because whether it was me talking about Community or you talking about Sales and Revenue, I think the argument on both sides is “well, if ‘this’ happens, or ‘this’ doesn’t happen, there’s a negative consequence somewhere down the line.” And we have to think about and talk about how if we add more ads there could be forking, which there was, or if we don’t do that — if you’ve spent any time on LinkedIn, you know the impact of what revenue challenges can be in the market and online companies. So to try to find that balance —

Jeremy: Yeah.

Brandon: — in knowing, like, which one’s weighed a little more at any given time, was part of it.

Jeremy: I’ve worked in news organizations, I’ve worked in a lot of places where there’s always a tough trade-off. And it’s finding that balance, and I think, again, through the work that we’re all doing to improve engagement, I think it’s going to create an overall better experience for the community.

Brandon: I’m actually going to jump ahead to the next question because that’s perfect: in what ways do you believe improving the site’s UX will enhance our attractiveness to advertisers, and what opportunities are there?

Jeremy: The single most important thing that we can do, from my perspective, is improve the quality of our ad experience. The way our clients look at us is through the quality of our ad units and their performance. They look at things like: Are the ads viewable? Do people click on them? How long do they watch videos? And right now, we don’t have really great numbers.

So, for example, and this might be getting a little in the weeds, but there’s an important metric called ‘viewability’ that marketers look at and they want a certain percentage of ‘viewable’ ads. They buy ads, and they want the ads to be seen. Clearly, right? And on desktop, we have reasonably good numbers, so we’re in, like, the 60% range, give or take. And on mobile, we’re in the 30% range. And on desktop you want to be 70% plus, and on mobile you want to be 50% or higher.

What Peter and I and many people on the team are working on is, if we can increase the quality, that’s gonna be a better outcome for our marketing partners, and ultimately create a better experience because it means we don’t have to keep adding and adding and adding more ads to make up for the fact that the ads aren’t working.

So I think by taking a different approach, I think we can get to a much better place. Because I want the same thing, I really do. If we improve engagement, if we improve page views, if we increase the number of sessions per person, if we improve the quality of our ads, it’s going to make them monetize better, it’s going to make us drive more revenue growth, and at the same time will also create a better experience.

And it probably deserves, or it might be horribly boring, one minute just on my background. I have a long history of trying to improve ad experiences at organizations that I’ve run revenue at. Many of you may not know but I used to run revenue for The Weather Channel. And if you use The Weather Channel app, you can see when you go to the site what we used to call the ‘branded background’ that’s integrated into the experience, that doesn’t take away from the experience, and that’s something that we innovated while I was there. And I’ve also worked at technology companies focusing on creating better mobile ad experiences. And so it’s something that’s sort of near and dear to my heart, and I’m really pleased in the direction we’re pursuing because I think it will — it sort of very much is connected to what I think the community is looking for.

Brandon: On that note, before we bring Peter up, what can we expect in terms of how your team and my team will continue to collaborate throughout the year and even further?

Jeremy: I’m actually really looking forward to far more collaboration. I’m hoping that you all want that. Our customers want that. You know, in many instances, we’re not really having the full breadth of the conversation we could have with game publishers and with theatrical companies and with streamers. They want to understand what the community wants. They want to understand, they want to participate. And so my hope is that we can have more of a close relationship, close collaboration, in terms of not only the ad experience but also in terms of providing more value to the community from marketing partners than we ever have had in the past.

Note: After Jeremy’s last point, Brandon talked a bit about how it connects to Community Partnerships and the presentation about it from the day before. For the purposes of this blog, because it does not include a recap of the Community Partnerships session, we’ve omitted Brandon’s point for clarity’s sake.

Brandon: On that note, I think we’ll hand it over to Peter. Do you want to say any closing thoughts?

Jeremy: I’m happy to be here. Please feel free to come up to me and ask me questions throughout the rest of the conference. I’m just glad I got to be invited.

Brandon: Me too, I’m really glad we were finally able to do this.

Jeremy: Thanks everybody!

Brandon: Thanks Jeremy, let’s bring up Peter!

Interview with Peter Mansour[]

At this point, Fandom’s Chief Product Officer, Peter Mansour, joined Brandon on stage.

Brandon: So, remember that equation I’ve told you about five times? The one that’s like: your partnership + engagement = a better site experience? Let’s just ask: what does improving the site’s overall experience mean for ad products and the overall ad experience?

An equation representing Fandom's commitment to drive engagement in partnership with the community, leading to improvements in the site's user experience including a better ad experience.

This slide, shared in yesterday’s blog, is the one that I showed attendees multiple times.

Peter: Yesterday, we talked about the concept of value and how we’re not offering enough value. So it’s not about money to me. If we do something that’s valuable for you and for the users, people will stay and the money will come. And so how we measure that is how people are interacting with us. To put it in perspective, we get about, blended between mobile and desktop, about 3.09 page views per session. So every user that comes in, that’s how many pages they look at.

Brandon: I’m actually going to jump ahead to the next question since that answers that. (Note: The question was “You’ve talked about page views per session as a measure of engagement. Why is this particular metric important, and how does it influence our strategy?)

Peter: IMDb gets around 4.5 pageviews per session. There’s that rabbit hole where — and it’s pure math. That means if we increase it to 4.5 and we didn’t add any ads, as a matter of fact we could pull some ads off and we make 50% more money. That’s the way we want to make money. And what I’m really happy about, and you maybe haven’t felt it yet — the Monetization team, the Monetization Product Management team, has almost hit their goal for this year without shipping one single new ad. They made the page faster. They made it more efficient. So we’re showing it can be done. That’s cool. We’re sitting here and it’s, what is it? It’s almost May now, I guess.

Brandon: Oh my God, is it really almost May already? That’s insane.

Peter: Right? So, that’s how we want to do it. Taking ads off can actually make the page load faster, and make people stick around more. Having good ads that people want to see instead of crap ads. Not all ads are created equal. That’s the kind of thing we’re looking at.

Brandon: So would it be fair to say — because I also want to make sure we’re tying all the things we heard together, where we talked about engagement and we talked about the importance of page views per session — that the work that we’re doing around engagement is really about transforming the user behavior? Not like editor behavior, editors have a very specific, highly engaged way of interacting with the platform. But if we can drive that additional utility, if we can do things like the Mobile Drawer and put these things in front of people that gets them to stick around longer and gets them to the next piece of content, whether that’s on wikis or that’s a recommendation for GameSpot or whatever it may be, that then gives us the opportunity to say “alright, users are here for longer, we can monetize that experience in a different, more efficient way?’

Peter: Yeah. And that’s the math problem, boring answer to it.

Brandon: Right.

Peter: The non-boring answer is that it sucks!

Brandon: That’s a good way of saying it.

Peter: And we don’t want it to suck. As Product people, as engineers, as designers, we’re one of you. We want it to be good. We’re not getting enough of it. Your content is freakin’ awesome, and people aren’t spending enough time on it. We have the asset. So that’s really what we’re starting to drive.

A screenshot from Wowpedia showing clutter in the user experience.

”We haven’t done right by you enough,” as Peter said, and this screenshot from Wowpedia we shared in yesterday’s blog is a good example of that.

We haven’t done right by you enough. So when we’re starting to put things like the widgets, it isn’t money grabbing. We’re actually trying to make it better. We’re trying to do what’s best for people. And the only way we have to measure that is how people are engaging. It speaks louder than showing it to somebody in a focus group. If 50 million people are spending more time on it, that’s pretty indicative. So that’s the way we’re measuring it.

Brandon: So you mentioned what the Monetization team has already done around hitting their goals, but what are some other — even going back into 2023 — recent initiatives around performance or whatever it may be that we’ve been able to do with this?

Peter: I’m sure it’s not a surprise to any of you, but site loading speed is a big deal. And it’s incredible how much just changing — like, one of the things that the ads team did is, we have this A/B testing framework and we changed the way that worked and we got a 2% bump in site load speed the next day. So performance is a big deal. When ads load and make the page jump around, that’s perceived performance. Maybe it took two seconds to fully load, but if I’m reading something and all of a sudden it jumps down, that’s annoying. So those are the kind of things that matter. So we’re working on the basic block and tackling of making it look better, making it performant, making the user experience so it’s not annoying when people drop onto the page from Google, but then also add value on top of that.

Brandon: What else are we working on next to improve the ad experience?

Peter: We’re working on moving things around and doing more in terms of efficiency. Our mantra this year, when it comes to ads, is “Better, Not More.” So things like, are we doing the best in the space that we already have? Is it the most efficient? Do we have the right bidders? Do we have to make fourteen ad calls? What if we only made three but they’re the three that matter? How does that speed things up? What if we take out units that stick to the bottom and put a smaller unit that’s persistent in the Mobile Drawer, where it’s in our space instead of in your space? These are the kinds of things we’re looking at.

A screenshot mock of Fandom’s upcoming Mobile Drawer experiment.

A screenshot mock of the Mobile Drawer, shared in yesterday’s blog and at Community Connect.

Brandon: And for the Mobile Drawer, I don’t want to say a number because I don’t want to bias anything, but I was particularly impressed a couple weeks ago hearing results from other companies of just that little banner ad in it.

Peter: Yeah, because it’s 90% viewable and it doesn’t mess with the community’s content.

Brandon: So what I ended up seeing was that if this thing works the way it’s intended, it could have a dramatic impact on what actually has to or doesn’t have to be on the page in order to monetize it.

Peter: Right.

Brandon: But, this is my final scripted question, and I think we actually will have time for a live AMA, but if there’s one thing you want people to take away from this presentation in combination with everything else that people have heard, what would that be?

Peter: We care. We actually care about the product. We’re not just this money-grubbing entity that just wants to throw ads on it. We actually care. There’s a whole group of staff sitting in the back of the room here that cares passionately about making this better. We want to work in conjunction with you. I’m super happy having the Community Product Support team as a go-between so that you know the difference between just putting something for monetization and how we’re actually trying to help, and why we’re doing it. That two way communication, I’m so thrilled about. I’m seeing it more than ever. I mean I’ve only been here a year, but I’m totally seeing it.

Brandon: It’s been a hell of a year. We’ve done a lot.

Peter: We’ve done a lot. And it’s gonna get better.

Brandon: And I’m kinda the same way, I’m gonna answer this question a little bit too. My perception in talking to the community has been, and you all can tell me if you think I’m wrong about this, that you know we know the ad experience is bad. I don’t think you’re thinking that Fandom’s loading up the page and we’re just sitting there going, “that’s the good stuff, that’s what we really like to see.” Of course not. But I think the perception has been “you know it’s bad and you do it anyway, because money is the most important thing. So you’re just going to keep doing it, and you don’t really care.” So what I hope that we’ve started to show you over the last couple days is that we do care, and we are working on things. Now, I also know, and I got a little bit of this talking to Zacatero yesterday and hearing a bit of a recap of the breakout sessions, is that literally no one in this room, I’m guessing, is going to walk away hearing what I just said and think “Okay I’m good, I buy that.”

Peter: Yeah.

Brandon: I think you’re going to need to see it, and that’s what we’re going to have to show.

Peter: One of the things I tell my team all the time is, “we haven’t earned the trust.” So that’s part of it too. But at least we want you to know our intentions. We’ll earn the trust, but we want you to know our intention.

Brandon: Exactly.

AMA with Jeremy, Peter, and Brandon[]

The live and online audiences at Community Connect now had an opportunity to ask questions directly to Jeremy, Peter, and Brandon. The AMA was hosted by Tim Quievryn, Fandom’s Director of Trust, Safety, and Product Support.

Brandon: So, we do have – let’s say – 10 minutes for a live Q&A. Tim, take it away and we’ll have Jeremy on standby if you want to ask any Sales questions as well.

Tim Quievryn: We’re actually going to start with a question from the online audience. There’s a few questions I’m going to sum up with kind of one foundational question, which is: can you tell people about the difference between a premium direct ad vs what we call an indirect ad, and the different experiences people see there?

Jeremy: Basically, the difference between our premium direct, and indirect — otherwise known as programmatic — is that premium direct ads are when we’re talking directly to a customer. Could be an EA, could be a Paramount. They’re looking to launch a new movie, a new show on their streaming platform, and they’re looking for a big awareness opportunity. And in those instances, they have a very specific window that they’re trying to drive awareness. And in many instances, what you’ll see is we basically try to sell around certain dates and around certain communities that have the closest alignment to the target audience they’re trying to reach. It could be action adventure, it could be RPG, it depends on what the advertiser is looking to achieve.

But there’s also this massive trend around automating advertising. It’s programmatic-based advertising, and this is a world where marketers are looking for any means by which they can smarter target ads, make more efficiency with the number of people they have on staff, and they find using systems to automate the way that they power advertising. So what you’ll then see is you go on the web and you see the same ad following you wherever you go. Those are examples of programmatic-based ads where they’re trying to target specific users.

As many of you know, cookies are deprecating and going away eventually from Google, and so it’s going to be harder to target. Which actually makes Fandom more relevant, because we have interest-based information. We know what people are interested in. So we can actually help create a better experience for marketers.

So basically, our business has two parts. One is where we talk directly to our clients, the other one is where we use systems to help bring in more demand through third party technology companies. In both instances, we have to focus on making significant improvements to our infrastructure. It’s what Peter talks about. From site load to other things we can do to make improvements, which will also not only help increase monetization but also, at the same time, increase engagement. And when those two things work well together, it creates a far better overall experience. Better ads, better monetization, and better engagement.

Tim: Alright, in-person questions. Anyone have one they want to provide?

ParallelTraveler: Do wikis who have better navigation have higher pageviews per session?

Peter: Yeah, they do. The way the content is organized definitely impacts how the wikis perform. Pictures definitely impact it. People like to click pictures. So if it’s a wall of text with a lot of hyperlinks, you get far fewer clicks than something laid out with pictures. I think that stands to reason, right? Now, that’s not on you. That’s on us. Because if we gave you the tools that would automate that and make it as clean as possible, and it was your choice — we’re not going to push anything on you — then more pages would look the right way for the best engagement. And that’s one of the things we’re trying to do for our creator tools. You want to insert this picture here, you want to put this table here, do you want to organize it this way, do you want to use this template, that will help. But it’s absolutely, as you would expect, the UX and the content and how you present it does impact that.

Brandon: Which is a lot of the thinking behind — and it was said in an earlier session, we want to be the best marketers for your content. There may be things on the page, widgets or other elements, that we think are important to driving those higher sessions, but what you’re specifically doing in your specific space, you should be able to keep doing that. We should then be able to provide the tools to make sure that’s as engaging as possible.

A screenshot illustrating what the new Fandom global navigation experience could look like.

Features like the revamped global nav are some of the ways we can better be “the best marketers for your content.”

Peter: Also keep in mind, you’re a special group here. You’re the top echelon of creators and editors. So, the folks that don’t have your experience and your expertise, we need to let them have tools that let them create more engaging experiences too. Not everyone’s like you, so we’re trying to open it up and democratize it a little more too.

TotallyWitchy: A lot of times when I’m trying to communicate with logged out users, they always tell me they have no idea creating an account would reduce the amount of ads that they see. So I was wondering if there’s a plan to communicate that better to the general public that if you create an account, you get less ads? Because so many people don’t realize that and then they create an account.

Peter: I’ll let you answer that.

Jeremy: Oh, thanks Peter.

Peter: You want me to answer?

Jeremy: We both can answer it.

Brandon: I may chime in too, who knows!

Jeremy: I personally like the idea of a value exchange. I don’t know if it, as it stands right now, as it’s currently implemented, is the optimal value exchange right now. I think we have to work on it. And I think Peter’s got a ton of ideas for making Fandom a greater utility for consumers and providing tools for the community creators. I think if we then can create a reasonable value exchange where if a consumer does ‘this,’ you get ’that’ in return — right now it’s just, you log in but you’re not getting a ton of value from logging in at the same time it’s removing ads. I feel like we’re missing a real value right now. Is that fair?

Peter: Yeah, I think that’s a good word choice, “value exchange.” Somebody asked yesterday what value Fandom gets from a registered user. It was a really good question. We know who you are, is all we have. And right now we just don’t have enough to give you, other than not having ads, to actually drive that value exchange as Jeremy really well put it. So the answer is: yes, we’re going to start weighing some of the options as we start driving to maps, as we start driving to lists, as we start driving the engagement. If we get people to engage a lot, it makes total sense to get more and more and more of that. And as we start to see that, we’re going to double down.

The Engagement Pyramid representing the growth of audience engagement on a platform, from Traffic, to Engagement, to Loyalty, to Registration.

The Engagement Pyramid, shared in yesterday’s blog and at Community Connect, is a way of thinking about how we can drive more of a “value exchange” that would lead to more people choosing to register on Fando.

Brandon: I think, and this will be the last thought, the cynical point of view that one could take is that without that value prop, how an end user might think of registration is “wait, you want me to give you my email address — my personal information — so you can’t ruin my site experience with all your ads?” It’s a good value prop if that’s the thing you’re most interested in getting around, but if we want to say to somebody they should come and get value out of Fandom, that’s a lot of what we’re working on over next year and the next couple of years. And honestly, the inverse of the question might be “well if you do that, then everybody doesn’t have ads and then what happens?” And I think the answer to “and then what happens?” is that we have to figure that part out, but I think that’s a good problem to have. Because then we have a much more engaged user base at that point and we can figure out new things from there.

But before I move on to the next slide, I just wanted to thank Peter and thank Jeremy for coming up here. Obviously feel free to come up to them, I’m sure they’d be happy to answer any more of your questions, but let’s give them a round of applause.

Community Ad Bash and Closing Thoughts[]

Brandon: Alright, so I’m just going to sum it up really quickly and put a bow on it before we break.

The ad experience? Not where we want it to be. Hopefully that came across. What we also really want to have come across is that you hopefully understand, and obviously we’ve got to build and earn your trust, that we are committed to improving it. We want to improve the user experience. We want to improve the ad experience. Those two things tie together. Because we ultimately believe that if we can drive those improvements, it’s better value for you and all the editors watching and all the editors who aren’t; it’s better for the fans who are reading and consuming the content; for the clients, for the partners, and ultimately for the business. It’s good for us to do this too. So we’re going to try to work in a way that preserves the editor and user experiences. We’re going to reserve the right to experiment. There may be times where we want to test out a new ad that maybe we feel drives more value than some of the other ads on the site. We are going to need to try those things out, but one thing — especially through the Community Product Support team — that we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be more transparent about them than we have in the past. So if there’s something we want to test, we’ll let you know about it and we’ll let you know what the results are.

And Peter alluded to this yesterday, but we also had an Ad Bash recently where a lot of staff members came together and played whack-a-mole on a lot of bad ads. Just refreshed and refreshed and refreshed on mobile and desktop while logged out and tried to find as many bad ads as possible. And I think we got about 100 or so taken care of, and we learned from that.

So, the date is still to be determined but we want to do that with you as well, if you’re interested. We’re going to invite you to participate, some time in the next few months, in a Community Ad Bash. That’s going to help us to help you find ads that behave badly, and ads that are broken. We can clean those up, we can fix that and make the site a little better for people, together. And we can also find, and talk about, ads that might work as intended but maybe it looks like it’s not supposed to work that way. And then we can have a conversation about why it actually does work the way that it does. So stay tuned on that. This also probably isn’t going to be the last time we say we have some ideas about how we can partner with you on ads, it just happens to be the one we’re ready to talk about today. So we’ll keep that conversation going, particularly on Discord with our Community Managers and our Product Support team, and we’ll definitely have more to talk about there.

And then finally, what I want to leave you with is this: change won’t happen overnight. Everything that we’ve just said, hopefully it sounds awesome. If we could do it tomorrow, we would. But obviously, we’re going to have to test, we’re going to have to iterate, we’re going to have to keep working on this overall UX clean up and build over time towards this. I wish I could tell you a date for when ads will be better, but obviously it doesn’t work that way. But we also don’t want to drag improvements out forever. That’s where that testing and iterating comes in, we’re going to keep working on this. And at the same time, we still have to run a business. There’s still a lot of factors, like in the market, that we don’t necessarily control — macro economic policy can have an impact on Fandom, believe it or not — and that’s just something we’re going to have to contend with. But we’ll make sure, in the interest of transparency, that we’ll talk about it if there’s ever challenges that we’re facing and whether there’s ways we need to adjust.

We’re going to work on solutions. We’re going to partner with you throughout that, and you’re going to hear more from us. Thank you for listening, hopefully you learned something from it. Let’s keep the conversation going. This is obviously one of the most hot button topics on the platform right now, so it won’t be the last time we have the conversation.

That’s the end of the transcript! Like I said in the closing thoughts, that will not be the end of the conversation with the community. Stay tuned to the Fandom Staff Blog for more product recaps from Community Connect, and upcoming announcements about the Community Ad Bash and the continued conversation around engagement and advertising where we can all hear from each other.

Fandom Staff
Hey I'm Brandon, VP of Community at Fandom.
I'm a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel.
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