This is a very "coming full circle" blog to be writing.
Back in 2017, I published the staff blog that announced that Featured Video was coming to Fandom communities, and then I went on to lead our Featured Video team from summer 2017 to summer 2018. And now today, almost two years after we announced that we were working on new video types to replace Featured Video, I’m publishing this staff blog announcing that we are retiring legacy Featured Video content and replacing it with The Loop, our video series produced by our Emmy-nominated Fandom Productions team.
Yes, you read that right. The videos that we posted from 2017 to 2019 are being taken down and in their place will be The Loop and other, newer video content we’ve been working on (more on that in a few moments). To be clear, we are not removing the Fandom Video Player from the top of the page, just the legacy content from back in the day that we all know is outdated and often of lower quality.
It’s been awhile since we last had a staff blog about video, so I’ll walk you through some of the details and backstory of this change and then provide a look ahead to what’s next.
Why didn't Featured Video work?
Good question! (I say to myself, as the person who asked it.) The answer is nuanced. On the one hand, it was a tremendous financial success. The initial goal behind it was to add video with pre-roll advertising to wiki pages, and as a result be able to remove some of the lower quality banner ads from the page. That part worked. The video placement continues to be an important source of revenue for Fandom, and the addition of the video player did improve page performance (on desktop, for example, we removed 30% of the ads on the page and it improved page load time by 46%).
But on the other hand, it was not successful as a content experience. We were tasked with both quality and quantity expectations, and that’s often really difficult to balance. In this case, quantity won out. Individual videos didn’t get the attention they deserved (and in many cases, were made on the cheap with third party production partners) and quality suffered. And at the scale we were working at, it was pretty much impossible to keep videos up to date and relevant. I distinctly remember making a video about Oliver Queen from Arrow halfway through the show’s sixth season, and it was immediately out of date once the next episode aired.
That’s certainly not to say that’s true in all cases, though. The actual Featured Video team, the in-house group that created videos themselves, was a group of very talented and creative people who were able to deliver quality content. But that was dwarfed by the at-scale freelance efforts we were working with too.
As a result, what happened? We breached trust with you, the community. We promised to deliver high quality, but we did not. So while initial reaction to the premise that we could use video to improve page performance was positive, the community soured on the Featured Video program. The benefits of fewer ads were outweighed by the addition of low quality content on top of wiki pages, and therefore was more prominent than (and sometimes duplicative of) the content you work so hard to create. It was a breach of trust in the implicit understanding we have with our users about how they create content and how we make money from it.
How has Fandom video evolved since Featured Video?
Fandom video has evolved dramatically since the Featured Video days. In 2018, Fandom acquired ScreenJunkies, the Emmy-nominated team behind the popular Honest Trailers series on YouTube. In addition to continuing many of their existing shows, like Honest Trailers, the ScreenJunkies team also brought new video content to Fandom. Content like Fandom Uncovered, a series of documentary shorts looking at the impact that pop culture fandoms have on the lives of fans and even on society. The first, "How Twilight Saved a Town," explores the impact of the Twilight Saga and how it helped save the town of Forks, Washington from the Great Recession of 2008.
They also brought key themes into all of their content:
- It focuses on lore. Fandom wikis are all about lore, so deep knowledge and expertise has to be a central part of what we produce. Fandom wikis are popular in large part because they’re authentic, so if a video is going to be on a wiki page or reference it, it should feel like it was made with the same passion and expertise that the community brings to the table every day.
- It has to be fan forward. Complimenting fan expertise, what fans think is also an important part of our video voice. We regularly poll communities, ask questions, and gather thoughts and opinions so we can use videos to show off what the community has to say. That includes anything from opinions about recent releases all the way to theories about what a show, movie, or game is going to do next.
- It should inform. News and events from the world of pop culture are a big part of our video content, so watching a Fandom video often means you can find out what’s happening in the world of pop culture and even what fans are doing to celebrate their fandoms.
All of those themes are part of The Loop, the show that’s going to be fully replacing the legacy Featured Video content, and are essential for ensuring we don’t breach user trust.
So what's The Loop?
The Loop is a weekly mini-show produced by Fandom Productions to cover the latest developments in Entertainment and Gaming. These videos play on articles currently not covered by legacy videos, and are vertical specific for Entertainment (inclusive of TV, movies, anime, comics, and more) and Gaming. For example, if you’re visiting the page on Joyce Byers on Stranger Things Wiki, you’d see an Entertainment video. Conversely, the Able Sisters article on Animal Crossing wiki would display a Gaming episode. Viewers will only be served an episode of The Loop three times per wiki, after which point a rate limit kicks in and lasts for 30 minutes (a period of time longer than most users spend on the site in a single session).
But rather than go into a lot of text about what The Loop is, I can just show you! Here's a recent Entertainment episode of The Loop all about Star Wars: Visions:
Here's a recent Gaming episode of The Loop all about God of War: Ragnarök:
When is this change happening?
Our goal is for this change to happen in the first three months of 2022. The fourth quarter of the year, which we’re in now, is our most important in terms of site traffic and company revenue, so we don’t want to make a change that could have a negative impact on our ability to provide you with a great platform.
Before we make the full change, we’ll test out the removal and replacement on a handful of wikis first to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on video views. If it doesn’t, we’ll do the full removal and replacement. If it does have a negative impact, we’re going to have to reconsider the change and look for new options.
Over the next few months, we’ll be reaching out to admins of wikis that have legacy Featured Video content to let them know about this change. So far, we’ve seen communities welcome this change when we’ve offered it in the past, but we’re absolutely open to hearing any concerns that admins and community members might have.
The future of Fandom Video
One of the benefits to switching to wiki-targeted videos rather than ones specific to individual pages is the opportunity it opens up to have more varied videos. Not only can we play The Loop, but it enables us (where and when it makes sense) to also display shows like Honest Trailers, CRAM IT!, Fandom 5, and more, all of which you can learn about here.
One of the most exciting content types we have coming out is Interactive Video. I won’t go too detailed on that, since MisterWoodhouse will have a blog about that on Thursday, but they are a custom and highly produced series of videos that brings wiki content directly into videos like Fandomized trailers as well as overviews of franchises and the worlds that they inhabit. Not only does it just display wiki content, but viewers can actively engage with the content, click through a wiki within the video, and deep dive into more information.
We recently launched one about Diablo II: Resurrected, which you can watch here:
Or if Fandomized trailers are more your jam, here's one for the most recent trailer for The Batman:
We’re also excited to begin partnering with communities to create custom videos for them. We’re going to be creating interactive Videos with Minecraft Wiki, Memory Alpha, and DC Database and collaborate directly with admins and editors on the concepts, the writing, and more. So we’re looking forward to telling you more about that on Thursday!
Outside of the video content itself, we'll also be running experiments on how the Fandom Video Player works and are bringing in new team members to specifically work on that.
A personal note
As a closing thought, I just want to acknowledge the Featured Video team that I had the privilege of leading for 14 months. Many of us moved over from roles in our old Community Support and Community Development teams, and we were thrown into a new challenge that we had to quickly figure out. And from there we were also able to hire a number of talented, creative, and thoughtful writers, producers, and coordinators who brought new perspectives to the videos that we were creating. Some of them are still here and I still get to work with them, which is a lot of fun.
So while we talk a lot about how Featured Video didn’t work the way we intended it to, I couldn’t help but sign off from this era without just giving one last shoutout to that team of people. Some of them have gone on to careers at places like IGN, Nintendo, and Apple, and one of them is even an award-winning film director now! I appreciate everything they brought to the table (including the literal table we spent many evenings around having drinks and a lot of laughs), and where Featured Video was successful is in large part thanks to them.
Anyway, on that sappy note, I’ll close it out here. Happy to answer any questions you might have, just let me know in the comments!
I'm a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel.
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