A fan base is the term for the fans of a given work as a group of people. This is marginally different from fandom which I'd argue refers to the fan base as well as the culture, memes, fan sites, fan fiction, and other assorted ephemera generated by or surrounding the fan base. Fan bases tend to follow genre appropriate demographic trends. Shonen series like Naruto are popular with males eight to twenty-something, plastic dolls lines like the Bratz appeal to females age five to thirteen, Doctor Who is watched by English speakers. Outliers show up but homogeneity is more common than not. ASL aside, most fan bases tend to be composed of certain personalities. Nerdy STEM types for sci-fi, bored romantics for soap operas, want to be tough guys for hard boiled detective novels. It's arguably the coherence of these groups that generates these genres. By that same token a work can be really good and still languish in obscurity because its core premise appeals to the narrow cross section of people who are both STEM nerds and want to be tough guys. This can lead to cult classic status as the fan base's unmet (and usually unrecognized) desire for some particular story/setting/conceit is fulfilled.

The interaction of fan bases, fandoms, and media is complex and ever evolving. In the dead tree era of distribution the only reliable feedback were sales and letters to the publisher/editor/author. The former was just a number and the latter represented only the most engaged, upset, or communicative of fans. As marketing developed, analysis became marginally easier but only with the development of digital distribution and social media did the feedback go from a trickle to a flood. In the modern era fan bases are easily united with ubiquitous options for communication and collaboration. While this would appear to be a boon the reality is that fans are and have always been a fractious and unruly lot and complaints build on each other. Combine this with online visibility favoring the worst elements of any group and fan bases are prone to developing toxic reputations much faster than healthy ones. Entertainment represents trillions of dollars of revenue and fan bases are the life blood of these endeavors so peoples' jobs often ride on the need to understand and maintain them. For this reason among others, I expect that we'll see more effort for and discussion of fan bases as time rolls onward.


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