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[personal profile] stewardess

"Chris M Williams, VP and general manager of Disney Online Originals, has left the 'Mouse House.'"

"Williams gave up his US-based role on January 31 after four years with the company. Disney reps confirmed the news this week."

"While at Disney, Williams oversaw development and production of series for Disney Online’s websites. He executive produced kids’ series such as Rule the Mix and Corey & Lucas For The Win."

"Williams joined Disney in 2008 when the media giant acquired his two-year-old fan-fiction content group FanLib, which was then rebranded as Take180."

Full article at C21Media; author Jesse Whittock.

FanLib was not actually rebranded as Take180. All FanLib content (fan created and otherwise) was wiped before its servers and software were used by Disney to host Take180, a "fanisode" video hosting site. See the disney buyout tag in this community for the full story -- or at least as much of the story as can be pieced together, since Williams and the other FanLib owners have never commented publicly on what occurred.

This entry was also posted at the Life Without FanLib Community on Livejournal.
[identity profile]

Less than 18 months after acquiring Ideal Bite for $20 million, the Walt Disney Co. is folding the green-living tips company into the Disney Interactive Media Group. Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman said it's not being shut down, that DIMG is "evaluating the situation" and has made no staffing decisions yet. But it may not be that simple. A source familiar with the situation tells paidContent that staff members were told Friday in a conference call that they were being laid off effective Dec. 9. Cofounders Heather Stephenson and Jennifer Boulden, who started the company in 2005, signed three-year contracts in 2008. They have not yet returned voice messages; Leigh Zarelli, a Disney VP working with emerging business acquisitions, referred questions to Bergman. A staffer who did return my call said I may have gotten some misinformation but couldn't talk about it.

Ideal Bite, which was supposed to be Disney's answer to DailyCandy, offers seven newsletters and a site that links to, and other ABC sites. It's one of a number of "emerging" businesses Disney acquired over the past couple of years, including Digisynd, picked up for $15 million, and FanLib, now known as Bergman says moving Ideal Bite into the Interactive group was always the plan. Technically, the emerging business group is part of DIMG but have been reporting to the corporate strategy group.

Emphasis added.
[identity profile]
From, dated March 31, 2009:

Burbank-based announced Tuesday that the firm has officially launched a web site which looks to create original web series based on audience participation. The site--which is owned by The Walt Disney Company--said it has created three web series called "My Date," "I <3 Vampires" and "Electric Spoofaloo" all derived from user videos, stories, photos, and artwork. The new site is headed by Chris M. Williams, and has been in beta since the fall of last year; the site is built on top of Los Angeles-based FanLib, which was also headed by Williams and acquired by Disney last year.
[identity profile]
The continuing saga of the worst kept secret ever: has picked up short-form Web series, My Alibi, from Disney-owned Take 180, a teen-targeted portal that creates short-form Web series and then integrates viewer ideas and submissions into those series.

Take 180 is run by Chris Williams, who used to run a site called Fan Lib. That site did something similar – it got fans engaged in shows and tried to incorporate their views into storylines. FanLib worked on engaging fans with existing shows, such as Showtime’s The L Word. Take 180 goes a step further: it offers lots of opportunities for fans to get involved with online shows that it’s producing.

Rest of the article at Chris Williams was CEO of FanLib before the company "closed" on August 4, 2008. Disney's Take180, built on top of FanLib's servers and with its software, opened around August 29, 2008.

[identity profile]
Disney did buy FanLib, according to an acronym-studded online business presentation by Guy Bisson of Screen Digest, dated 10/31/2008.

If Disney bought FanLib, then what is it doing with it? Nothing... yet.

In May of this year, Disney chucked its huge Virtual Magic Kingdom, and announced it was doing a major online overhaul, investing up to $100 million. The rumor that Disney was purchasing FanLib started a month later.

This tallies with Rafat Ali's article in August (after FanLib announced it was closing) that "Disney will be completely retooling FanLib with a focus on its own properties, instead of fan fiction and other networks' TV shows and movies."

Guy Bisson's presentation, titled "Best Practices in times of TV 3.0," lists FanLib as a Disney asset on page 22.

If FanLib was sold to Disney, why didn't Chris or David Williams confirm it? Well, for one, because they didn't have to. FanLib was a private company. No explanation for FanLib's closure has been given to this date. Two: the sale to Disney, if true, was monumentally hypocritical and exploitive. Pretending to be the champions of fanfiction, the Williams brothers used the free labor of 25,000 members to make a profit for their venture capitalist investors. The men behind FanLib are still out there trying to make a buck off us; they need to avoid a reputation for ripping off fans. Uh, guys? It's too late.

A free Life Without FanLib T-shirt for the first person who spots a Disney crowdwriting venture. Not applicable to former employees of FanLib.

[identity profile]
From, dated October 21, 2008.

Are you an aspiring, tech-savvy moviemaker posting your short films on YouTube, hoping to use the Internet to eventually develop your first feature-length movie? Your dreams may become a reality now that Perkins’ 14, the first feature film to be developed entirely over the Internet, will soon be released.

Says Craig Singer, "I had long been interested in what’s now called 'user-generated content,' from the days of my previous company, FanLib, which I started with partner Chris Williams. Now was really the right time to use crowd-sourcing to create a professional film for theatrical release."

Now was the right time because FanLib went belly-up? Ah.

So they are moving from ripping off fanfic authors to ripping off amateur youtube moviemakers. The FanLib talent-suckers got the crowd to do all the work, and will release the film Perkins' 14 in 2009.

Yes, that should be Perkins's 14, or Perkin's 14. What dumbasses.

More from Singer: "This is my second feature for After Dark Films. After Dark and [online community] Massify Media and I wanted to make what would be the world's first 'crowd-sourced' feature film, a film that opened up the filmmaking process to emerging talent by utilizing the reach and efficiencies of a social network."

I wonder how long it will be before the "emerging talent" realizes that, when these people say "crowd-sourced," the translation is: they make money off other people's creativity and pay nothing for it.

Full article:

[identity profile]
Another short blurb, from Rafat Ali of, says Disney HAS bought FanLib for its crowdwriting software, the my2centences part of the business, dumping the flatlining fanfic archive.

He puts it this way: "Disney will be completely retooling FanLib with a focus on its own properties, instead of fan fiction and other networks’ TV shows and movies."

Ali does not seem to be aware that FanLib had two segments: the fanfic archive, and the crowdwriting software used for corporate marketing campaigns.

As soon as the Disney buyout rumor appeared in early June, FanLib members speculated in the forum that Disney would close the multi-fandom fanfic archive and focus on Disney's intellectual properties. It is a pretty obvious move, if the Disney buyout rumor is true.

Pirates of the Caribbean, a Disney property, was one of the largest fandoms at FanLib, based on the number of stories posted.

Rafat Ali has been the only source of the Disney rumor since the beginning -- every news article links back to him. As recently as a week ago, he reported the Disney deal might be off, so whoever is feeding him information can't be too close to the action.

The Mimbo brothers (Chris and David Williams) remain silent on the reason for FanLib's closure.

Disney has been buying up social networking websites (Club Penguin may be the largest) for years, and has rarely commented on its purchases. However, if the rumor is accurate, we can expect to see a Disney crowdwriting offering in the future. Since Disney already has a huge online presence, it could incorporate crowdwriting into an existing site.

Edit: Another reasonable hypothesis for FanLib's closure from [ profile] alicornmoon, dated July 25th: Disney was set to buy FanLib, but the deal fell through, prompting FanLib's venture capital backers to pull the plug.
[identity profile]
Los Angeles-based, an online site focused on "fan fiction"--fan created stories based on popular characters and movies--has shut down. According to a notice on FanLib's web site, the site will shut down on Monday, August 4th. No reason for the shutdown was given. Fanlib was backed by $3M in venture capital by H.I.G. Capital.'s Rafat Ali speculated in a story earlier today that a deal for Disney to purchase the site had fallen through; paidContent had reported a possible deal for the firm by Disney in June.

From SoCalTech. Also: story at
[identity profile]
I figured that if I posted this in the comments, it might get ignored. The post that said FanLib was bought by Disney is a rumor. They've posted about the rumor on their forums, here. Check it out.
[identity profile]
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Scholars have joined with pop-culture fans to form the Organization for Transformative Works, which will fight for the legal right to produce creative works that mash-up characters from a range of media.

Mr. Jenkins cited a situation this past summer in which a company called FanLib upset its customers by building a Web site to share fan fiction and then claiming control of the homemade content. He and other pop-culture fans pushed back, as he wrote on his blog.

"The Fan Lib flap was simply one of a series of conflicts this year which raised awareness within the fan community of the need to take action to protect the integrity of their own traditions and to maintain control over their own cultural practices," said Mr. Jenkins today. "Fans are pooling their knowledge and skills to push their community to the next level."

Complete article: Scholars and Pop-Culture Fans Create Nonprofit Group to Fight for Creative Rights

Why did the male reporter only get quotes from a guy who isn't part of the predominantly female OTW?

[identity profile]
I've been tracking press on FanLib since May, 2007. Most of it is mind-numbing market speak at BusinessWire, a website you pay to host your press release in hopes someone will discover it. I ignore these, because how many times do we need to hear about The L-Word fanisode?

There have been a few worthwhile bits, however. This is everything of note since October.

The Press of Atlantic City has an (unintentionally) funny article, which pompously touts FanLib as the greatest thing for aspiring writers since Wite-Out. Quotes:

Fan fiction can be traced back to ancient Greek historians modifying the classic myths with each retelling. Now, Web sites such as and allow fan fiction writers all over the world to unite and share material.

Fan fiction authors also have a better chance of having their talents discovered when they post their work online. Since March, Williams has seen several writers go on to find professional writing careers.

"With our 'L-Word' event one of our winners went on to get an agent," Williams said. "One of our other winners got a book deal with another major publisher. There's no question that (fan fiction) is a great training ground and a great place to get exposure."

The article does not mention the thousands of fan-operated not-for-profit fanfiction archives. Not surprisingly, it focuses on fanfiction's potential monetary worth. There isn't a single quote or anecdote supporting fanfiction as a creative end in and of itself. It's a false characterization of fanfiction writers—intentionally?

If you are not sufficiently depressed, read this Hollywood Reporter primer on how to turn everything on the Internet into a revenue stream. Includes a boggling chart that shows how fucking stupidly companies are dumping money into the "hot new trends." Quotes:

"We are interested in spaces that are driven by consumer usage," says Thomas Byrne, managing director of Peacock Equity Fund, a $250 million joint-venture investment vehicle launched earlier this year by GE Commercial Finance's Media, Communications & Entertainment business and NBC Universal. "Everywhere people congregate, especially in the digital space, is interesting for us... Where consumers go, there is the opportunity to sell advertising."

Better monetization is a phrase often used by insiders. "The Web is still less than 10% of the overall ad market, which is not in line with the time spent [online] by people," says Kim.

Kim is John Kim of H.I.G. Ventures, the VC group which invested in FanLib. Maybe FanLib can sell the fanfiction chunk of its business to SUP, cause it sure as hell ain't going to satisfy VC-style profit projections.

At least there's a refreshingly market-speak free article from MediaPost, with a revealing quote from Mimbo:

"Our commitment is to what we like to call 'participatory entertainment.' That's our sweet spot," says Chris M. Williams, cofounder and CEO of FanLib. "It's that happy medium between traditional 'professionally-generated' content and the totally user-generated content," which can veer from the racy and sophomoric to the transgressive and controversial.

Nice to see it confirmed Mimbo is officially after sanitized "marketable" fanfiction never mind that marketable fanfiction is a self-canceling phrase.

The article's tone is pleasantly snarky, pointing out FanLib's biggest success (yes, the goddamn L Word fanisode way back in 2005) still hasn't aired and isn't likely to.

In October, Missy Merlin at wrote an exceptionally well-informed essay on fanfiction. Quotes:

They [the powers that be] are still not entirely happy about us, but they're willing to see what we can do, and they've realized they can make more money off of us. And that's where FanLib came in. FanLib (whom we tried to reach for this article) combines corporate interests in fannish output with contacts on the inside. They package up the fanfiction by the authors on their site and promote it to advertisers as user-generated content ala Livejournal and MySpace. While claiming to be fans, they're running a business and trying to make money off fandom from the outset.

An article at the Wisconsin Technology Network starts off with the usual advertisers are drooling over social networks such as Facebook stuff, then throws an interesting curveball, particularly following the SUP Livejournal purchase:

The danger on the horizon from the ever expanding and splintering social network phenomena is that it could be reaching the stage where users are experiencing "social networking fatigue." How many general or niche sites are you willing to register with or are you willing to interact with?

Never fear, entrepreneurs are looking at this too, with people search engine sites like PeekYou, Spock, Rapleaf, and Wink that promise to go one step beyond SNS [social networking systems]. According to Heather Green at Business Week, these sites are crawling the web to aggregate information about individuals from social networking sites, photo sharing sites, video sharing sites, blogs, etc. This aggregated data offers the potential for expanded social networks as potential matches are identified. The scary part of these "people search engines" is that they also might damage an individual's reputation if incorrect or private personal data is compiled.

Finally, the mind-numbingly dull press release shite:

FanLib announces a "Before the Cylons" Battlestar Galactica fanfiction contest. Lots of rules, such as: has to be written from the viewpoint of a reporter. BORING.

[identity profile]
A trade website,, picked up the press release FanLib issued July 10th (I've been tracking the press release; it bombed).

It's mostly about the new The L Word contest, but put a slightly different spin on it, leading off with Ilene Chaiken of The L Word.

Chaiken says of the contest, "I can't wait to see where the fans take their favorite characters."

Since the fan-written scene is only a tiny snippet of a fictional book written by a fictional character, and the tiny snippet has to be based on a scene from season one or two, I think it is safe to say the fans aren't going to be taking their favorite characters all that far.

Oh, fuck! I just took a peek at, the L Word FanLib site operated by Hilary Rosen. You remember her, right?

There is a section labeled Guestbians. Guestbians. You can't make shit like this up.

We know where bryson went now.

Ah, FanLib. Marketing to lesbians. But not to women.
[identity profile]
I can't believe I missed this. Pink Dude/Blue Guy are celebrated at a tech web site!

Quote: Every so often, as if acting out some formulaic movie plot, a bunch of big-city suits get lost in the wilderness of the internet, and bad things happen.

[identity profile]
Mary McNamara's excellent article on the FanLib debacle has been linked to at, the world's biggest technophile website.

Commenting is lively.

I suspect an awful lot of the negative reaction comes from three factors:
1. Membership in the site would certainly have a "We own your postings." clause in the Terms of Service.
2. *And* a "We reserve the right to censor anything you post we don't like." clause.
and the cherry on top:
3. An unwritten consequence of (1) would be: "If it's really good, we'll use it to make money. Thanks suckers." clause.
And just remember, in Hollywood, "Trust us." translates to "F**k you."

Slashdot typically serves 80 million pages per month. Around 3 million pages on weekdays, and slightly less on weekends. Slashdot has precisely the market FanLib salivated about.
[identity profile]
Thanks to google news alerts:

Instead of creating the Myspace of fanfic since the launch two weeks ago, sparked a white-hot Internet firestorm.

Be sure to click the link for more at the bottom. VERY interesting stuff there:

"KEM-owned Entertainment Marketing Partners' heavy-weight Mark Stroman was hired to help Singer and Williams persuade Madison Avenue that fanfic could be used to attract the coveted and elusive young male demo[graphic]."

The site the article appears at:

Multichannel News reaches 18,800 industry professionals in the cable television business with an editorial focus on programming, advertising, marketing, finance, technology, broadband, and government activities for the worldwide cable television and telecommunications industries.

EDIT: FanLib is responding quickly, yanking material from its web sites. The author of the article has updated, too: "It's 3:15 a.m. on May 29 and I just checked my links. The my2centences website is suddenly 'under construction.' Good thing I captured a number of pdf for my files, something I do routinely. I will repost it shortly."

Mary McNamara, you win the Internet.


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Life Without FanLib

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