I would’ve forgotten that the new D23 site was due to launch any minute, had I not just read my BFF’s rant calling Bravo Sierra on the whole deal. And whaddya know, a little google brought me to the D23 site itself, online today.
I share my BFF’s irritation with the whole thing, but unlike her I probably won’t soon shell out $75 for a magazine, an unspecified collectible, the chance to buy more merch, and an entry ticket into the D23 online community.
It’s probably a smart move on Disney’s part, creating an exclusive (and expensive) online fan community. My twitterverse tells me the Disney Digerati are thrilled about the new magazine and the exclusive merch, so I expect they’ll have no shortage of immediate subscribers.
The site itself is quite interesting, especially the Walt Disney Archives. If this sort of content remains free even after the “online community” component is fully populated, it will in fact be a service to the Disney fan community and of much interest to people like myself, who’ll enjoy stories like “Bette Davis, a Monumental Actress, Stars in Disney’s “Return From Witch Mountain.”
But of course, as an active participant in the independant Disney fan community (and a curmudeonly one from time to time), I wonder what this spells for some of my old favorite sites. How will Disney handle criticism and dissent in their online community? The D23 Fan Expo will surely feature big, crowd-pleasing names, but will there be room for community involvement in planning and volunteerism? How will the community be shaped by the fact that only those with the $75 to spend will gain entry?
Case in point: One of the most creative things I’ve seen in the Disney online fan community is refrigerator swaps. On one of my favorite message board sites, groups of people staying at the Disney Value Resorts have managed to purchase and share small refrigerators, coordinating this all online. When you check in, you pick up the fridge at luggage services; when you check out, you leave it there for the next person in the swap. The first 7 (or so) people in the swap each pitch in about $10 to buy the fridge in the first place; after that, all the swap participants can use the fridge for free. Fans coming together to connect with other fans, helping other fans.
I’m not sure we’d see this sort of activity coming out of an exclusive community like D23, and I worry that independent sites like the message board above will be squeezed out of the marketplace by this new Disney product. (Can you tell that I’ve spent a little time in the software world, and have seen Microsoft do some damage?)
You can’t provide someone with a community. You can only provide the environment and the tools in which that community can grow. What will we see D23 grow into?