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Fan Sites are Free Promotion: An Interview with Theresa from Down With the Capitol, Hunger Games Fansite

This series focuses on creators and maintainers of fan sites for the most popular fandoms around. Fan site creators work as unpaid promoters for record labels, movie studios, book publishers, television networks, and more. They often put their own time and money into a marketing campaign for their favorite entertainment with little, if any, recognition from the creators.

In this series, I’ll interview these fan site creators to review the development of their site; their interaction with the writers, performers, and companies that benefit from their fan sites’ popularity; and the reason they’re passionate enough to work as unpaid promoters.

The Hunger Games.

We just can’t get enough of this dystopian adventure that plays like a first-person shooter here at QLP. I personally devoured the trilogy in about a week last month and am responsible for 2.3 more fans (one was a joint effort among QLPers to persuade).

With more casting news rolling in every day, the momentum of this stunning trilogy’s promotional power is only going to accelerate.

This interview features some key members in boosting that momentum. Along with the ladies of the Hob, who we interviewed a few weeks ago, the Hunger Games fans who run Down With the Capitol, are keeping the brand in the public eye.

In this interview, site administrator Theresa gives us the scoop on how she and her staff run Down With the Capitol, and what Suzanne Collins herself had to say!

Down With the Capitol Header

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Theresa Morgan, and I am one of the Site Administrators for Down With the Capitol.  I’m 37, married and a mother of two amazing readers. I’m one of those crossover statistics for YA fiction.

Arianna Ruiz, is our other Site Administrator. She’s 21 years old and lives in Northern California with her 4 cats, 4 guinea pigs, parrot, and a dog.

We also have three amazing friends and staff members who are invaluable to us, Shylah, Mary, and Flo.

How did you get into The Hunger Games?

Word of mouth! I had heard about the series from the Harry Potter community. Though it took way too long for me to finally pick up the first book, but when I did I was hooked immediately. I read Hunger Games and Catching Fire in less than a week and then had to wait for Mockingjay to be released. It was an excruciating wait!

When did you start the site?

The site started officially in September of 2010, after devouring Mockingjay. Arianna and I had been talking even before the last book was published about potentially starting a site for the series. Then one day over Twitter we just decided to go for it!

How much time do you spend on running Down With The Capitol?

Many times, it’s a 24/7 job. Never knowing when news will break keeps us on our toes, and we do our best to get it up as quickly as possible. Even when we aren’t posting news the staff is always thinking and talking about projects that are in the works, or new ideas we want to run by each other.

Down With the Capitol Twitter

Down With the Capitol is on Twitter!

I’m not looking for numbers, but I’m curious to know if you put your own money into the site. What kind of financial investment and/or return is involved?

All the money we have put into our site has been our own, and that includes the majority of the prizes for contests. For some of our more recent giveaways we’ve had some wonderful donations from our affiliates, and staff members, and that has been an incredible help to us and a bonus for our readers/followers, as we have received some fantastic pieces.

What makes you so passionate about The Hunger Games that you’re willing to put all this time and money into the website?

We love the books, plain and simple. Okay, maybe a better term is we are obsessed with the series.  Each of us has been touched uniquely by them.  Personally I have never read a series that is more “real” and “honest” than The Hunger Games: a series that doesn’t end with the traditional happy ever after, and dares to show the true effects of war and depression, shaded with hope and love.

How has the site grown/changed?

We have gone through a lot of changes since our site launched. We have gone through several redesigns, and just recently, moved from Blogger to our own hosted site. The new home has allowed us to create even more areas to the site, including interactive pages for crafters, and fully detailed pages on the movie and actors. We have also gained new readers on a daily basis as more and more people are exposed to The Hunger Games trilogy.

Down With the Capitol Site Navigation

Some of the new changes include these drop menus.

What recognition or communication have you and your site gotten from Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, Lionsgate, the actors, or crew?

Suzanne Collins wished us luck on the site! Way back in the fall of last year when Suzanne was on her Mockingjay book tour, Arianna had the good fortune of meeting her, and told her about the site.  Scholastic has been a wonderful cheerleader, not only for our site, but for all of the Hunger Games fan sites. When it comes to the film, Lionsgate has been fantastic about keeping us informed of new developments, as well as helping to squash those rumors that inevitably creep up from time to time.  And we cannot say enough about the young actors who are in the film, portraying the tributes from the various Districts.  They have been so open with us, and we love communicating with them through Twitter.

Have you had any negative interactions with anyone professionally associated with the publisher or movie studio?

No negative contact, all of our dealings with Lionsgate and Scholastic have been very positive. We have been working with Lionsgate to make sure our news postings are correct and accurate for the fan base.

What is the most frustrating thing about working on the site?

The occasional lack of recognition/credit.  This does not happen all of the time, but occasionally we find that information we have put together is taken by another source, and not credited back to us.  We work very hard on our site, especially our features, and news posts, and it is frustrating to see someone else post our stories word for word without even a mention of us as a source.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working on the site?

The interaction with other fans of the series has been the most rewarding.  We are first and foremost fans of the series, and we love to “talk” about the latest news, as well as the books, so getting to communicate with so many people from all over the world has been incredible.

Down With the Capitol Facebook

Make sure to "Like" Down with the Capitol on Facebook!

How do you think your website helps/affects the books and movie? How does it help/affect the fans?

With the readership of The Hunger Games growing by the day, sites like ours help to bring those new to the fandom up to speed with news and information about the books and film.  We are a gateway between the filmmakers and the fans, helping to not only satiate the current hunger for news, but also to help garner excitement for new information that is yet to come. In many ways fan sites, keep that spark of interest alive when news is sparse.  Discussions, speculation, and even minor news stories help to keep fans involved in the series on a daily basis.

What kind of feedback would you from like the publisher and/or movie studio?

We’ve all ready received wonderful feedback from Lionsgate and Scholastic, but we’d love to hear Suzanne Collins’ thoughts on our site.  We’d love to know whether or not she has seen it, and what she thinks of our efforts.

What would you like people to know about your website?

We mentioned this previously, but we are fans of the series, and all our efforts on the site stem from our love for the trilogy.  We work hard to keep up to date with the latest news, and we strive to offer unique experiences as well.  Even now we have some fantastic new features in the works, and we can’t wait to unveil them to everyone.  Our goal is to keep moving forward, growing as the films and the fandom evolve.

What businesses can learn from the Down With the Capitol:

  • Your brand advocates can keep your brand awareness level high during a time where your company has few promotions or press releases to stay visible.
  • By opening up a line of communication with your fans via social media, you will not only have the opportunity to promote positive aspects of your company but also make comments on less-than-flattering bits that have entered the mainstream.
  • Offering prizes or giveaways for your followers is always a great idea, but having your biggest cheerleaders help decide who gets them can lead to even great fan engagement.
  • Positive interactions with fans – even just expressing gratitude and keeping them up to date on new information – can fuel the fire of an already passionate supporter!

What do you think of fan sites and their creators? How can you incorporate some of these principles into your own business plan? Sound off in the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!



Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.

Comments

  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    First of all, WOW that is one impressive site. I’m very certain that I will be spending a good deal of time on it this weekend.

    Second of all, I completely agree with your last point. I was actually overwhelmed by the amount of information DWTC’s site – but not in a bad way. This will only feed my Hunger Games obsession. I’m also glad to hear that they have so much contact with Scholastic and Lionsgate. Lionsgate is really using the site to their advantage to help squash rumors!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! I’ve just gotten into using an RSS feed (What’s up, 90′s?) instead of bookmarking, and DWTC is on mine. Such a great resource (along with The Hob) for updated news. When I have some more time to surf, I go right to the site itself to check out all the extras.

      Lionsgate is VERY smart to be using fan sites DIRECTLY to squash rumors and confirm facts. It’s win-win-win: Lionsgate sets the record straight, fan sites are viewed as credible sources of information, and readers don’t need to slog through a studio’s full site to get to the movie info they want.

  2. Jill Tooley

    All of this Hunger Games talk is making me even more curious about the books! The second I finish the 17 other books I’m reading at the moment, I’ll have to pick up copies of this series. Theresa knows what she’s doing, and it’s kind of funny that this interview mentioned improper (or a complete lack of) attribution on DWTC’s hard work – that sounds familiar right about now. Oh, how I wish people wouldn’t rip off the work of others!

    This was my favorite takeaway from the post: “Positive interactions with fans – even just expressing gratitude and keeping them up to date on new information – can fuel the fire of an already passionate supporter!”

    ABSO-FREAKIN’-LUTELY. It’s amazing how far a bit of gratitude and appreciation will go! The fact that Theresa and DWTC understand this further illustrates that they’re not running an average fan site. Fans shouldn’t be ignored, they should be heard!

    Excellent interview, Jana.

    • Jana Quinn

      I recommend moving “Hunger Games” to the top of your must-read list. It’s so riveting that you’ll plow through them in a weekend: guaranteed.

      Showing gratitude to and appreciation for your loyal fans is HUGE for keeping fans involved, especially through long waits between purchases (e.g., buying movie tickets).

  3. Bret Bonnet

    Great post and great series Jana.

    I can TOTALLY sympathize with Theresa when she mentioned how it can “STING” when someone rips off your breaking news or re-purposes some of the content from your website without giving credit where and when credit is due.

    Seriously people, writing GREAT content takes time and effort, it’s a loser thing to do to rip someone else’s content from their website and claim it as your own.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Bret. It’s interesting to see this come up again and again. Although I support net neutrality and the option to remain anonymous when participating in online communities, the outright theft of content, scoops, ANYTHING is completely out of control.

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    The fact that Theresa and the other admins at DWTC are pouring their own money and effort into the site on a 24/7 basis says a lot about their passion for the material. DWTC is a pretty incredible fan site. It has a lot of depth and makes a lot of information easily attainable. Job well done!

    Side note: I’m very curious to see how Lionsgate handles the adaptation, and I have a feeling that when film’s release date nears, I’ll be anxious to at least check out the first Hunger Games book.

    Once again, excellent interview, Jana!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      If you do, Joe, there’s at least four of us in the office who can lend you a copy…

    • Jana Quinn

      Finish and return Identity Crisis first. :)

      Also, I recommend reading the books sooner rather than later not only because they’re awesome, but also because the anticipation for the films will be all the more exciting once you realize what it’s all about!

  5. Let the Speculation Begin! – Part One « fangirlblog.com

    [...] The Twilight and Hunger Games franchises have used fansites successfully, building upon those fans’ passions to spread the word or even to test production decisions. As major media sites reported [...]

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