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You say you're a big fan? Then prove it, on Fantourage

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 10, 2010 09:00 AM

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Blending celebrity worship, social networking, and multi-level marketing is a new Boston start-up just coming out of beta this month, Fantourage.

The site allows fans to create online fan clubs for their favorite bands, actors, or sports stars and gives celebs that opt to work with Fantourage an opportunity to reward their most fervent fans with prizes. For example: for the recent MGM release "Hot Tub Time Machine," Fantourage worked with the studio to aggregate fans of the movie online, with the #1 fan winning an actual hot tub. (The fact that "Hot Tub" co-star Rob Corddry tweeted about the promotion didn't hurt.) How do you prove that you're a devoted fan? Founder John Davie explains that you earn points by posting messages, taking quizzes, creating videos, or interacting with other fans on the site. But the ways to accumulate really big points? By recruiting other fans into a Fantourage fan club, or by purchasing tickets or merchandise through the site. 

"This is no different from an airline giving away frequent flier miles or first-class upgrades," explains Davie, also the founder of Dining Alliance, a group purchasing network for restaurants. The site has been working with "The Soup" on Comedy Central to give away passes to be on the set when the show is taped, and with Donald Trump to give away a trip to New York City and a meet-and-greet with The Donald. Fantourage also gave away tickets to last night's Celtics/Cavaliers game, but they're not yet officially working with the team. "We had a Cavaliers fan and a Celtics fan competing to win tickets," Davie explains. "We were using that giveaway to test out the concept."

Davie says that he started developing the idea for Fantourage after studying the way fans of Dane Cook interacted on the comic's Facebook page; that got him thinking about how celebrities might benefit from a way to find out who their most loyal fans were, and reward them with incentives and discounts in much the same way big corporations do with their loyalty programs. He also started thinking about how to ban haters from an online social network; on Fantourage, the top 10 percent of a celebrity's fans become moderators with the power to hide negative posts (though they can only nuke one per day.)

"We had some meetings in LA with PR firms who said that their celebrity clients were interested in social media, but not always using it," Davie says. "We told them we were developing a way to reward fans without posting twenty times a day on Twitter like Ashton Kutcher."

Davie funded the creation of the site along with partners Matt Focht and Todd Delehanty; its construction was supervised by chief technology officer Jeff Durso. Davie says he is working on the site part-time while he continues to run Dining Alliance, a company he founded a dozen years ago. He's hoping to raise a first round of outside funding for Fantourage soon.

Davie says the site will generate revenue through affiliate fees (helping point fans to ticket or merchandise purchases on other sites); money paid by celebs for managing fan rewards programs; and eventually, virtual goods that are sold on the Fantourage site.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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