My concern, as fans and acafans continue to vigorously debate the importance or continued viability of fandom’s gift economy and focus on flagrant instances of the industry’s attempt to co-opt fandom, is that the subtler attempts to replicate fannish gift economies aren’t being met with an equivalent volume of discussion or scrutiny.
Positioned precariously between official/commercial transmedia storytelling systems (Jenkins 2006:93–130) and the unofficial/gifted exchange of texts within fandom, ancillary content models downplay their commercial infrastructure by adopting the guise of a gift economy, vocally claiming that their goal is simply to give fans more—more “free” content, more access to the show’s creative team. The rhetoric of gifting that accompanies ancillary content models, and the accompanying drive to create a community founded on this “gifted” content, is arguably more concerned with creating alternative revenue streams for the failing commercial model of television than it is with fostering a fan community or encouraging fan practices. Grappling with the growing problem of time-shifting, ancillary content models create a “digital enclosure” (Andrejevic 2007:2–3) within which they can carefully cultivate and monitor an alternative, “official” fan community whose participatory value is measured by its consumption of advertisement-laced ancillary content.
By regifting a version of participatory fan culture to a general audience unfamiliar with fandom’s gift economy, these planned communities attempt to repackage fan culture, masking something old as something new.