The Internet has given everybody in America a voice. For some reason, everybody decides to use that voice to bitch about movies.
-Holden from "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"
Fansites have become valuable and unwitting tools for the Hollywood machine. They act as an accurate barometer for the relative health of a project and can deliver an oftentimes frighteningly unbiased opinion with complete anonymity. As a result, their usefulness to the creators of content increases, which creates a symbiotic relationship that helps both creator and critic to increase in popularity. Take for example "Aint It Cool News:" once derided by Hollywood to be nothing more than a bunch of over-opinionated morons. But now, because of their popularity, they are carefully manipulated pawns at the disposal of online marketing departments everywhere. (they're still over-opinionated morons, but now they are over-opinionated morons with power.)
Jennifer over at "Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology" attended a program at the Paley Center for Media about fan websites. In attendance were a mix of more notable webmasters who discussed their niche and how it has changed the face of modern entertainment.
Read more about Jenniffer's visit at her own site.