It’s been three months since I launched Ungated, and it’s time for the first big pivot.

Well, it’s not so much a pivot, as it is a ruthless cutting away of fluff. Ungated is about to get a whole lot simpler.

Part of that is this snazzy new site, hosted on Ghost. I’m no longer relying on the beastly tech stack that came before. The goal now is to be a lean, mean publishing machine.

As for what I’ll be publishing, 2021 will simpler, and far more focused.

The original editorial vision for Ungated was… ambitious. I planned to cover mindset and psychological blocks, wealth creation and minimalism, deliberate practice and the craft of creativity. All in addition to the core goal of helping creators learn marketing and build resilient indie businesses.

Those are important topics. And if all goes well, you’ll find that stuff on Ungated in 2022 and beyond.

But for this year, there’s just one question that will drive the entire editorial strategy.

How can we make 1000 True Fans a reality for every creator who wants it?

You’d think this question would have a definitive answer by now. Kevin Kelly wrote the essay damn near 20 years ago. And creators talk about it constantly.

But when you start looking for any kind of concrete roadmap for turning internet strangers into passionate lifelong patrons, you’ll come up short.

Trust me, I’ve looked far and wide.

Sure, there are a handful of one-off articles from internet marketing types who’ve used their SEO chops to rank. But the advice is always generic, misleading, or sorely lacking in nuance.

If you keep digging, you’ll also find an alarming amount of get rich quick schemes and tacky internet marketing bullshit. Use these garbage tactics, and you’ll never create true fans. You’ll repel them.

There are a few books that tackle this in an intelligent way.

My two favorites are This Is Marketing and Superfans. But the first is more of a philosophical treatise (like all Seth Godin books), and the second, while tactical, is lacking when it comes niching down and positioning (which are foundational for true fan creation).

To make matters more complex, the answers we’re searching for often don’t live in the realm of business advice. They live in the realms of psychology, sociology, personal and group identity, relationship advice, and sometimes even stranger places.

Point is, the answers are out there. But they’re scattered, and often buried beneath mountains of irrelevant or misleading advice.

The messy truth of creating true fans

All of this brings me to another rather uncomfortable idea.

True fan creation isn’t the kind of thing you can learn from one article. Or one book. Or one course. This shit is complex, and there are no easy answers.

That’s because at the heart of true fandom lies one thing—emotional resonance, sustained over time.

It’s not enough to simply do good work. If you want someone to fall “head over heels” in love, and happily pay for your work in perpetuity, you have to connect on a deeper, more visceral level than other creators. And then you have to sustain and nurture that connection over time.

This is why it’s so difficult to create true fans. And why there are no easy answers. Because it’s about emotion. And emotion is messy.

All of us lead rich inner lives, fueled by a unique stew of values, belief systems, passions, desires, fears, and traumas. That’s true of every creator, as well as all our potential fans.

And true fandom occurs when you start playing around in this realm, and finding ways to put the puzzle pieces together.

But the question still remains. How do we create true fans?

Creating true fans is about emotion. And each of us are carrying around unique emotional histories.

Because of that, a sequence of events that leads one person to becoming a lifelong fan, might leave another person feeling indifferent.

Which is why when some funnel guru swears they have a bulletproof system for turning strangers into superfans (and it’s yours for the low price of $1997), you know they’re full of shit.

So how do account for that complexity and variation?

Well, it starts with the intention to connect and explore. Make it your mission to matter and build relationships.

And from there, we need to use a wide array of strategies and tactics. Here are a few of the obvious ones.

  • Niching down for relevance
  • Positioning yourself for resonance
  • Producing quality work that isn’t a commodity
  • Showing up consistently, even when you don’t feel like it
  • Optimizing your systems not for scale, but deeper relationships
  • Creating shared identity with and amongst your fans
  • Interacting with your people, and making it a conversation
  • Genuinely helping your people get what they want
  • Delighting people in every interaction

These are just the big rocks, or the supporting pillars. There are countless smaller tactics and nuances that live in the world between these ideas.

And that’s where the magic happens. When you get into the weeds, and make it your mission to connect with fans on an emotional level. That’s how you create true fans.

So that’s what you’ll find on Ungated in 2021.

Every article here will be an answer—or part of an answer—to the question: how do I create emotional resonance, and earn true fans for my work?

By the end of the year, Ungated will be the definitive source for artists and creators looking to put Kevin Kelly’s model into practice.

1000 True Fans will finally have a proper instruction manual.

Let’s do this.

-Rob