UPDATE 1-Social networking site Wikia courts brands with new studio

Wed Apr 9, 2014 2:36pm EDT

(Adds new executive hire)

By Jennifer Saba

April 9 (Reuters) - Social networking site Wikia announced on Wednesday a new effort to attract more brands to its platform with the creation of Fan Studio.

The idea behind the studio is to help advertisers connect with Wikia's network of users, many of whom go to the site for entertainment and games.

As part of the launch, gaming company Carbine Studios is using Wikia to roll out one of its forthcoming multi-player online games, called WildStar, for a large number of players.

"One of the things that really struck us the most about Wikia is it's a social universe for fans by fans," said Mona Hamilton, vice president of brands at Carbine.

While Carbine Studios has bought advertising on Wikia in the past, this is the first time it has partnered with the network to engage with WildStar players to help develop and market the game.

Founded in 2006 by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley, a former board trustee of the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, Wikia has more than 100 million monthly unique global visitors, according to online measurement and advertising company Quantcast. It has more than 400,000 existing communities and attracts many video game users.

Wikia is not alone in enticing brands to connect with its community. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are also trying to court Madison Avenue with the idea that brands can better target users based on interests.

Jennifer Betka, senior vice president of marketing at Wikia, said Wikia's fan base is "extremely knowledgeable" about what they love.

"This is the brand acting as a peer," she said. "We go through an extensive green-lighting process with the brands and fans and make the decision," she said about the vetting process for Fan Studio, because Wikia must balance the needs of the community without alienating members.

Wikia depends on advertising revenue but does not disclose the figure.

Wikia has partnered with other advertisers in the past and is doing more now that it has unveiled Fan Studio.

In December, it struck a deal with Warner Brother's video game division, which tapped Wikia's community for its games based on the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit."

Wikia also said it hired Simon Cox as director of programming for games to help Fan Studio increase the number of partnerships with advertisers. Cox previously was the head of creative for content marketing start-up Dialect Inc.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Prudence Crowther and Dan Grebler)

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