We here at Research Is Magic are really happy that the fandom has given us such a warm welcome. A little while ago, Capper General tweeted us this awesome graph:
It’s neat to see how interest in the show has skyrocketed, while “brony,” at least as a search term, has continued to be about as periphery as it always was. That’s not unexpected: who outside the fandom would be interested in searching for bronies, and who inside the fandom needs to search for bronies? Stated otherwise, if you’re a brony, you probably have your social network already, and you probably get to those networks in ways other than searching for the word brony).
There was some discussion on Twitter about how the fandom is becoming irrelevant based on this graph, but I’m not so sure. /mlp/ has held steady — perhaps it’s dipping a little, but that’s expected: as the show gains a more mainstream audience, 4channers will most likely move on to the next obscure thing that solidifies it as a community (because it excludes people who are not in on the joke/lingo/secret/whatever). The fact that /mlp/ became a thing and is doing well is pretty remarkable as it stands.
Outside of that, the fandom instantiates itself in hashtags and other discrete moments of shared attention. That #MLPSeason4 trended during the premiere of “Daring Don’t” was pretty amazing, and I think it’s useful to remember that when a new episode airs and thousands of people are tweeting with the same hashtag, that’s a fairly specific group of people with similar levels of devotion to the show (at least relative to everyone else), regardless of how they label themselves.
Beyond that, I’ll need to think a little more about what all this means. The changing role of /mlp/ and the historical role of 4chan more broadly in the history of the fandom needs further investigation. Furthermore, the fandom has always grown from disparate threads of people coming from multiple directions and subcultures–it’s not like an original TV show like Breaking Bad with no previous history, where the fandom must have had one set moment from which it began and the demographic that loved it was largely the demographic for which it was intended.