Based on a number of factors, from columns in anime magazines to forum posts, from knowing people both online to talking offline, I realize that when it comes to understand the larger trends at work in something we might call “anime fandom,” all I know is that I know nothing.
There may have been a time when those willing to discuss anime are the ones driving the industry, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. That’s just how it is: the casual will always outnumber the hardcore, and there’s nothing wrong with this. I have a relative who reads manga and watches anime with some frequency, but I doubt I would ever see him discuss it on a forum or go to an anime chatroom. When you go to a con, what you’re seeing are those who are dedicated enough to make the trip, and it’s not even necessarily a dedication to anime so much as it is to the trip and the event itself.
To understand what anime fandom as a whole is like is probably the key to success for anime companies in the US, so I’m not going to even pretend to answer when many others with more information have probably tried. This is more a personal reminder that as much as I study and discuss and enjoy anime and its fandom in one or two or even a thousand directions, there’s still infinite angles.