Posted in Club Penguin, kids, marketing, online community, tween, Webkinz

No Club Penguins for Sony

Last month Sony was in early talks to buy kid-themed virtual Club Penguin for $450 million. After the price went above $500 million, Sony backed out, reports PaidContent.org. PaidContent also speculates that the deal breaker may have been over concerns with churn and Club Penguin’s dedication to non-profit donations. Regardless, there is another unnamed player in the ring now.

It may be that Sony just saw too much risk in investing in virtual worlds: “If you notice that almost everybody has one acquisition, because they are very expensive, and if the public moves on, you are left holding thin air. I mean, the virtual world you inhabit, you inhabit at your peril if it runs out of energy or excitement for the customer. If it runs out of energy or excitement for the customer you can buy Penguin Club tomorrow and maybe it will be Seal Club the next day,” said Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer in an interview with the Financial Times.

Virtual Worlds News: Sony No Longer in Running to Buy Club Penguin

Sleep tight, my little penguins.  Have no fear, your community is safe for now.  🙂

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Webkinz and Club Penguin’s affect on my blog

So I wrote about both Club Penguin and Webkinz here, here, here, here, and here.  They are kids sites and therefore things that I track closely.

These are the most trafficked pages on the blog.  Thankfully, people seem to be reading other pages as well.  But these pages get the most traffic – not because they are the most insightful, well written or even colorful posts, but because legions of children and tweens are looking for cheats or forums to talk about their fav sites.  I know this, because they are the ones who leave comments, like this gem:

If Sony buys it here are some changes I think will happen.

*We will be allowed to swear as i mentioned in my other comment.

*puffle round up will be changed so that puffles attack you and you
have to defend yourselfs from them as you put them in the cage.

*The penguins will get energy so we will only be able to play for a limited time a day.

That is what I think will happen so far.

Or this one:

If Steve Jobs sells Apple it would bee for a gigantic amount of stock
so he’ll have a sit in the directors table to take actions in Google.
Same thing happened when selling Pixar to Disney. He keept his CEO
tittle in Pixar and he takes decisions for Disney, Co. So obviously
Steve keeps his CEO tittle in Apple, Inc. I hope Apple to stay like
Apple and not Gapple.

Or my fav:

Soil87 is my club penguin name. But CuteLil is my user name on
Webkinz but my pets name is Lil. I love Nelpets there awsome cute
little stuffed animals weird though. When Mc.donalds took them away I
was sad I cryed for like 5 days. Well then GO MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE!

Izzy Neis says she has the similar pheonomenon on her blog.

I wonder if there are other keywords/topics that have the same effect.  iPhone?  Bebo?  Just thought it was interesting and worthy of post.

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Kids and the Web/Technology – let’s talk about the future

Our current culture is stuck on the underlying fear of the dangers surrounding our kids online.  While there may be dangers, they are greatly outnumbered by the potential wonders and great experiences that are possible now because of the web and technology in general.  To take a knee jerk reaction and prohibit or limit use of the web is not only a pedantic reaction, but potentially a detrimental one for your kid’s development.

The future (and the present) is wired and will continue to be.  Parents need to step up and become educated in the net and what their kids are doing online – both good and bad.  But how?  And by whom?  We can’t rely on them to just do it on their own over night.  Even if they have the desire, they may not have the resources or be too overwhelmed to even know where to begin.

There is a sea change coming soon on how people view the net.  Gen X’rs and beyond have more knowledge and have less fear of the net and will pass this thinking onto their kids (whom they are already having).  In the interim time though, until the change is here, we, as community professionals, have to prepare to help out.

We talked about this one of the sessions at the Online Community Unconference last week (can you tell I liked that visit?  I can’t stop talking about the epiphanies I had there).

It’s great that the big guns in the kids web space (Disney, Nick, Habbo, etc) are doing community and are committed to continuing to do so.  Maybe we can start the movement (yes, I think we can assume it could qualify as a movement) by leveraging the bigger communities who have the trusted brand and wider reach.  What about having PSA’s on their sites about why the Internet isn’t all bad for kids and what parents need to know – both bad AND good.  Maybe pre-roll the same PSA’s in movie theatres before family-centric movies.

Another smaller, but equally important tactic could be to make sure your OCM’s and other staff members who are on the front lines are aware, ready and watching for the signs of change in their communities.

I know I am going to continue blogging and talking about the issue wherever I can.  Like I said last week, I don’t need to be the talking head on this subject, but I definitely want to help write the script.

I was just talking to Bill Johnston over at Forum One about some of these bigger topics in the Online Community world and he mentioned that it would be cool to round table or podcast about some of these more nebulous topics.  I think that’s a great idea.  There are enough of us who have been in the online community space for long enough to move to the next step and start thinking about the future of our industry. 

Let me know if you want in on these sorts of conversations too and I will be sure to bring you into them.  It may sound cheesy – but the future starts now, let’s start working on it.

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, Nick, online community, television, tween, Webkinz

Making kids exercise, because it’s what you do

Got a little couch potato?

Check out fun summer activities for kids.

This was the footer to my friends email to me written on a Yahoo email account.  Now, I love my gmail because it allows me to make all the words that are in my email and doesn’t put an often cheesily written ad at the bottom exclaiming the virtues of shopping online.  But I noticed this footer, clicked through and am now blogging about it.  Good job Yahoo for finally putting something on the footer that matters.

So, onto my diatribe… active kids…

I have seen alot of articles and commercials lately that equate a child playing computers or video games or watching tv as fat and lazy.  While this is true in some cases, it’s not the fault of the computers, games and tv, it the fault of the child and the parents.  Our media consumption is just that, something we consume.  We should train ourselves and our children to know when enough is enough and when there has been too much.

I am on my computer from relatively minutes after I wake up until mintes before I go to asleep at night, and most of the day in between.  But I have trained myself, like a good human, to also eat, bathe, exercise and converse with fellow citizens in some way in addition to my media consumption.  Since I have been working from home, this has been more highlighted.  When you leave the house for work or school, you inherently start moving.  Hopefully you continue that movement and try to capitalize on it by riding a bike, walking to your destination or even choosing to park further away to make you walk.  Maybe your job has walking involved, even if it’s climbing the stairs or walking to the printer.  I don’t have to do any of that at home, so I build it into my day, because I know moving and exercise is important. 

My point is, I don’t think kids are learning this in some households.  Just as you have to teach them the reasoning why eating potato chips and cake all day is a bad idea (and it is, if you don’t know that), you also can’t try to scare them from said potato chips and cake all together (because they are delicious and you should eat them sometimes). 

You have to teach them that moderation of their media is also something they need to watch for.  Playing video games for a couple hours will not make your child fat and lazy.  It will probably help your child in infinitely more ways.  But if you don’t explain the reasoning to them, and just punish them from the media, you haven’t done them justice.  They will rebel, as any respectable kid would, and end up playing the game more and STILL not know that there is a reason behind why gaming all the time is a bad idea.

I was a camp director at CyberCamps for a few years.  I taught intro game design, Flash, 3D animation, robotics and other computer skills to rooms of 25 8-15 year olds at a time.  The first day was always the most interesting for me, because their parents dropped them off with me and the kids wanted to bee-line right for the computers.  Oh, the fights I would have with the bold kids who tried to reason with me that their parents paid me to have them on computers, not playing tag.  The silly children didn’t understand that tag was just the format I used to introduce social skills to them.  By the end of the week, they were begging me to shave time off their game design modules so they could play one more game of kick ball or cards with their new friends.  Many of them who figured out my motives actually thanked me by the end of the week for making them realize that you can having computer AND non-computer activites was more fun and interesting, not the opposite.

So please stop demonizing media for lack of comprehensive parenting.  Computers, video games and TV are all cool and make our lives richer and interesting.  Don’t take them away or make them “bad.”  Make sure your kids ALSO have non-plugged-in things that are interesting and that they learn moderation in all things, and I think you will find they will become better people all around.

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Sony + Club Penguin?

It’s been rumored for a while that Montgomery Securities is representing virtual world Club Penguin in a sale transaction. It looks like the company is locked in talks, possibly exclusive, with Sony, and the price is “at least half a billion” says a source close to the deal.We mentioned Club Penguin last month when a competitor launched from IAC called Zwinktopia. The company is killing it – projected revenues of $65 million in 2007 with $35 million in profit. Having nearly 50% bottom line margin is exceptional. The company has around 500,000 active users.A stumbling block in the negotiations appears to be a disagreement over charitable contributions. Club Penguin donates a significant portion of profits to charity and wants this policy to continue post-acquisition. Sony reportedly isn’t hot on the idea.Club penguin is a virtual world for young kids. Sony may see significant synergies by tying it into their Playstation platform. Other bidders that were in talks until very recently reportedly include AOL, Disney and Viacom.

This is good news for Club Penguin’s virtual world competitors as well – which broadly includes Second Life, Runescape, Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others.

Club Penguin In Acquisition Talks With Sony For $500+ million

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Webkinz, Neopets, Club Penguin

The first Webkinz came out in 2005, but Ganz only recently experienced the tipping point with their Webkinz plush pets. The Webkinz site broke into the top 1000 sites in January 2007 and just this month, reached neopets.com

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Note 10.28.07 – I closed the posting of comments on here.  Sorry, kiddos, it’s been fun reading your comments, but you will have to find some other place to argue which site is best.  🙂

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, kids, marketing, Nick, online community, tween

Leading Kids Site? Really? … really?

Kidzworld.com is the leading safe, secure, content-driven community for Tweens, kids ages nine to fourteen. Established in July 1999, Kidzworld leverages contemporary technology to allow users to express themselves through the creation of original content, interact with each other in the chatrooms, one the boards and in their KW Zone profile, and explore the digital

Kidzworld.com – social networking for kids – KillerStartups.com

This is when I don’t like marketing. I can’t stnd the use of “leading,” “only,” and “best” in marketing and PR materials.

Kidzworld may be leading in search engine placement because it has been around for a while. (Although I was unable to get them to be a “first-pager” with 5 tries of generic kid search terms on Google). That means that all the old school links on abandoned pages aggregating “Cool sites for kids!” from 99-02 link to Kidzworld and they are getting higher placement on searches. Longevity and perservence has it’s rewards.

And I will EVEN give it to them that IF a kid didn’t have a predetermined list of sites to go to the second they hit the computer (Nick, Club Penguin, MySpace, YouTube, etc etc) AND they ran a serach for “kids sites” (because SO many kids identify with the term “kids”) they MAY click on Kidzworld. But will they stay?

The design is VERY young and the content is lacking compared to the heavy hitters in the space. They did just go through a redesign (thank the gods!) but it is still not going to look like a contender in the race for “Leading Kids Community.”

PLEASE someone explan how I am misreading it. Is it the claim of “safe” or “secure”? It’s kind of the law now, but ok, maybe that is your loop hole. I just have known about Kidzworld since back in the day when I was running FreeZone’s community. So reading KillerStartups.com, and seeing Kidzworld (is 1999 still a start up date?) as a leader was something I just had to comment about.

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Zwinktopia

The timing couldn’t be much better for InterActiveCorp to launch Zwinktopia, a new virtual world for young teens. Other virtual worlds, such as Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others, are exploding in terms of unique monthly visitors and total time spent at the sites.Until today, IAC’s Zwinky was a site to make customized avatars, choosing from 10,000 different outfits, accesories and other items, and embed them onto other websites such as MySpace. Users could also become friends with other users and enage in basic social networking activities. See Stardoll as well in this space.Most of the functionality at Zwinky is accessed via a non-mandatory browser toolbar that users install. Zwinky says that they have 20 million active toolbars that were used in March 2007. Part of Zwinky’s business model is to collect search advertising revenues from toolbar usage.

Today Zwinky will add a virtual world to the site called Zwinktopia – users can use their avatars to roam around the world, chat with other users and engage in activities to earn Zbucks, the virtual currency of Zwinktopia. Zbucks can be used to buy virtual clothing and other goods.

Zwinky is part of the Fun Webs group at IAC, which includes Smiley Central, Cursor Mania and other sites and generates over $100 million in annual revenues. The Fun Webs group is part of the Consumer Applications and Portals group (iWon and Excite are within this group) and is led by Scott Garell.

Zwinky alone has 4.7 million worldwide unique visitors in March (Comscore), far more than Second Life and the other competitors listed in the first paragraph above. If a reasonable number of them can be converted into exploring Zwinktopia, it will become the largest immersive world outside of the gaming sites like World of Warcraft. See Comscore comparision data below (U.S. only).

See GigaOm’s recent article on Gaia, which is probably closest to Zwinktopia in functionality.

IAC Launches Zwinktopia At Peak of Virtual World Hype

Definitely go to this linked article to see the stats in comparision to gaionline.com, cyworld, and habbo. And the commercial…

*******

Just saw the commercial on primte time! wow. and in tiny little words in the bottom corner it said the site is free with a toolbar.

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SXSW07: Community Ecology: Finding Balance When Working with Fan Groups Panel

Community Ecology: Finding Balance When Working with Fan Groups Panel
Jake McKee Lead Samurai, Big in Japan (previously adult community manager at Lego)
Rebecca Newton Global Safety & Moderation Mgr, Sulake.com (Habbo/VMK) (previously with Israel Interactive and AOL)
Terrence Ryan Moderator, suicidegirls.com
Virginia Miracle Dir Word of Mouth Mktg, Brains on Fire (fiskar scrapbooking community – fisketeers) (previously with DELL)
Betsy Whalen Dir Mktg, Discovery Education

Regarding how live events work in conjunction with online community
– keep them small
– trust your community
Habbo’s virtual world found was best to keep virtual and real separate to maintainthe magic for their users

Open up questions to audience:

Question about how to control brand consistency in your community without a hub site, only grassroots
– you don’t – you help them understand any negative aspects, champion the positive
– get over your fear, community has openness/unpredictablilty and should be embraced
– don’t be upset, figure out a way to work with it
– treat your community like a relationship, with honesty and openness

Question about at what size does the community need to be before doing on its own
– how long should you stay on other social networks before making your own
– don’t focus on the tech, but rather what tech works for the community you have
rockourworld.org – example of a tangent communnity that spun off of discovery eucations community members
– clearly define your success measures (traffic, longevity, active periods)
– determine if there is a need and fill that need

Question from Cartoon Network – launching game and wanted to know about how to market
– make easy to share
– make the tagline palatable and easy for kids
– virtual world like Nicktropolis
– have a place for them to create their own games
– referenced Club Penguin

Question about online fundraising
– how to maximize
– how do you deal with “bad” community ideas
– be clear on parameters , unlimited scope is not good

Question on how to get your audience involved in the product design process
– contextualize it for your community
– determine the success measures
– identify your community leaders, give them the tipping point moment to become more involved
– communities are based on ego – play on that
– recognize people like to talk about the bad than the good, help them contextualize
– given them an opportunity (ask them).

Question about self policing flagging, etc and not hurting the community
– there is an illusion that there is free speech in an online community, but it is a public facing private area
– company needs to understand what abuse means, constructive criticism is not ness a bad thing
– common practice is the more opportunity you give the users to shape their community, the more active and engaged community you get, not vice versa

Question regarding how they deal with user feuds
– deal with them like children, put them in separate corners
– had to change the “ignore” tool to “ban chat” because users needed a stronger feeling word for their feuds
– be open and there for your users

Question regarding internal office community and how to make it succeed
– start small, in manageable chunks
– show examples on how easy it is (make it easy, of course)
– get your early adopters and make sure they are influencers

http://www.communityguy.com/sxsw for more commentary

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, kids, online community, tween, Webkinz

Article on Tween Social Networking sites

Club Penguin is a leader among a tidal wave of new community Web sites designed specifically for tweens and even younger kids: think of it as MySpace in braces. At Club Penguin, which launched in October 2005 and had 4 million unique visitors in January, according to comScore Media Metrix, your 8- to 14-year-old can waddle through a virtual world as a flightless waterfowl, interacting with other penguins of her choice. Registration is free, but if junior wants to decorate her penguin’s igloo or use other advanced features on the site, you’ll need to pay a $5.95 monthly membership. And Club Penguin is just the tip of the (sorry, can’t resist) iceberg. A new site designed for the skinned-knee demographic seems to pop up nearly every day. Their potential market is huge: there are some 28.5 million kids between the ages of 8 and 14 in the United States, according to emarketer.com. A 2006 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey found that an equal 38 percent of both male and female teens aged 12 to 14 use MySpace (even though the site’s age cutoff is 14) or some other social-networking site.The sites geared specifically for youngsters tend to fall into one of two categories. Most of them—like Club Penguin, Whyville.net (286,000 unique visitors in January) and Habbo Hotel (704,000 uniques)—are fantasy virtual worlds, reminiscent of Second Life, the three-dimensional online planet built, owned and inhabited by its 3.8 million members. Otherwise, a few networking sites for tykes are more like Imbee.com, which launched in July and already has 20,000 members despite a complete absence of advertising. Imbee resembles MySpace much more closely in that kids can create blogs, post photos and share music. Where it differs from MySpace, which has had no shortage of child-predator horror stories, is that Imbee “helps parents and kids control the scope of the publishing,” says cofounder Tim Donovan. “When you connect with friends, it’s not six degrees; you’re not connecting to all your friends’ friends. It’s point-to-point.” You can’t be “friends” with anyone you’re not actually friends with.

Tech: Social Networking for 9-Year Olds – Newsweek Technology – MSNBC.com

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