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

Interactive Entertainment is evolving

I was thinking about something a bit this week and thought that I would share it on my blog.  Apologies in advance if the ideas are still in the less than solid state.  Basically I have been thinking about the future – that the web, emerging technologies, cell phones, social networks are not really trends, as some people think of them as.  They ARE trends, in that when a new example of one comes around, it’s all anyone talks about for a while (can you say iPhone? Facebook? Club Penguin? Webkinz?).  But the fact that the larger population is even paying attention to these sorts of things, let alone the amount of attention those people are paying, in greater numbers is the phenomenal thing.

It’s this move, from trend to habit, that I have been thinking about lately.  No longer is it only the early adopters using new technology, websites and gadgets.  Now, in ever-increasing numbers, the rest of the population is starting to early adopt as well.  Trends are assimilating themselves into peoples daily lives.  I received multiple emails and messages today from friends that claimed the only way they remembered my birthday was via Facebook or MySpace alerts.

It’s because of this assimilation that we, as producers, need to move ahead in our thinking.  We have to have innovation of product and service on our minds at all times.  Me-too products and services are too old the second they come out.  We have to think about cool ways to take this new tech culture our societies are adopting and make new ways of learning, entertaining and existing. 

One example is mobile.  Mobile has come to mean cell phones.  But the new iPod Touch released yesterday has a wifi browser on it.  Still a small screen, but browser capabilities.  Many people are adopting this portable, surf anywhere mentality – but the devices and sites aren’t keeping up.  We need to think about how that switch will affect our content offerings and how we design.  Normal cell interfaces that access online are still around and will be for a while.  We have to design for that as well. 

But we also have to think about how the future users will use it.  Are the users using their phone browser for different activities than their normal browsers?  If they are watching video, is it certain kinds of videos?  Are there demographic differences in the kind of content consumed?  What are new ways that we can use this more portable means of accessing the Internet that will work for any phone interface that the user uses?  International cell users can give great insight here, as can pre-existing, albeit small US cell content networks. 

How can we move past simply identifying the next trends and start predicting habits?  How will we help future users to push the boundaries of how they are communicating?  What are you doing to this end?

technorati tags:, , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, kids, marketing, mobile, Nick, television, tween, Webkinz

Ready to Learn Cartoons launching Monday

Back in March 2006, I was able to go to the first meeting of the Ready to Learn Partnership. This is a government funded initative that has been going on for years, aimed at leveraging media to help kids learn. The very nice grant (millions of dolars) helped develop such preschool favorites as Sesame Street, Between the Lions and 2 new cartoons launching this Monday, 9/3 – Super Why! and Word World.

Super Why! is super cute. I love the animated characters who are voiced by kid actors. Just adorable. And the Three Pigs episode they have on their site is pretty good. I can totally see the early reading initatives being used. I found myself wanting to watch a 3-6 year old watch it to see how they reacted. Their site is pretty and ratehr developed for a new show. There is an interactive map, games and an super-hero/avatar maker. Here’s my Super Joi:

Word World looks much better in CGI than 2D, how I viewed it in early 2006. The characters seem likable and I have always loved the idea of the merchandise, where the characters are plush toys and their letters stuck togetehr to form the word. Having taken care of little ones over the years, my first thought was lost pieces, but I am sure they have thought of that in the past year and a half. Their site is still quite a limited marquee and not living on the pbs network site yet. I am sure that will change soon and I lool forward to seeing their offerings.

God, I love preschool tv and sites… 🙂

technorati tags:, , , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

YPulse Tween Mashup – 9/28/07 NYC

Ypulse.com, the leading independent blog for youth, teen and tween media and marketing professionals, today announced its lineup of speakers for the Ypulse Tween Mashup. The Mashup conference, produced by Ypulse.com in partnership with Modern Media, will help media and marketing professionals understand how to reach tweens using technology in a multi-platform world.

Kyra E. Reppen, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Nickelodeon MTVN Kids and Family Group’s Neopets will provide the opening keynote focused on the original youth-oriented virtual world, while Renee Hobbs, Professor of Communication and Director, Media Education Lab, Temple University, will present the luncheon address focusing on MyPopStudio.com, a media literacy project for girls. Additional confirmed speakers include:Our speaker lineup just keeps getting better and better – these are media and marketing professionals who are immersed in what tweens are doing digitally every day.

* Jim Bower, CEO Numedeon (Whyville)
* Bryon Cahill, Editor, READ Magazine, Weekly Reader Publishing
* Molly Chase, Executive Producer, Cartoon Network New Media
* David Card, Vice President and Senior Analyst, Jupiter Research
* Mark William Hansen, Director, LEGO Group
* Mattias Miksche, CEO, Stardoll
* Daniel Neal, CEO, kajeet
* Izzy Neis, Online Community Manager for Kids/Tweens/Teens, Star Farm Productions
* Joi Podgorny, Kids/Tween Internet Community Expert
* Erin Reilly, CEO, Platform Shoes Forum (Zoeysroom.com)
* Denise Restauri, CEO, Allykatzz.com
* Addie Swartz, CEO, B*tween Productions

This is the first b2b event to specifically focus on how 8-13 year olds
are using technology and what media, marketers and .orgs are doing to
reach them,” said Anastasia Goodstein, Ypulse founder, editor and
co-producer of the Ypulse Tween Mashup. “Our speaker lineup just keeps
getting better and better – these are media and marketing professionals
who are immersed in what tweens are doing digitally every day.”

In addition to the growing roster of esteemed speakers, the Ypulse
Tween Mashup will include a panel with tween boys and girls who will
share their top tech picks, likes, dislikes, and more.

Ypulse Tween Mashup to Feature a Keynote From Neopets and Speakers from kajeet, Cartoon Network, LEGO Group, Whyville and B*tween Productions

Great conference at which I will be speaking/facilitating. Definitely come if you are in te NYC area.  It is being done in conjunction with Digital Life NYC, so tons to see, hear, etc.

technorati tags:, , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

Marketing in virtual worlds

Best Practices Emerge- As advertisers and marketers explore virtual worlds to reach a younger demographic, best practices are emerging. “The first thing to do is spend a significant amount of time in that virtual world,” said Deep Focus’s Schafer. “Unless you understand the behavior of the people in that virtual world you are going to come across as disingenuous or inauthentic.”

Virtual Worlds Aren’t Just for Reaching Adults Anymore

This is such a great point, but on the bottom of an article that talks alot about Whyville (you guys are amazing PR machines!).

technorati tags:, , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

Tons afoot in kids virtual world new

Virtual Worlds News: Habbo Partners with MTV’s AddictiveGames

Virtual Worlds News: Disney’s Toontown Switching to Ad-Based Model

Virtual Worlds News: Barbie Girls Growing with 50,000 Members per Day

I am watching all this kids virtual worlds stuff quite a bit lately and thought I would share my sources.

technorati tags:, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

How to approach youth social networks theorectically

There are many different perspectives to put on online social networking and it is important to know where one is coming from when talking about social networking and youth. The perspective(s) one has will be very different whether one is a parent with a teenage daughter on MySpace, a marketing executive interested in the target group “14 to 20,” a journalist looking for the next big news story on young people and new media, a youngster using a social networking site as part of everyday life or a researcher investigating how young people are using social networking sites.

35 Perspectives on Online Social Networking (SocialComputingMagazine.com)

This is a great article that details the 35 perspectives from which one can approach a youth oriented (12-18) social network.  These include from learning, social, democratic, love or surveillance perspectives and many more.  It is quite thorough, yet there is a bit of overlap in some of them.  She also goes onto describe the 6 different categories these perspectives fall into. 

I am really happy that this sort of research and theoretical thinking is being done now on an academic level.  I contemplated a few years ago whether to go the academic or business route with online communities.  I chose business with twinges of regret, born primarily from the lack of academic research in the area.  The more articles like this and danah boyd’s work, the better I feel about my decision.  I’ve always been more of a practical approach person who dabbles in theory, though. 

technorati tags:, , , , , , , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

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.

technorati tags:, , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

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.

technorati tags:, , , , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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.

technorati tags:, , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

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

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

technorati tags:

Blogged with Flock