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Proactive online content for kids

Those of us who understand the positive aspects of online play need to help shape the climate online in the next couple years. Gone are the days of bragging about how your child knows so much more about technology/computers/internet than you do. More and more of our lives are being spent online. Let’s treat that sea change with a bit more respect than simple awe/wonder.

If we don’t want EVERY brand space online to be blatant consumerism with no message or goal, we have to be proactive about preventing that from happening. We must work toward not just calling out the bad sites, but creating and commending the good sites. And not just ones that give lip-service to more holistic goals – ones that actually step up and do it.

I ducked out of the Kids and Teens talk at the Virtual Worlds conference last week in order to see a young girl doll brand case study. Oy vey, was that a hard one to sit through. The developer giving the talk continually talked sarcastically about the girly brand that he developed, which showed me that he didn’t respect the audience and community the site was trying to develop. How can you create a great community if you don’t care about them?

Through his talk, he talked a couple times about the core values of “Empowerment” etc that the site’s founders wanted to convey in the virtual world. But almost in the same breath, he would reiterate multiple times that the only purpose for the site was to “sell more dolls.” Makes you wonder if the brand managers of those dolls know and care how their brand is being conveyed to conference audiences and their online community.

If “to sell more dolls” is truly the reason that the parent company wanted to launch this world, fine. They certainly are not alone. But that doesn’t mean all the other sites that will be developed in this category have to be like that.

Sesame Street’s Panwapa world is a cool approach to get into a space that is bound to be crowded in the next 2 years – preschool to early readers, 4-7 year olds. Kudos to them for being there before anyone else with a solid idea for a world (and not just the mindless wandering and silly games that make up almost every world in this space).

Whether we like it or not, a child is assimilated into the tech space earlier and earlier as the years go by. To pretend that this isn’t happening or block the kids from sites on a micro level is not the way to improve the situation. It’s the ostrich effect and doesn’t improve anything for anyone, especially the kids.

People who grew up with technology are now having kids. These younger generation parents have less or no aversion to introducing their kids to the online/tech coolness that they have grown up with. As producers of content (be it for a marketing purpose or pure creative), we have to develop for the parents AND the kids. These younger parents will still want the educational aspects that the past decade of attentive parents wanted, but the younger parents understand all of this on another level. Many of them understand that you can have fun, build relationships, and develop as a human online. They also understand the importance of design, navigation and user interface in your online experience. AND they will, directly or indirectly, teach these concepts to their kids.

Hopefully the content will start to catch up with paradigm shift that is happening world-wide as I type. Is your content up to the task?

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

Virtual Worlds Forum Interview

Lizzie: What do you think draws children towards immersive environments and virtual worlds?

Joi: I think role playing, that playset, that play house thing and
that play pattern has always been there. And I think what’s happening
now is that technology is just allowing that experience to be played
out in a different way…Allowing them to go into those virtual worlds
and actually be that character, be the doll, be whoever they were going
to be as opposed to just holding the dolls and playing so….

Lizzie: This is a natural extension?

Joi: I would say so…I think virtual worlds are very much at the
beginning and of course kids are always right there in all the stuff.
Kids are always right there, right at the beginning when something
comes out. I don’t think the virtual worlds that are out right now have
really figured it out. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Lizzie: What needs to be there to get children going?

Joi: I definitely think games…I think the video games right now,
especially the first person, real time, strategy type of things? Those
ones are really hitting it…If you need that complete immersion you
definitely have to have game play, you definitely have to have
interaction between the users, they have to communicate with each other
and not be hindered by a specific list of words or pre-defined chat.

Lizzie: Should businesses launch their own virtual worlds?

Joi: Is your audience, you know, screaming they want to get to that next level or is it just because it’s in the news right now? I think there’s a lot of those really basic questions that people have skipped over. Do you need a virtual world? How are you going to justify the costs? These are questions…I don’t see people having those kinds of conversations. I think the hype is making people skip some basic strategy questions.

Virtual Worlds Forum Blog » Blog Archive » Interview with Joi Podgorny

Even though my name is spelled wrong (the “r n” DOES look like a “m”) and I have a tendency to say “you know” way to much, still fun to show off another interview.  🙂

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Unedited YPulse Mashup notes

ypulse mashup

Kyra Reppen, SVP and GM Neopets

5 keys to tweendom
– control
– social
– safety
– self expresion
– fun

JAX is toy partner with special codes that unlock things

trends to watch for
– media convergence
– hybrid business
– mobile is everything
– shared entertainment experiences

expanding into neo studios
– developing new vws

Question re: where did learning go from neopets now that viacom bought
– handled well – talked about how the games are more covert learning – web design, html, critical thinking, etc

—-

Old School to New School

Byron Cahill, Editor, read Mag

—-

Tweens Online: Permission is Key

Denise Tayloe, CEO, Privo, Privacy Vaults Online

YAY!  I Love her

—-

Kajeet

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OCR Interview

This month’s Online Community Expert interview is with Joi Podgorny of Ludorum, Inc. Joi’s area of expertise is the post-Facebook crowd, Tweens and Children.

OC Expert Interview: Joi Podgorny, Ludorum, Inc. – Online Community Report

Wanted to post a link to an interview I did with Bill Johnston at the Online Community Report. I was able to talk about tons of different areas that I am interested in, in our industry.

Also, working on finishing Izzy and I’s first podcast. I will post when we are done with that – audio editing is hard! 🙂 Big week!

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Kids online podcast

I’m jumping the gun– but I’m giving ya’ll a weekend heads up. Ms. Joi Podgorny and I will be starting a podcast regarding kid communities, kid media, online media, and entertainment. Why? Because I strong arm her into thoughtful chats nearly every day (or vice versa)– and (if you’ve followed this blog at all you’d know–>) I love to ramble, and she does too. So, between me & joi, you’re gonna get a HUGE dose of everything-ness (and yes, that’s my new technical term).If you are interested in participating in our adventure, let us know.

We’ve already started a “wish list” of contibutors (and if you and I have previously spoken, or you’ve ever come into contact with this blog –> you’re probably already on that wish list).

Podcast. Modcast. Tween Cast. Kid cast. Us-cast? « Izzy Neis

Brilliant Suess-esque title of this post from Izzy and of course wanted to alert everyone that this is what we are thinking. I am a podcasting junkie and thought it was high time I added my (and Izzy’s) voice to the dull murmur of voices online. Plus, I have yet to find a good podcast about the kids online business. If you know of one, please let me know.

So, starting this week, Izzy and I are going to record one of our weekly chats about kids online and share it via rss with all of you. Like Izzy said, the format we want to try is the two of us, a guest and a online-kid-centric topic, so if you are interested in also being recorded talking about kids online, let one or both of us know.

Wish us luck and stay tuned!

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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?

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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… 🙂

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