Posted in kids, television, z personal

Stop it, Rihanna

Hi, My name is Joi and I’m a pop culture addict.  I have been one for most of my life.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when pop culture wasn’t important to me.  One of the more embarrassing areas of my addiction is pop music.  I am obsessed with it. I know all the words, the back stories to most songs and much of the gossip that was woven in with the releases.

Tangentially, I consider myself a progressive, probably more so than most.  I really don’t care what you do in your house, your bedroom, etc.  Try not to hurt anyone without their consent. This is, of course, with the caveat that the persons participating are A.) Adults and B.) Capable of granting consent without coercion.   And while I don’t care what you are doing behind closed doors, I would prefer if you just kept it to yourself.  I am happy you are happy being an exhibitionist, just please don’t do it around me.

So, given all of the above, I have a huge problem with many pop artists of late and their disregard for the public space and their audience demographics.  The airwaves, specifically, are supposed to be family friendly space.  Why do we bleep curse words, but not content that talks about abuse?  How does that work?

Some examples?  Eminem talk about tying a girl to a bed and lighting the house on fire.   Rihanna’s new song S&M has tons of explicit descriptions of pain/fetish play, and she has an older song about Russian Roulette.  Bruno Mars has songs about being bored and choosing marriage for the evening, and another that describes multiple ways he would kill himself in order to prevent the object of his affection from leaving.  And just pick randomly from the Brittney Spears catalog lately – threesomes seem to be one of her favorite topics, but who can forget Hit Me Baby and Slave for You, among others.

Eminem is a difficult example, as he would never posit himself as targeting a younger audience.  But Rihanna, Brittney and Bruno Mars – they are clearly targeting the tweenie boppers and their song lyrics are insanely inappropriate.  I don’t expect their music to be all Pollyanna, but you cannot have your cake and eat it too (altho, I DO hate that cliche – why CAN’T you eat your cake that you have?).  You shouldn’t market yourself and stylize yourself for a younger audience, cashing in on their lucrative wallets, and then pretend that your music is not intended for their ears.  Or at least not be flabbergasted when someone calls you out on it.

Yeah yeah, I hear what you are thinking, that innuendo has been part of songs forever.  I agree and I think it is fine.  My problem is that we have left innuendo land and are now knee-deep in explicit description land.  What happened to nuance, metaphor, allusion, subtlety?

Those of you who know me offline know that I am far from a prude.  But I know how to separate my worlds and how to draw lines for appropriate behavior.  why is it so hard for millionaire pop stars with a gaggle of handlers?

I have been a children’s content producer for years.  We have an ethical responsibility to our audience.  In the online world, we have tons of watchdog organizations making sure we stay on the straight and narrow in the ethics arena.  It is fair for me to bring this up.

Will I change it? – uh, probably not.  Do I sound like a geiser screaming for the kids to get off the lawn? – kinda.  But if you can’t rant on your blog, gosh darn it, where can you!

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, online advertising, online community, television, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz

My talk at Pratt

Hi All,

I was asked to do a short talk at Pratt Institute, so I decided to share my slides.  Basically I wanted to have a short visual aid to a myriad of mainstream, large and successful properties and brands that did/do well interacting and connecting with their audience through online community and fan engagement .

Let me know if you would like more info or examples or if you have any questions.

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, online community, Safety/Privacy, television, tween, virtual worlds

Kids Online unconference – May 31

Hi all –

First of many plugs about the Kids Online Unconference that is happening the day before the Ypulse Youth Mashup. The whole thing is 5/31/09-6/2/09, but come to what you can.

We need to start getting a headcount, so if you could let myself or any of the other coordinators know if you are planning on attending, that would be great!

To sign up for the listserv we have set up, go to this link http://lists.idcommons.net/lists/info/kidsonline and click the “Subscribe” link.

Thanks!

Posted in gaming, marketing, television, virtual worlds

Happy Time wasters

So, those of you who know me personally, know I work alot. Alot. You can especially tell when my blog posts are less frequent. So, from time to time, my brain stages a coup and makes me procrastinate and dawdle. That’s how I usually know I am due for a break.

Lately, since my DVR queue is lacking, I have turned online (yes, that IS happening and not just marketing speak). I thought I would blog about my favorite time wasters of late.

note: this blog post is about a month old – shows you that i even procrastinate on my procrastination tasks.

Doof

This is a really pretty site. I have always appreciated good web design and I am so happy that finally the mass market is demanding higher quality work.

doof is a games site that also seeks be a community as well. The interface is slick and the registration is engaging (yes it is possible). Plus they send really fun little teases via email to try to get you to return to the site.

If you don’t return for awhile, the urgings reduce in frequency (either that or the person they have doing those messages is slacking lately, but methinks it’s more automated than that). If anything, check it out. The games are primarily in the “casual” set, so it’s a nice place to have on your radar.

Whirled

Brought to you by the same folks that have been doing Puzzle Pirates, whirled is worth a whirl (get it, sigh, I’m tired, sorry). This is another casual gaming community site. Not as slick as doof, but still fun to explore. Last time I visited the chat area was a bit clunky. But they allow you to design your own avatar or choose from some fun choices. My personal fav – dancing chunk of tofu.

Shelfari

I have belonged to this site for a bit, but I don’t remember it being as much of a time suck the first time I went there. My have they redesigned. It’s basically a book cataloging community. Sounds fun, right? 😐  Well, actually it is. Especially if you like looking thru peoples bookshelves in real life. But the fun part is how easy they have made it to build your own bookshelf. In under an hour I have over 100 books cataloged that I have read, am reading or want to read. Plus their community areas make it easy to find others with similar taste and at least find a new read for vacation.

flair app on facebook

Have you fell into this viral well yet? I don’t know if to envy or pity you. Either way, it’s my most recent favorite time waster. I have made, gifted, received and read more flair than I would like to admit. Well done app. Bravo, Pieces of Flair

hulu

Man (and woman) cannot live on dvr alone. For example, I forgot to set House to record this season. Realized too late. So I went to hulu and watched the missed episodes there. Perfect. The commercials aren’t even that annoying. I am moving in a couple months and I am going to make the just to no cable. Wish me luck. I think the PS3 I am buying to console the loss of cable should make it less painful. 🙂

twilight

Ok, so it’s not really digital, but I did check out the movie trailer there. This teen vampire series is great. Perfect summer reading. Quick, melodramatic, fantasy. I thank and curse Izzy Neis for making me get hooked. I am on the 3rd book in the series now, Eclipse, and I don’t want to finish it, as the next one isn’t due out for months. Le sigh. Plus, as one of my pieces of flair says, “Now all those random flair I didn’t understand make sense.”

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Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, online advertising, online community, television, virtual worlds

Psst…introducing Chuggington

Just wanted to let you all know about the project I have been working on.  Not much news, other than we launched our production blog at http://chuggington.com.

Chuggington

It’s a cool project.  I am getting to dive into areas of our industry I haven’t had a chance to before which is always exciting.  Subscribe to the Production Blog to stay updated.

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Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, television, tween, web business

Researching digital distribution this week

Thinking about digital distribution this and wanted to brain dump and hopefully get feedback from you all.  I am trying to compartmentalize digital distribution so that I can explain my understanding of it to others in an easy way.  Any help would be appreciated.

I see the strategy being simultaneously very different and very similar for independents and corporate company endeavors online.

INDEPENDENTS:

If you are an independent person, with something to say you have a variety of options available to you.  Focusing online, you can post your thoughts on someone else’s site or blog, join a forum or community and voice your opinion or many other outlets for you express yourself.

If you want a bit more involvement, you can decide to manage it yourself in a variety of ways and formats.  You can start a blog and rant in written form, you can start a podcast and rant in verbal form or you can start a video cast and rant in physical form.

If you decide to go this route, you may want to increase your audience, so you can add your content to aggregators and feed lists so that more people can search for and find your content.  You can add tags to entries that are cross referenced on other sites.  You can offer other ways for your users to find your content, like feeds or social bookmark tools.  You can also syndicate your content and put it on multiple platforms and other sites, depending on the format. 

CORPORATE:

What if you are a producer of someone else’s content, like your company, and you find yourself in the similar situation above.  As an independent, it’s easier to determine how big and wide-spread you want your content to be, it’s your choice, that’s all you are thinking about. 

But with a company, you have tons of other issues to think about:

  • Which pieces of content are you going to offer to the world?
  • Do you have rights to put this content online?
  • Where are the borders of those rights? Formats? Clip length? Countries?
  • Should you offer downloads or streaming? DRM or not?
  • Are there overlaps with different channels? Mobile? Web? VOD?
  • Will you have a Handheld Gaming Device strategy?  Does it work on wifi and non-wifi enabled devices?

I have been watching these issues for years now.  The market is moving so fast in every way, that I never really get a chance to focus on these channels.  So I am reaching out.  Correct me if I am wrong in classifications or defintions and add if you can where I don’t have enough info.

Licensed video distribution channels:
– These are companies that you either pay to be on or they pay you, but there is a formal contract/deal/aggreement drawn between the producer of the content and the distribution site/channel. 
– They stream most of their content and normally do not allow for cross pollination of the content on their site. 
– Because of their association with the networks, these are also sometimes referred to as IPTV or Internet  protocol television.

Examples include
Joost
Hulu

Independent video distribution sites
– These are sites that allow anyone to post their own content after agreeing to a simple “click here” sort of terms of use. 
– They stream their content, but encourage cross pollination of the content on other sites by use of an embed code. 
– These are also sometimes referred to as IPTV or Internet  protocol television, although not as much as the examples above as television implies networks and programming.
– Some of these sites are using “Channels” to group similar content in an effort to help consumers used to the more congruent programming on television.

Examples include:
Youtube
CurrentTV
Myspace TV
Revver
Vimeo
Crackle
Vuze

Video on Demand (VOD)
– These are distribution methods that are usually tied to network content, where the network will offer selected programming in a cache that the consumer can watch at their convenience.
– This is a highly demographic driven distribution channel.  Preschoolers and older adults tend to use this at higher rates.  Tech thought leaders use DVR devices in lieu of VOD.

Examples include:
Comcast offer an area on their set top box where individual networks can offer VOD selections. 

Mobile Distribution
– This is where I need an infusion of who are the leaders now.  I studied the market in early 2006, but with how quickly things are happening, who knows who is the leader now (actually, one of you knows)
– I DO know, that format-wise, mobile content, at least non-interactive content like videos, needs to be within the under 3 minute mark.
– This will change as soon as the new high-tech phones (iPhone, Nokia N95, etc) start becoming more of a mass market reality, but the marketplace is by in large still flip phone based.  I do see more and more people getting the qwerty keyboard phones (ala Sidekick, helio, etc) for ease of texting.
– What is very big still is ringtones and all derivatives of ringtones.  Ringbacks are even spreading in popularity.
– Games seem to be holding steady as well.  I personally do not know anyone who games often on their cell, but I see them often enough where I am able to accept the statistics that talk about mobile gaming on the rise.
– But who are the leaders?  Are the mobile networks still paying for content or are the producers paying to be on the network?  Not sure where this stands currently.

Examples include:
– Help me, who is big now?  MobiTV? VCast?

Handheld Gaming/Internet Devices
– This is a relatively new area to look at for digital distribution (unless you are a game developer 🙂 ).  But more and more handheld devices have wifi enabled.
– Is anyone taking advantage of this medium besides the hardware/software companies that ?  Are there any independent distributors utilizing this medium?  I know the PSP plays mini disc movies – is there downloadable content as well?
– How is optimization for Internet handheld going?  Is the market big enough to justify the resource time from your staff?

Internet Capable Gaming Consoles
– Same sort of questions as above, is anyone taking advantage of this outlet, or is it locked down by the indiviudal game companies?

Correct me if and where I am wrong and add where it is needed.  Thanks!

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, Nick, online advertising, online community, television, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz, z friends

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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