Greg Skinner (email@example.com) is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites raising a ruckus in cyberspace.
Kids and TV: They’re a natural fit. Kids and the Net: They’re a natural fit, too. Kids looking at TV stuff on the Net? You do the math.
Here are two sites that are making the connection.
-The Australian Children’s Television Foundation
The ACTF is a nonprofit organization promoting ‘the development, production and dissemination of high-quality children’s television programs, films, and other audiovisual media.’
Surf on over to the site and you’ll discover a host of kid-oriented shows, including The Genie From Down Under (a young girl deals with getting every wish imaginable), Sky Trackers (a series about love and science) and Documentaries (about growing up).
As far as the youngsters go, the location builds interest and excitement for programs with curious little intros to episodes, such as ‘Royce is born with wheels instead of feet!’ and ‘Will Lady Diana come to the rescue in time?’ But because the interaction is largely limited to descriptions of the programs (instead of activities), the focus of the site tends to shift to adults.
Promoting the episodes as ‘Available on Video’ (three key words at this location) is excellent, because it sets up the site as a distribution point for ACTF materials and content. The Products for Teachers section in particular demonstrates excellent strength by showcasing episodes, often packaging them as themes, such as the environment. These offerings come with study guides, novels or notes.
You’ll also find a Shopping section housing books, music from the Lift Off series and EC, the asexual doll. On-line ordering is easy-just point and click-so all you have to do is spend, spend, spend!
The use of frames (multiple viewing windows) is absolutely tops, although some fuzzy images and text need sorting out. Also requiring attention are the identical presentation formats for each series, which make for dry surfing, and the fact that nothing as simple as a local broadcaster is ever mentioned.
Small drawbacks aside, the ACTF has established an excellent support network for its shows. The site has the structure and the material to grab an audience, which equates to one healthy future.
Overall rating: EC is cool (8 out of 10)
On America Online
Keywords: Cartoon or CNW
America Online is really its own little world, fostering an entirely different on-line dynamic than the one found on the World Wide Web. Sites here have to work hard to endear their visitors by creating their own little cultures.
Well, welcome to Cartoon Network World, full of rich colors, things to do and all things cartoony. ‘This is going to be very exciting,’ you say to yourself. And it is.
Toon-a-mania is full of discussion groups with a seemingly endless number of rants and raves about Rugrats, Sailor Moon and the rest of the cartoon crew. If you aren’t on-line and talking about the Cartoon Network, then someone else is.
In Hot Stuff, trivia contests get kids watching Cartoon Network to get the info they need to compete.
Daily Affirmation offers wacky comments such as ‘People like a nice pat on the head in the morning.’
And ooh, you can’t forget about Chat, which is CRAZY busy! Lots and lots of chatting kids who hardly (ahem) misbehave, in a nicely controlled environment. The whole thing is very contained and very crisp.
The Big Fridge posts the best artwork on a virtual fridge, and the Message Boards section has thousands of kids talking. In the last, you’ll find notices from kids starting their own Cartoon Network clubs, Web pages and newsletters. Whereas most sites don’t encourage this type of behavior, CNW supports it by posting these messages-righteous.
CNW has provided its visitors with a ton of things that keep them very involved, and the resulting on-line culture is brilliant. There is very little here that won’t make you love the site and keep you coming back.
The bottom line is that the CNW site is an outstanding sales force for individual shows on the cable channel and for Cartoon Network as a whole.
Overall rating: mmm, mmm good (9 out of 10)