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.
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Mother Nature is divorcing Old Man Winter, and that means two things: baseball and basketball!
Here are two sites that are sure to score points with sports fans.
-1997 NCAA Final Four
March Madness-the U.S. college basketball play-offs-happens every single spring and it’s a huuuge deal. Adding to this frenetic pace is www.finalfour.net, which rocks the rim by focusing on two fundamental elements: information and immediacy. What a site!
When it comes to information, you’d better buckle your seat belt, because you get loads of it here: detailed accounts of the games as they come in, weather forecasts for cities hosting games, basket-by-basket summaries and tidbits such as the distance from the court floor to the stadium ceiling. You wonder why anyone would ever leave.
The site’s heavy artillery comes out in treats like cybercasts and the Java Desktop Scoreboard. Cybercasts integrate live radio broadcasts with real-time updates of stats, shot charts and virtual scoreboards on your computer’s desktop. The Java Desktop Scoreboard not only displays all the scores, but is also updated every 30 seconds-holy cow!
Fan interaction is largely limited to the All-Tournament Team Poll (sponsored by GTE), where you place your picks for your dream all-star team, and Kids Zone, where visitors match mascots with their home colleges. Both are pretty flat and unfulfilling compared to the site’s other offerings.
Ads for the sports drink All Sport appear so frequently in the site, they should be titled ‘All Over.’ Banners for the drink are on the home page and in the History section (a comprehensive area with records, stats, results and stories), and All Sport also sponsors the Photo Poll, where you can vote for your favorite game photo of the day, in the Games section. All Sport banners link you to Pepsi World (www.pepsi.com), but even if you don’t go there, you’re thirsty by the time you leave the site. Excellent.
One small complaint. For all of its provisions-the stats, highlights, audio press conferences-the site is still just one big info center that lacks the warmth of, say, the NBA site, with its player interviews. But considering its limited life span and its purpose, this can be excused.
Overall, the site is pretty outstanding. Its brilliance lies in the fact that you receive instantly what any fan watching 32-plus games really wants: information. This is the CNN of college basketball.
Overall rating: stacked (8.5 out of 10)
-Major League Baseball
Ahh, spring is in the air and baseball is on the minds of many. Here to feed your need for fastballs is www.majorleaguebaseball.com.
In this punchy-looking site, you’ll find the highly recognizable MLB logo throughout. This is an excellent endeavor because it helps establish the MLB brand. But a problem in branding the site as MLB@BAT is that it can cause confusion over the site’s actual address.
What this site is about is, in a word, information. So, as expected, there is tons: daily news, a lot of roster detail and goodies like live-radio simulcasts. The links to the Minor League farm teams definitely keep the hard-core fans enthused, as do the fan chats and scores from games in progress, which launched on the season’s opening day, April 1.
The Roo Report, a weekly journal about life in the Minor Leagues by Shayne Bennett of the Montreal Expos farm team, is fresh because it adds the warmth that a lot of sites lack.
The requisite shopping section has posters, trading card sets and action figures from companies like Fleer and Kenner, as well as links to the manufacturers’ sites. The ingenious element is that in following any link, you don’t actually leave the MLB site.
A very important component is the section honoring Jackie Robinson, the first player to break the color barrier. Here, you’ll find a biography of his accomplishments (the RealAudio speech by Willie Mays is cool), as well as significant details about the Negro Leagues of pro baseball.
For the younger set, the entire Kids area is well integrated and encourages fans to write stories and send e-mail.
Contests like the Baseball Fantasy Contest-in which you can win an appearance on Fox Sports’ In the Zone TV show-are pretty righteous, and the video game reviews and tips on card collecting are right on point.
Finally, the downloadable video game demos are brilliant. These are definitely a hot ticket right now, and work like a pack mule to promote sales.
This site is super solid because it works hard to keep fans happy, and in doing so, supports its brands (every single Major and Minor League team). When you keep people happy, they’ll keep coming back for more. This site is all good.
Overall rating: slider (9 out of 10)