Site seeing

Greg Skinner ( is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf...
December 1, 1997

Greg Skinner ( is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the ways that marketers are promoting their products and brands on-line.

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America Online is home to some pretty unique properties, in addition to being a high traffic area. Often, if you are a corporate entity, you can stake out an area there to differentiate yourself and make sure that you are seen. This month, we check out two sites that use AOL, linked with the Internet, to get themselves noticed.

*ABC Kidzine

keyword: Kidzine

ABC on AOL. That’s right, ABC has an area on AOL called Kidzine. AOL is renowned for being a family-friendly, family-focused environment, and being here makes ABC’s wares more accessible than ever.

KO (Kids Only) Central is where ABC is located, a very popular place for kid-oriented material-Cartoon Network World, DC Comics and Nickelodeon are all here.

To really get a good view of the Kidzine site and what it accomplishes, it’s best to step back and look at it as a whole. Do this, and you’ll notice two distinct content components: a group of areas on AOL (Newz, Gamez, Fanzine and so on) that together form an arena for kids to work through and interact with each other, and an area on the Internet ( that puts several ABC shows, including Teen Angel and Boy Meets World, and their associated stars front and center. The former does a highly competent job of offering lots of interesting little elements, each section hosting plenty of games, puzzles and the usual array of activities. It is, however, a little bland in its delivery, with nothing particularly spectacular or unique about it.

In the case of the latter, which highlights ABC’s Friday night lineup, one excellent feature is Line Chat, where you can talk with the hot (and often young) stars of various shows. AOL is renowned for hosting real-time chat environments and doing a good job at it. Line Chat is a brilliant concept that lets the TV personalities interact with ‘regular people.’ Because fans rarely get access to their heroes in real life, opportunities like this only bolster their enthusiasm for the shows.

Further supporting the Friday night offerings are links to more games, mail to your favorite stars (in the Ask ABC area) and a Gossip section, which serves as a nice little promotional tool to say what is coming up. The gem of the bunch-once it’s up and running-will surely be the Newsletter, which could be a top-notch way to collect information on viewers, all the while maintaining their interest and loyalty.

On a technical level, everything is here. On an executional level, the site is suffering a little from a lack of ingenuity and uniqueness. No question, there is a good amount of entertainment content, but the site is relatively unspectacular in the way it brings it all home. Not to say that it has done a bad job, but for now it’s just ice cream without the sprinkles.

Overall rating: vanilla (7 out of 10)

*Marvel Online

keyword: Marvel

A tour of the Marvel universe is quite an interesting adventure, if only because it sprawls across cyberspace-some of it is located on AOL, some at and more at, with each location offering something a little different from the next. (AOL members can enter free of charge, but visitors on the Web must sign up as paid subscribers.)

It’s surprising the number of commodities and communication media Marvel’s offerings transcend: TV, books, video games, clothing, children’s software, comics, and on and on. Currently, the AOL Marvel Store features a promotion of Toy Biz’s Marvel action figures.

Together, the three Marvel on-line environments make up one of the most interactive settings out there. The CyberComics (interactive on-line comic books), located at, are smokin’, leaps and bounds ahead of other sites. Each frame has lots of movement, color and sound, and the dialogue advances with each click of the mouse. Damn cool, because these interactive components enhance the viewing experience, instead of being quick gimmicks.

Another big draw? The X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse download for Quake (the shoot-`em-up game that has cultivated a huge on-line culture). The fact that Marvel is offering this demo is important, and smart, because it helps Marvel seed its brands into other applications and platforms.

And finally, the AOL environment is host to ever-ongoing chat sessions with industry stars. These on-line forums are always full of inquisitive minions eager to talk to story editors, writers and artists. Events such as these are great because they establish dialogues between guest speakers and visitors. More importantly, they maintain excitement about the products and spur demand at a consumer level.

This much exposure generates a lot of value for the brand and each Marvel property. Collectively, the multiple sites encourage a lot of traffic and retail sales. At the same time, they cultivate an environment with a high level of feedback and the opportunity to scout future talent. This is an amazing use of the tools at Marvel’s disposal, and as the technology continues to progress, the sites can only get better.

Overall rating: strong contender for site(s) of the year (9 out of 10)

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