Greg Skinner (email@example.com) 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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1997 saw a lot of innovation introduced on Web sites. Video, sound and motion all showed up on the scene and each had a major impact in allowing site content to hit its stride. Competition in the virtual domain is heating up and challenging companies to present higher-calibre information and entertainment.
In our review of the best sites of the year, we present five cyberspace champions, each one stellar in presentation, content, form and usability. More importantly, each goes above and beyond the call of duty to please its target audience.
This year, creators and proprietors of Web sites will have a lot of thinking to do. Increased access to on-line environments means that visitors are becoming more savvy and demanding, so Web sites must become finely tuned media vehicles to have a significant impact.
New media, including enhanced CDs, streaming audio and video, cybercasts and channels, will have a huge impact on the Web environment in 1998. Cyberspace is quickly becoming hyperspace! For the time being, here are some of the best the Web has to offer.
*Best overall site
Focus: Quenching a thirst for info and entertainment.
Site content: Movies, music, sports, games and contests-there is something here for everyone.
Presentation: Incredibly slick images throughout make everything very sleek and high tech-very `90s indeed.
Site dynamics: A first-class surf because there is so little scrolling involved. Long download times detract somewhat from the excellent content.
Marketing support: Pepsi to the max, with excellent ties to numerous other brands, such as Sony PlayStation, and lots of chances to win Pepsi Stuff.
Innovation: Check out the Movies section-the trailers are intense and make full use of the site’s audio and video capabilities. Bangin’.
*Best information detail
Six Flags Theme Parks (www.sixflags.com)
Focus: A theme park extravaganza.
Site content: Tons of information about the Six Flags nearest you. Lots of pictures and video bring the information to life.
Presentation: Excellent use of color. Characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy, Batman and Robin put Six Flags high on kids’ lists of places to go.
Site dynamics: Well organized, with a simple presentation that makes the enormous amount of content a cinch to sift through.
Marketing support: DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes characters pervade the site.
Innovation: The Perfect Day Planner lets you select attractions of interest to create a customized park directory. Combined with the Calendar of Events, these features are planning heaven.
Curiocity’s FreeZone (www.freezone.com)
Focus: An on-line community for kids.
Site content: Games, advice, inquiries and opportunities for kids to submit stories, solve puzzles, learn weird facts (yeah!) and become junior reporters. The site allows FreeZone members to add to the content as they see fit.
Presentation: Robust colors, interesting logos and continually refreshed banner ads that are as sprightly as the content itself.
Site dynamics: The use of frames makes it easy for visitors to jump between areas of interest.
Marketing support: Numerous ads link you to other sites, such as Disney Blast, Awesome Games and Discovery Channel. The site also offers promotions and contests. Excellent support on all fronts.
Innovation: The DreamWorks-based content is just OK, but its positioning on the FreeZone site is an excellent way to capture a lot of kid traffic.
Marvel Online (AOL keyword: Marvel; www.marvel.com; www.marvelzone.com)
Focus: Proliferation of the Marvel universe.
Site content: CyberComics, chat, trivia, information on characters and Quake downloads!
Presentation: Real-time chat with industry stars, excellent in-yo’-face colors, seamless transitions between the sites.
Site dynamics: Access to AOL grants you free admission to marvelzone.com, a paid members-only service for visitors on the Net.
Marketing support: Marvel’s brands all the way-goodies include CD-ROMs, software and toys, books and, of course, comics.
Innovation: Marvel Online’s CyberComics are king. Remember Virtual Comics from ‘The top kids Web sites of 1996′ (see KidScreen’s January 1997 issue, page 84)? Well, Marvel Online takes on-line comics to the next level.
Cartoon Network World
(AOL keyword: CNW)
Focus: The channel and its shows.
Site content: Lots of lively chats, program schedules, a message board with thousands of posted messages, and contests that require players to watch TV to win (brilliant).
Presentation: The site encourages a LOT of interaction with visitors, including trivia, contests, show information and forums to get your opinion across. The site’s a haven for CNW enthusiasts.
Site dynamics: Set in the easy-to-use, albeit somewhat unimaginative, AOL environment, the content makes the site worthwhile.
Marketing support: The site supports each and every show as much as it does Cartoon Network.
Innovation: Cartoon Network has made this site the place to go for enthusiasts to spread their love of `toons. Everybody, look and learn.
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Coming in February
KidScreen is revamping its New Media section. In place of ‘Site seeing,’ next month, KidScreen introduces ‘The Cyber Space,’ a regular column analyzing the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. ‘The Cyber Space’ will also include more in-depth site reviews. In February, ‘The Cyber Space’ will check out the music industry’s activities on-line, with a special focus on enhanced CDs.