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 latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertaiment industry.
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Enhanced CDs offer consumers the opportunity to learn more about their favorite artists. They can also allow the artists and their respective record companies to learn more about their fans.
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You may or may not have heard of them, but quite a few youngsters have. That’s because a lot of their favorite bands are on discs that are enhanced. Enhanced CDs (ECDs) are a little item existing primarily in the musical domain, and for those who have experienced their brilliance, there is no turning back. Even better, it’s only a matter of time before the masses get a taste.
ECDs are the soft-spoken sister of audio CDs and CD-ROMs. And as with any Cinderella story, the ECD is the sibling with all of the outstanding traits-in this case, it’s the digital sound of CDs and the multimedia capabilities of CD-ROMs.
The discs span a wide variety of music genres, from rap to rock to alternative music. Their content most often consists of video interviews with the artists, behind-the-scenes footage, biographies and information, as well as the music, of course. Really, they are limited only by the creativity of the developer.
One of the more interesting ECDs recently released was produced by Nettmedia for Loud Music and featured the Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group. A quick spin of the disc, entitled Wu-Tang Forever, reveals an interactive ‘Wu Mansion,’ a 3-D environment where each member of the group has his own interactive chamber of content. The feel is intentionally video game-like because the group members themselves are big video game fans. Additionally, the CD includes password-protected content (audio tracks and music videos) that necessitates that users cruise to the Web site to retrieve the access codes!
What makes the disc a little more special than most, however, is that it comes bundled with AOL software offering a free on-line connection (50 free hours on AOL). The setup is received by the consumer directly from the disc and the software takes you right to the Wu-Tang Web site, where you can download info about the artists and get the passwords. This is the first BMG release to take advantage an agreement between BMG and AOL to make the software available on select BMG products.
What’s funny is that for all of the goodwill this disc establishes through building a strong relationship with consumers, the associated sites do very little to support the disc’s efforts. The Wu-Tang Web site (www.loud.com/wu/wu.html) is less than robust, particularly in light of the calibre of existing youth-targeted sites (see a review of the top Web sites of 1997 in KidScreen’s January 1998 issue, page 79). The content on the Loud site (www.loud.com) in general is uninspired; other than an on-line contest and links to the secret codes, only some artist reviews and a few real-time audio and video downloads are of any interest.
One site that does a much better job is Bug Juice (www.bugjuice.com), where you’ll find an ECD link on the opening page. If you follow it, you get help, hints, and titles of actual ECDs-each of which is a link to the respective Web site. But once again, when you arrive at each one, there is little or no mention of the discs’ enhanced content. Some more development work is in order in all cases.
The goal of an on-line presence is to work within a business model that ultimately generates some form of payback. Agreements like the one between AOL and BMG are win-win because they tend to bring significantly more traffic to a Web site, they garner increased subscriptions for Internet service providers (like AOL) and they keep music customers happy and interested. Expect to see more partnerships of this type in the future.
In the ultimate model, an ECD entices its owner to visit the Web site, which then provides timely information (something that ECDs can’t do), dynamic content, games, contests and merchandise. In return, the site retrieves information about customers through membership form data (one Loud Music ECD directed consumers to its Web site and retrieved over 25,000 names) to help develop consumer databases and execute more effective marketing and promotions. It makes you wonder about all of the missed opportunities out there.
For now, ECD developers like Nettmedia, striving to create entertainment both on the Web and on the discs themselves, are bringing artists, music labels and consumers all closer together. Not bad for one 5-inch disc!
CD. Compact Disc. An audio disc with digital sound reproduction-superior sound and durability.
CD-ROM. Compact Disc Read Only Memory. A multimedia data disc that stores information processed through your computer.
Enhanced CD (ECD). The combination of a CD’s high- quality audio with the multimedia capabilities of CD-ROMs. Can be played in audio equipment (for music only) or in CD ROM drives to access the video (and audio) components.
DVD and DVD-ROM. Digital Video Disc/Digital Versatile Disc. The newest multimedia technology, providing higher-quality video than laser discs or VHS. DVD players are compatible with audio CDs but have superior storage capacity. Expect high-resolution movies, videos, pictures, games, text and information.
Next month, ‘The Cyber Space’ listens in to some on-line chat rooms and looks at the ways in which movies and television shows are using them to their advantage.