The Futures of Children’s Media
Children’s media has long been an innovator in creating new ways of storytelling. In a digital era, what emerging practices are changing the ways in which stories are being told to children, and what are the challenges unique to children’s properties in an online communication environment?
Moderator: Sarah Banet-Weiser (University of Southern California)
Panelists: Melissa Anelli (The Leaky Cauldron), Gary Goldberger (FableVision) and John Bartlett (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
SB: Thinking about shape of children’s media in digigal media, about digital practices in telling stories to kids, what media for kids, storytelling, creativity, privacy, the market, have a diferent resonance for kids media. How should we be marketing, the differences betwen programming and marketing etc.
As a way to get it started, will take some of the questions from the last panel that was in the back channel. One of them was about ADD storytelling, Is there a way in which the multi-platform worls, how to take it into consideration when develiping for kids, especially if real area of ADD
JB: our view is platfom specific, to take advantage of that platform. Each of those has capabilities and has unique audience, we are looking at which makses sense for each platform
GG: Agree. Being looking at iPad, we are trying to create stories we wnat kids to read, but putting a lots of things on top of it which is distracting. It is changing the nature of stories. It’s a young media. Still need to learn what works
SB: you were clear in intro, that this is not about the gamification of education…
GG: it is a dilemma, who do we create enhancement but not distract from learning and reading. Need to balance
MA: with Harry Potter, there was a big buzz about bringing kids to reading..code for it was a really good story adn that was attracting kids. It was a great narrative and that worked, When on other platforms, there are issues..the video games. The EA games and the lego games. The Lego games are successful as keep it true to what they are – lego! EA beautiful, but missed some of the points. With ebooks, it would be a natural progression…but interaction is different, it is ayoung medium, so where does the narrative meet the medium
JB: adding multimedia is a positive, but it adds to the story, if we get kids to come back to the product because oif a great experience, that is what this is about, to get more reading. If the product is more engaging, it is still about the written word, but the added stuff srives people to it
SB: There is a moral panic about kids and ipads etc, the same that comes up with everything new…last panel had a question about YA fiction, kids fiction, there is an emergence ogf it/ From HP,etc, how does that come into play when looking at games/products
GG: it’s the content. We try and set up what a good story is and get out of the way, let people create around the space and then share it, beyond storytellers to us as platform developers
MA: is this a resurgence or just a final emergence It’s nver been more popular, Lots of brilliant authers. Now huge generation of readers, passionate readers, now paying off. At the last LeakyCOn, it was about the love of reading. 12-17 were so passionate, clamouring about getting the autograph. Green now has a videoblog, on YT, and discusses lots of things, getting people involved. THe video helps, drives to the story.,If a good story,t he format of the story is an aid to me…
SB: do the new platforms give kids new tools
MA: yes. and gives them a way to see the people who create the stories in new ways. Author is not a mystery…makes it more doable and attrractive to them, so they kids can do it
SB: SInce you mentioned YT, the video of the 5 year old singing NIcky Menage, with tutus, got lots of hits…came up in classes…then she was on the Ellen show…the cynical question…the promise of a social media site about charactter building etc, builds otehr things like the self bramd encourages monetisation…it becomes abour getting discovered..how do you wrestle with that?
JB: it’s about the player being put into the game, earning rewards. The kids wants to particpaite, and the more we can do this, the more they play. they want to see how they do, how they keep score. And lots of apps are doing this
MA: the fame monster lurks over the self-participation model…brings it back to Green vlogging, started about self-promotion. Started having discourse with audience…treating them as people who could have intelllectual discourse. Eg one of the books was being looked at with a sex scene, had a very intelligent conversation about the scene and how not pornography; give people a chance to show best side they will respond
GG: 80% is under 13 kids, we try and get people not to upload kids to YT…We put so many gates in that you can’t get kids information but the parents are not as educated and we need to do a better job about this. Look at Togetherville, A FB for families, safe for families to communicate..there will be new biz models and structure forming
SB: both painted a complicated picture, we need to remember complexity. there are obvious ways you can look at lots of videos, and talk about the parents, and the issue of not upaloding the kids…that also places blame on the individuals, but it is a larger issue of culture of visibility, of recognition. It is fame monster, recognition. SM is the new narrative of discovery, if discovery is still the goal, equals commerical success it is not just about parental permission
MA: there is also naivity of parents, they think it’s cute, want to share then it blows up. Most are more aware, but you just think its funny and then it’s owned by the whole world
SB: parents thinking kids are really cute and YT worthy!!!
GG: my kids would love to be on YT…
SB: a friend of mine put kid of YT a few years ago…what was interesting and disturbing was she was interested in was how many hits she had (the kid)…it was about the idea of how many hoits did i get today. Need to keep this when talking about kids media….so how do the priovacy questions come into play when telling new stories to kids, not just COPA, in the content of story does provacy come into place
JB: we look at virtual worlds and privacy is key. Up to teh proivacy to guard the privacy of the individual and this is happening in most products, pretty good tools to protect privacy. It is growing, kids want social games and we need to find ways to keep them protected. Plus community management
GG: a couple of groups using stories to teach citisenship. They are using story to teach the lessons
SB: last panel, people under 35 have to think about privacy different? How about kids?
GG: they don’t think about privacy..they know I’m playing with friend, but not that they are playing with everyone
MA: they don’t think, the parents need to instill these values to be repsonsible. It can get easy so fast, to forget that you are doing stuff, that you are making nasty comments. The more people encourage you to be repsonsible, not to out people, to share things. It’s high school without teachers punishing you. If kids, without structure, you can get people into hot water, for things that friends have said etc. My cousin posted lots of racy pictures, my thought was where was her mother…
SB: do you think…not sure that they don’t think about privacy..they don’t think about it that way. There is an understanding about disclosure…our terms are inadequate..we think of it in conventional ways regarding the media. The stories that teach privacy is interesting
GG: something that is happening and things will be released soon (don’t know much more). There is a back channel about COPA, is it out of date. I don;t know, but it is not regulated correctly, it is ill defined and there are a lot of developer hurdles.
SB: In terms of storymaking of pottermore..can you say something? We have social change, education and entertainment…there is such a push to educate when kids stuff, do you think they are converging?
JB: by age…learning is entertainment when pre-school, by audience, middle school + looking for more entertainment. So matching brand, age platform..you can’t force education stuff to high school audience not looking to receive it
GG: we work a lot in educational space. There is push to make educational system more entertaining, as it competes. There is a clash of cultures, we are trying to bring new tech into that space…the system was not created for them to move quick enough…they don;’t know how to integrate ipad into classroom. Even more so now..but publishers of content are looking to make it more engaging, not just slap a text book. They are looking at getting more data…to learn about it.
JB: one of brands is Oregan Trail…started in schools, used in supplemental way., We are looking at bringing it back in new platforms. Challenge is are schools opening, to take game and use it for teaching., So how do you sell it into the schools in that context. Schools focus on core curriculum and supplemental is a much tougher thing. Tech is there, we can create great stuff, how do you fit it in
GG: met the creator of Oregan Trail last week and the question was about why platforms were not made to go into school. It went away from the data and darkness etc, wnet more to game mechanics and shoorting
JB: we launched on mobile, tabliet next week and it is on Facebook. The goal is to get it back into the classroom. We know what we want the game to do, talked to social studies to see how it look slike, that is not the challenge, it is the distribution, how to sell. Look at Minecraft, becoming huge, schools are using that even though not designed for school, but kids love it/ We need to get it into a few schools and see it get traction
MA: with oregan trail, i loved, hugely educational and big part of growing up. THe ompetus for Pottermore, it is a book that we cherish, how do we cherish it in new ways. If you do that with Oregan trail, if there was a clamour for it, distribution is easy.
JB: we are looking at leveraging how to take dev on opne platform and take it elsewhere, take FB and bring it into the school. LEveraging over multiple investments
SB: pick up about educational system being outdated..there are so many different standards, etc across states. There is a model of education that does not work..what about online communities, where particpatory cultures for kids as sites for learning
GG: the virtual schools community is growing every year,. eg K12. You can get home school stuff on line. You can get a curriculum experience online. We don’t have individaulise dlearning, we need persistant data, to get content to each student. Would like to see it go there.
SB: Differentiating audiences, How do you cary investment, marketing, etc on different audiences. How to do that when marketing to kids, with different groups. Student, gamer, consumer etc
JB: from our perspective, wnat to know how to monetise it. Subscription. micropayments, ad based, It is a balance across all 3, for each product…virtual world, should there be ads etc.
GG: a lot of talk, about contributors, one of goals to make the percent of contributors widers, we want more divers, get more kids creating content in safe spaces. How do we do that conversion?
MA: THe HP community is full of divers, one thing we are seeing at conferences, we are celbrating all that content creation, It’s not just the book..it’s the wizard raock band, the musical, the books inspired by, So many avenues, we celebrate. People want to celbrate creativity, with good spirit and joy.
GG: Is there conflict? different interpretations
MA: yes, we have fights…we have xome out of it with an understanding and the culture has evolved to accept this
Q: if kids are in a popular YT video that raises money..why assume it is dangerous?
MA: it is not in itself..but if parents take the kid on the road, or the kid is not shielded. If it imnpacts the kids perception of the world, if there is exploitation, then it is bad
SB: there is not ness an obvious downside, we need to at least have a conversation that this is a global site, and think that there are often important considerations about gender identity… not every video can be monetised…the ones that are most popular follow the typical gender scripts. We nee dot think about it as a new narrative of discovery, a new trajective
Q: Kids are often adopters of new tech, how does htat impact storytelling
GG: Toontastic, a way of creating new stories, Seeing new toys, that connect with RC cars..interesting but not enhancing story telling. Dinsey took over KErpoof, and that is great as well
JB: we are looking at connecting a parent on FB and a childs app, and the ability to communicate between new platforms, that would be unique
MA: all this ipad stuff is amazing for kids storytelling
Q: educational materials, provide rich content..limitations is that can’t achieve whole learning goals, other platforms can contribute.,..to learning goals. Getting verification of other channels
GG: there is so much, even politicvally there can be false information pushed, it is a big challenge….in educational space, it is important to know where the info is coming from. So the Hub, from Hasbro and Discovery..is this commericals, eg My Little Pony show.. the hub is a 24 hour commercial.
SB: the blurring of boundaries…there’s a way in which the blurring of boundaries is more diffuse than the obvious, the MLP…online worlds. How does branding in programme narrative, does it spoil the story. That is so routine in media, in kids media, the presence of brands, partof structruing narrative of stories told.
JB: not changed all that much,,there were cartoon channels, that were entertainment, and other programmes educational. They have always existed..parents responsibility to split them
GG: but now they are doing everything, the distributor etc. they have more control Who is controlling it
Q: Can you speak about kids becoming more active participants? Become partof content creation?
MA: it has never been easier than now, it will always get easier., You create something…and it can publish it immediately., That creates a mountain of content, but you have to encourage controls of content, you get loads of bad, with the good. You still need to encourage sharing, creation etc, need to encourage an attitude of wanting people to see it but thinking about getting editing, advice etc. While freeing, it can be a little bit much if not encouraging quality as well…it’s never been easier, but isa that always a fantastic thing. It is part of growing and shaping, peopel see success, then they want to copy. Natural evolution…I’m pro, think it’s grat kids get past the fear, build an immunity to it
GG: the Zimmer twins, a tool to create stuff to go on broadcast. Also working with a partner where kids can do DIY projects and learn about instructional writing etc, the DIY movement, Make movement pushes us that was as way
JB: froma dev standpoint, you get focus groups, user feedback ther eis a bandwidth issue in terms of go to market. YOu can come up with V2 very quickly. You see the product launched and change to feedback
SB: so backchannel question, how does digitial content leave behind groups. Not all can do this. It’s not about sheer economics…but it has never been easier…but the authorising of writing a book, or if everyone can when everyone can’t
GG: We have an ‘ish system, it can be ‘ish. One of the biggest sellers is the blank book..we big believers that everyone can. We work across platforms to get everyone involved
MA: there will some form of threshold, even with books. It’s harder, if you want to create video masterpeice. It is allpossible, it is about creating the culture when it is natural to create.
Q: Can you point ot examples where cause marketing meets entertainment?
GG: Generation Cures..Zebrafish project, to get childen to get involved in philanthropic activities Tonnes of opportunities. Dinosaur Train, working with PBS, they did a geocaching progamme, announced on air etc..not cause marketing, but to kids outside
MA: the HP alliance, uses the messages to create analogies and realworld solutions…eg OccupyGringotts they use the narratives to let kids who have an activist spirit, helps then draw the line, know hwo Harry would react. With Haiti Earthquake, we raised $123k. The Vlog Brothers take over YT every year, get people to make video about cause/charity, They will pick them and then get people to take over the rankings etc
SB: interesting examples, cause marketing., Content creating…new forms, not just a PSA
Q: Ad revenue is important, but kids ads bring challenges..
JB: needs to be limited as part of the biz model, need to work as part of product, can’t be ad based model for childrens stuff. It can make sense on limited baiss
GG: respect of org that puts up content, we are self-regulating,.Wr try and retian respect of parents
Q: IMportant to have an awareness of how families shape kids..but also promises of media, designing and fostering educational play, and have kids educate parents on this new media
MA: Pottermore…such a chance for parents to sit with kids and experience a sotry together and discover things…
GG: interesting..eg Lego I would play with, A study about family activiites, it is board games. But what are new modes…lots of opportunities…we do some intergenarational game models. How can you make it in an informal space, eg museum etc. Wrestling with this now
Q: Anyone doing location base dplay, while still doing privacy..
GG: challenge is about LB and play and families thinking about the location
SB: it about different direction on teaching now as well, kids are teaching parents.