Computer and mobile device users view four billion videos on YouTube every day. They post 60 minutes worth of video every second, which translates to a century’s worth of video posted every 10 days. In fact, more videos have been uploaded on YouTube in the past 30 days than ABC, CBS, and NBC have aired in the past 60 years. Meanwhile, Facebook users – numbering more than any single country’s population, except China’s and India’s – upload 250 million photos and change 13.5 million profile pictures every day.
“This is what you’re up against,” said Victor Lee, v-p of digital marketing at Hasbro, who delivered these statistics in his opening keynote at the 2013 Digital Kids conference, held alongside Toy Fair at the Javits Center earlier this week. “How do you set yourself apart? How do you break through? How do you break out?”
Noting that 60% of online videos attract under 500 views and 90% less than 5,000 views, Lee advised studying how a child interacts with your content before embarking on a digital strategy. He also stressed the importance of good, unique storytelling that does not duplicate what can be found in other venues, and of pushing and promoting the content through multiple channels. “If you embrace [digital technology], that’s good, but you have to understand it,” he said.
An exhibitor at the small Digital Kids trade show, Ian Douthwaite, CEO of Dubit, explained to PW, “You have to find the essence of what a book is about and translate that to what kids are expecting now.” Dubit creates apps and virtual worlds for book, magazine, and entertainment brands.
Dubit’s research division, which has worked with Random House UK and other clients, has found that children interact with book brands online in a non-linear manner, and that they love additional information like recipes or maps, along with characters and environments. In one study, Dubit asked kids to read Swiss Family Robinson and give their impressions. They saw the plot as a game: in order to eat, the family has to figure out how to build a bridge to get across the river where the animals are, find wood to build a fire, and other challenges.
Digital technologies can add those features, while maintaining the book’s plot as the spine, Douthwaite says. “It’s not replacing the book, it’s enhancing the book.”
Digital content was ubiquitous at Toy Fair, of course. A large percentage of toys came with free apps – often accessed by scanning a part of the toy, like the wallpaper in a dollhouse – that unlock bonus content; “augmented reality” apps that bring an aspect of a toy or game to life through video or gaming; and toys that combine physical and digital components. The last trend was spurred in part by the success of Activision’s Skylanders toy-and-interactive franchise, which has sold more than 100 million toys and accessories and generated more than $1 billion in retail sales worldwide in 15 months, according to the company.
Several publishers at Toy Fair said they were creating e-books or enhanced e-books based on some of their titles, but few had technology components that complemented their products in a way that parallels the toy industry. Still, they are feeling the impact of technology.
“Everything is digital,” says Shari Kaufman, president of innovativeKids, which has been moving toward a larger percentage of toy product and a lower percentage of books among its offerings. “We’re more deliberate about the books we publish. We realized we needed to figure out a way to rethink our strategy [to emphasize] more hands-on activities.” innovativeKids also is building a digital strategy for its Now I’m Reading book series.