Recently, the CEOs of multi-platform digital subscription of children and family content provider Sandbox Kids and SuperAwesome, Nancy MacIntrye and Dylan Colins (respectively), sat down to discuss the changing landscape of technology, creating quality, safe digital experiences, as well as the expectations that their youthful audience now has from the content they consume. They also touched on the evolution of the entire content ecosystem, and the effect of what these new developments have meant for content creators and brands. The following are some highlights from their discussion.
Dominance of Gaming
MacIntyre attributes her realization regarding the dominance of gaming shifting to a dual-engagement from a passive experience was when mobile phones became the dominant means of communication and entertainment. She noted that it is when she started seeing moms hand their youngsters their mobile phones to keep them entertained in restaurants, that she realized that this would be the medium through which content for youth would be consumed.
From the parents’ perspective, MacIntyre notes, there was a risk-free trial of downloading apps from the app store or signing up for free trials. The content was there, readily available to acquire, with no strings attached. This helped to shift the parental dynamic in terms of how they felt about acquiring content for kids.
The numbers have proven her suspicions right. As mobile technology emerges and smartphones become more powerful devices, children’s consumption preferences gravitate to this medium over others for children under the age of 13, as well as young teenagers.
Viewership of linear televisions, for instance, has been on a steady decline for children between the ages of 7 and 9, as this generation of youngsters prefers mobile gaming instead. In a world where Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon once ruled, Minecraft and Roblox now dominate the youth entertainment scene.
The Draw of Active Participation
In terms of generation Z marketing, brands have been forced to get creative in the ways that they develop content in the form of active and passive interaction. Youth under 16 years of age are drawn to gaming ecosystems that make their favorite game characters participants in their gaming experience.
MacIntyre recalls that when she worked at Lucasfilm, there were a lot of questions when LEGO Star Wars hit the scene. While both LEGO and Star Wars were immensely dominant franchises in their own right, there was a lot of concern that nobody would want to see the two mashed together, but as it turned out, it was a widely popular combination. More than just appealing, it drew the attention of people who were excited about the idea of morphing their own Star Wars characters or their favorites into LEGO characters.
The same basic principle of transforming the game into one’s own desires and sharing it with friends applies today with games like Roblox. The game’s popularity has transcended mere gameplay, to a more dual-content experience that involves utilizing creative and imaginative methods to generate new content and share it with others with similar interests.
Instead of being guided through a story, Roblox immerses its youthful players in works where the player creates the story, while other players then get to take part in sharing this creativity for their own gaming enjoyment.
Young Audiences Are Still Underserved in the Digital Sphere
While the offerings of youth media have grown exponentially, it has a ways to go. Developers working on games and collaborating with brands for family marketing often fall into the pitfall of overfocusing on checking certain boxes rather than concentrating on the experiences that they are creating for their young viewers. The main focus seems to be in investing in the safety of children’s content, rather than focusing on making the best product possible.
Developers should strive for is to create content that will enrich the young consumers with experiences, rather than being overly concerned with the legal compliance aspect of things. As the investments in safety are quite large, developers can work with partners like Kids Web Services that specializes in digital privacy to develop a product that is both safe and high in quality.
MacIntyre suggests that content-creating companies need to focus on building their products from the ground up, with the biggest concentration factor devoted to quality and the enhancement of the youthful consumers’ experiences. After all, the way to building product longevity is not simply to market and sell it but to grow it, help it evolve, and improve its quality when shortcomings are identified. This effort will have a self-propelling effect of being popular with customers who will, in turn, continue to stay focused and loyal to their product.