"Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About" - Kids' Pathways to Content (Part 2)

David Kleeman

In the first posting in this series, we looked at the broad landscape for children’s media, and how a tidal wave of content has both frustrated young people and shaped their behaviours in discovery and engagement with content.

In this second post, we’ll explore more deeply how to support initial discovery – how young people hear about new content.

The most powerful form of promotion for content is word of mouth, whether it comes from a peer or a family member. So, the best possible way to spread brand awareness is to create content that’s easily described and discussed, and ideally simple to share (whether in person or digitally). “Baby Shark” is a notable example of clear and contagious content (an earworm never hurts), and “Fortnite” dominates playground conversation (and dancing) with frequently refreshed skins, weapons and more.

Not surprisingly, television advertising has waned some as an influence on discovery; still, it remains kids’ top source and the most effective paid-for platform driving purchase consideration. As recently as 2015 it dominated the category with 42% of respondents finding their next new thing via adverts. By 2018, it was down to 28%.

Some “new kids on the block” ate into TV’s share. Algorithmic recommendations based on content previously watched didn’t register at all in Dubit’s 2015 Trends study; now it’s at 13%. SVOD services – Netflix in particular – have honed their algorithms and their presentation of new content. They’ve gained the trust of young people that the suggestions are at least worth a try, and often binge-worthy. Like the TV channels of the 90s, shows are placed against specific emotional profiles and built into stacks of related content and thematic promotion.

In mid-March, Netflix announced a new tool that may provide a further boost. Netflix has always used a character bar to help children choose an appealing character; now, an avatar from one of the streamer’s original series will speak, telling users more about each offering. You can imagine this being integrated in the near future with voice assistants, such that children too young to type will be able to interact with a visual and voice character that will lead them to a satisfying content. Voice assistants have the potential to “rebundle” all the content that’s come unbundled, searching across platforms for the IP, everywhere it sits.

If you combine the influence of ads on YouTube and recommendations from YouTubers (both 22%), they certainly eat into television advertising’s sway. The pull of YouTubers has actually declined a bit since 2015, based on negative press and increased parental concerns about who’s influencing their kids.

There is a real need for YouTubers to begin curating and maintaining a consistent and trusted brand, but this isn’t easy with metrics urging as many views as possible and no guidelines such as a linear channel would have.

That is happening, driven by the creators and not the platform, as MCNs like Wildbrain and Moonbug become increasingly effective at serving the next best piece of content. For older kids, networks of related YouTubers around Fortnite, Minecraft, and other games and experiences form useful-channel like experiences.

What gets kids talking about your content? Dubit Trends asked 2-15 year olds what topics were most frequent in their conversations, and found they no longer talk most about videos they’ve watched. Now, video games have risen to the top (mostly among 8-15s), followed by toys, holidays and sports before video (where 2-4s lead the way). Digging deeper, Fortnite still dominates the schoolyard banter, with Minecraft and Roblox near the top; upcoming holidays (Halloween and Christmas in this Trends wave) are near the top, but specific TV shows are well down the list.

There are a couple of small lessons, and one big one, to take away from these findings.

The small ones are not to abandon television advertising as a means of promotion, but since it’s an expensive venture and beyond many IPs’ marketing budget, put your primary focus on getting young people talking about you. To do that, provide a hook on which to hang the conversation. Connect your content to something happening in their real world – a holiday or a season, an upcoming event or a timely piece of kid culture. Distribute your content and any supplementary “goodies” in ways that are easy to capture and share onwards.

These are great tactics, but the big strategic lesson is to ensure that your content is aligned with kids’ classic ways of engaging and enjoying content, playing and learning. Jeff Bezos says that people often ask him what’s likely to change in the coming decade, but seldom ask him what he believes is a more important question – what’s not likely to change. Find the core behaviors that drive choice and commitment and look for new ways to apply them.

That’s what we’ll cover in the next installment, on “gaming” systems to support audience retention.

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