Los Angeles: Media company Walt Disney Co., concerned that its main website is not entertaining enough, is moving once again to overhaul Disney.com.
It will be the second makeover for the site in recent times, which is still the top Internet destination for children’s entertainment, but faces increasing competition from players such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and WebKinz.
The changes, scheduled to take place over the next few months, will introduce more free videos to the site (including full-length movies such as Finding Nemo) as well as more games and things for visitors to do with their cellphones. For instance, little girls (or bigger ones) who create fairy avatars in a virtual world called Pixie Hollow will be able to use their cellphones to create pet butterflies for their fairies.
No longer will the site ask youngsters to navigate through categories such as Movies, TV and Live Events. New options will include Games, Videos and Characters and will emphasize how to find immediate entertainment.
It is also no accident that video search pages will look similar to those of YouTube: Disney designers worked to incorporate certain YouTube hallmarks, figuring that kids had grown accustomed to viewing Web video in that manner.
“It’s a repositioning of our digital front door,” said Paul Yanover, executive vice-president and managing director of Disney Online.
The previous changes to the website, a much more complex effort that first appeared in January 2007, was intended to capitalize more fully on hot franchises while making the site easier to navigate.
Those modifications have been considered a success, increasing monthly unique visitors to Disney.com by about 40%, according to the Internet audience measurement company comScore Media Metrix.
But the effort was too modest, particularly in the area of Web video, says Steve Wadsworth, president of the Walt Disney Internet Group. “Our initial instincts were right,” he said. “We just need to take it much further.”
Of particular concern for Disney is how long the average visitor spends on its site. In May, the average user spent 44.9 minutes on Disney.com, according to comScore.
In comparison, Nickelodeon’s cluster of family- and child-oriented sites kept May visitors busy for 79.8 minutes, mostly because of the game site Neopets.com.
With the changes, Disney is trying to position its website more as a place that entertains and less of one that exists to promote Disney wares.
Video is the central component of the effort. Until now, the site has mostly offered video clips and episodes of television shows. But more original video is on the way.
Wadsworth and his team are also working harder to link cellphones and Disney.com. So far, its mobile offerings for youngsters—notably constrained by the slow adoption of next-generation handsets in the US—have centred on casual games or personalization items such as ringtones.
But Disney sees an opportunity to create an immersive experience that spans from the Internet to the cellphone.
Consider Pixie Hollow, an expanding virtual world on Disney.com that is built around Tinker Bell. (Visitors create a fairy avatar and then mingle with others in a fantasy world, playing games and decorating make-believe houses.)
Scott A. Ellison, an analyst with IDC, a market research firm, said that mobile offerings such as those would help Disney gain a competitive edge. “I think what they’re doing is really advanced and will be very compelling to the target demographic,” he said.
©2008/The New York Times