Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sesame Street Relaunch

There's a great article by Elizabeth Jensen in today's New York Times about Sesame Workshop's massive overhaul of its SesameStreet.org website. The article focuses on the organization's use of child-centred design research in the planning of its new site. Here's an excerpt:
Like the "Sesame Street" television show, the site was based on research. In this case it involved about 100 children of all socioeconomic levels at three preschools in the New York area, said Glenda Revelle, vice president for research for Sesame’s digital content. The research found that children did not want a linear television-like experience on the Web site, she said, and that online as on television, they responded strongly to having a Muppet guide them.

So unlike other Web sites, which rely heavily on Flash animation, this one features a live-action Muppet video that welcomes children with a new educational theme every day.

The hope is that the site will eventually become the main point of entry for the Sesame Street audience. And in keeping with tradition, the site is aimed at lower-income kids, so the plan is no monthly subscriptions. The site will also introduce a new safety option - Playsafe, a proprietary, trademarked, downloadable program that makes it difficult for children to leave the Sesame website.

Hmmmm...digital playpen, or forced brand loyalty? Just because it's Sesame Street doesn't mean we shouldn't question the motives behind forcing kids to stay on one commercial website. For all its awesomeness and goodwill, Sesame Workshop is still a global media giant - with annual revenues nearing $100 million, and multiple licensing initiatives underway.

Anyway, the site relaunches on August 11th, but will be previewed at this weekend's BlogHer conference.

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