Bologna Book Fair: Where are Kids Today?            

Like so many conferences since the start of the pandemic, this year’s Bologna Book Fair took place online. We’ve been IRL attendees in the Digital Hall for a number of years now, and have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with some of the world’s top children’s app developers, hear the latest developments from the digital platforms, learn from the fair’s affiliation with Dust or Magic, and of course, experience some of the best gastronomy the city has to offer!

Our participation this year was in a panel alongside David Kleeman of Dubit and Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot, and was delivered in connection with The Children’s Media Conference. Addressing the key question of Where are Kids Today? David’s presentation outlined some of Dubit’s brilliant research into the latest trends in children’s media consumption patterns, whereas our MD, Juliet Tzabar, chose to focus on some concrete examples of content to have emerged during the past pandemic year, tied into some of those trends.

The top trends and content that we chose to focus on were: 

The Metaverse: this emerging term relates to an always-on, global space, where kids play, watch, learn, shop, and socialise in one place, and kids’ favourite destinations such as Fornite and Roblox are providing its perfect expression.  After the success of the in-world Marshmello concert of 2019, Fortnite launched Party Royale mode - a violence-free party zone, with mini games, concerts with live performers, and, of course, vending machines that squirt burger sauce! Roblox continues to deliver a highly engaging digital space for kids, and a number of brands are heading in there to engage directly with their audience - recently, doll play brand, LOLSurprise emerged onto the platform, allowing  players to mix and match outfits and take part in virtual dance-offs. 

Digital Learning: in a year of home schooling, education has come off of the laptop and onto mobile devices and platforms.  Tik Tok initiated a $15m investment to seed learning content on the platform, featuring new ‘Edfluencers’ such as astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, ensuring that #learnontiktok is way more than just dance moves. 

Co-viewing: families spending more time together during the pandemic has led to an increase in co-viewing, which is expected to stay.  It’s hard to remember that Disney Plus is only 18 months old in the UK, but already with over 95 million subscribers.  As co-viewing takes hold, the audience is aging up and new Disney content on the channel is appealing well beyond childhood. Netflix launched Teleparty providing an opportunity for friends to watch content together in sync and comment live, replicating IRL occasion viewing.  

Social: As adults we tend to believe that all video chat happens on Zoom, but House Party has been the kids’ preferred platform providing video chat rooms, and opportunities to VC alongside live gaming with friends.  Their partnership with Fortnite was particularly popular.  Discord, started as a gamer’s chat platform, and wasn’t originally targeted at kids, but sure enough, the kids came and made it their own, requiring the platform to seriously address child-safety, with their “Keep me safe” button. Finally, Instagram is now being used as a video storytelling platform for extended narratives, and The Portal, made by the Kissinger Twins, is a wonderfully creative use of the social network.  The sci-fi thriller with an ecological bent, tells the story of 15 year old Anna, who discovers a portal into the future, with a narrative told via her diaries, in 15 episodes and 400 instagram stories.

Physical: Being house-bound during lockdown, children have been watching and participating with sport and physical activity in new ways.   Last year saw the Premier League Invitational, in which Premier League football players played Fifa 20 with live Sky Sports commentary - a new way to participate when the stadiums were closed.  UK children got used to their PE lessons happening in their front rooms with Joe Wicks on Youtube, and more recently he's been joined by Hey Duggee. Moving from Youtube onto apps has been Cosmic Kids Yoga, with over a million subscribers.  This move from Youtube into apps has been something of a trend, following the challenges of the changed advertising rules on Youtube, VOD apps are providing kids with a safe, walled garden from which to consume video content, and a new business model for its creators.

Mindful: Reflecting adult trends and potentially symptomatic of the stressful times in which we live, mindfulness is also becoming a focus for kids’ content creators. The Moshi Monsters are back with Moshi Sleep Stories created to calm children down before bed.  Moshi's sister app, Calm, who first established sleep stories for adults, is also doing brand partnerships with kids’ brands such as the Thomas & Friends stories, read by Kate Winslet.

That ends our round-up - we really enjoyed participating in the Bologna Book Fair virtual edition and very much hope to participate again in person next year.  We hope that you find something useful here.  You can watch the presentation in full using the following Youtube link and if you want to learn more about the metaverse, try David's article here.


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