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Posted by Kate, October 3, 2010

The Bookseller Children’s Conference

On Thursday, Kate took time off from Frankfurt presentations to speak at The Bookseller Children’s Conference, which focused on digital – both digital marketing and digital products. Deb came too.

It was a really good day. You could, if you wanted a blow-by-blow if (necessarily) bitty account, look at the #kidsconf hastag on Twitter.

Highlights of the conference for Kate included:

  • Adrian Hon from Six to Start, who concluded an overview of digital product innovation with his sense of trends to come which included :
  1. “The race to quality”. There’s a lot of ditigal and online rubbish out there, and consumers will become more discriminating. Kate thinks this is really true in relation to apps for children.
  2. “Disintermediation”. Creators (like authors) connecting with and selling directly to consumers (like readers). Kate thinks that this is a real risk for publishers, and that publishers have to be very clear about what they’re offering creators and consumers before assuming that they have a role to play in the supply chain. Hon also expects to see a lot of new entrants: the existing big players won’t necessarily drive innovation and success. Kate agrees.
  3. “Transmedia” . Products existing digitally and in physical form, an example of which would be Scholastic’s 39 Clues and Webkinz.
  • The truly scary (to Kate) insights into Stardoll (from Katie Bell) and the slightly less scary ones into Moshi Monsters (from Divinia Knowles).
  • Sue Cranmer of Futurelab, talking about the danger of assuming that children are digitally competent “natives” while adults are digitally incompetent”‘immigrants”, because this is not necessarily the case and it creates a divide where none needs to exist. She talked persuasively about children’s naivety in relation to the web, though, suggesting that they thought that it was regulated and authoritative, and quoting 10 year-olds saying that Mr Wikipedia was responsible for Wikipedia’s content. (Kate’s own children. roughly the same age, turned out to know that Wikipedia was written “by anyone” so “you can’t be sure it’s right but other people will check”, which suggests that they have a fair old grip of the principles.)
  • Dan Martin of Chamelion Net’s emphasis on video as an ever-increasing means of communicating with people online, and especially with teenagers. He said that YouTube serves up a billion videos a day, and that YouTube is the second most used search engine after Google.
  • Matt Locke of Channel 4 comparing the current peak oil situation to a “peak attention” situation: we are managing a precious and finite resource. He spoke, too, about the polarisation of ways we conume of content: we are either engaging in long, immersive experiences (binging on a Mad Men boxed set) or consuming content in tiny, short chunks (and this is, of course, not necessarily how traditional media presents content).
  • Justine Abbott of Aardvark Research, talking about parents becoming increasingly comfortable with allowing children screentime, and the role of the iPhone as a “free babysitter”, being used increasingly to entertain children especially when parents are out and about. As a qualitative researcher, she had some scary anecdotes like the one about the two five year-olds whose favourite game was Grand Theft Auto, and some interesting stats, like the fact that 28% of UK children aged six and younger has their own TV in their bedroom.
  • Neal Hoskins of innovative app creators Winged Chariot, who gave a candid and clear-eyed insight into his experience (more than most of us have) of delivering reading experiences into the apps market.

Kate got to go last, which made for a nerve-racking day, but allowed her to think even more about the role of the publisher in the digital landscape. The conference was at the British Library, just north of Bloomsbury, and she remembered the Bloomsbury Group’s (gay) Lytton Strachey’s response to the chairman of the military tribunal to whom he had to prove that he was a consciencious objector. Asked what he would do if a German soldier was attempting to violate his sister, Strachey is reported to have said, “I would try to interpose my body between them.” Kate thinks that if publishers want to interpose themselves between creators (authors etc) and consumers (readers), then we increasingly have to earn the right to do so.

Oh, and she also got to show a video of a recent build of Nosy Crow’s 3-D Fairy Tales: The Three Little Pigs app, which is what the picture is. Kate is the fuzzy blob in the lower left-hand corner.

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