Thursday, March 29, 2007

Webkinz, the Business

Seeing this article in Business 2.0 prompted me to think through what's neat about the Webkinz business model. My daughter's getting right into the "tween" target market now so I get to see how she interacts with lots of different websites. She'll download every free trial or sign up for anything if it looks like fun. But the moment it wants money, she drops it and moves on to the next game or web site, because she knows it's almost impossible for her to pry a credit card out of our fingers. She'll also spend 4 hours straight on a game then never come back to it.

Webkinz beats both of those problems and has really trapped her. First of all, they got their money up-front when I bought a Webkinz in an airport gift store almost two years ago. I'd never let her spend even $5 on some online game, but I didn't even think twice about dropping $15 on a stuffed animal. So they got their money up-front. No begging and pleading to get mom and dad to whip out the credit card.

Then they keep it "sticky" by limiting how often they can play each game. I can often look over at her computer and see "Sorry, but you need to wait another 8 hours before playing that game again." So she can't just burn herself out. She has to keep playing the games though, so she can earn Webkinz dollars to buy virtual stuff for her virtual dog.

Then I saw the "exclusive" items that kids can get. I guess there are special virtual items that you can get only if you register 10, 15, 20, etc. Webkinz on your account. That's 10, 15, 20, etc. stuffed animals at $12+ apiece.

It's an interesting business model. The stickiness and rewarding raving fans isn't that new, but the way they get the money out of an up-front purchase is.

I just wonder how long it will be until someone works out their key algorithm and builds a key generator for Webkinz codes, flooding their system with fake virtual pets.

Find out what's on Clearance at ThinkGeek!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fear Factor

So this month at Detour we've been doing a version of Fear Factor where the kids have mostly had to endure some disgusting challenges. For week one we had kids finding gummy worms in green Jello with their hands behind their back. I have great pictures of green slime all over their faces. The next task had one member of each team holding a sardine in their mouth (since none of them would eat them) while the rest of the team solved a puzzle. I couldn't stay in the room because the smell alone made me queasy.

This this week we had live crickets. The task was just to reach into a cage full of them and retrieve fake bugs. Before they started, I said "I bet at least one of the boys will eat a cricket." Sure enough, two of them did. I'm sure we'll get some love letters from parents after that one. But the kids ate it up, so to speak.

What makes me so happy we're doing this is when I get to see a reaction like the one I got from one girl. I'll call her "April" for the moment. It's a long story, but April has some special needs. One challenge with April is that every week she switches to a different activity and "hates" each one. The only activity she's stuck with was our version of The Amazing Race two months ago. Well here she was, getting ready to go into our Fear Factor activity with live bugs. I just wasn't sure she was going to be able to handle it. I checked on her often. The first time she said she was so grossed out that I was ready to take her out and see if we needed to get her mom. Then I realized that she wasn't at all interested in leaving. She had a blast, being grossed out. Success.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tampa Bay Festival

I think you'd have to been living under a rock to not hear about this weekend's Tampa Bay Festival at the RayJay stadium grounds. I bet I saw 5-10 signs, bumper stickers, billboards, banners, etc. every day.

I went on Sunday with my daughter, mostly to catch the kid's zone. It was kind of interesting to see kids lining up and almost battling over getting to do games and other activities that aren't that different than what we do pretty regularly at our church. In fact, it was mostly our church volunteers in the kid's zone. There were others there but in the kid's zone I'd guess that 4 out of 5 volunteers were from Van Dyke. Pretty cool to see.

We did get to catch the last Livin It show of the festival. It was pretty cool because I'd gotten to see Steven Baldwin talk about this ministry almost two years ago, and here I was seeing it in action. It's been a long time since I've seen BMX jumps live. I probably haven't seen them since I was on a BMX bike. The motorcross jumps were pretty amazing to see, that close, especially with the wind. Still, the most amazing thing to me was listening to Christian Hosoi talk. Not only is he a (former?) pro skater, but he was able to talk about his descent into drugs and eventual arrest and 5 year prison sentence. The crowd was pretty quiet by the time he was done.

It was getting pretty cold, so I didn't battle the crowd at the main stage but I guess I just missed Tony Dungy. So he really did speak both days, which I guess was sort of up in the air for a while. Everyone was asking if (and when) he was going to speak. He was definately a crowd favorite, so it's great that he came out both days. I'm sure he did a great job.