First Mover: Kyle Laughlin

Disney interactive executive wants to get kids their video fix

Age 33
Title Vp, Disney Interactive LabsNew product Disney video site

As head of Disney Interactive Labs, your first big initiative was a video site that launched in May. What’s special about the site? 
Our goal was to experiment around a couple areas: personalization and curation. Our audience is broad; we reach kids, tweens, adults and enthusiasts. There’s so much content on Disney today; there’s an opportunity to curate that in a family-friendly, safe way. We announced a partnership with YouTube to make Disney an everyday entertainment destination. That’s acknowledging the overall trend toward participation.

What age group or groups did you have in mind for the site? I can see how it’s parent approved, but will older kids want to go to a site that their little brother and sister are also watching?
That’s something we’re very focused on. You’ll begin to see us personalize the site, in two ways. The first is implicit. The end of every video recommends people to the next video based on what we believe editorially makes sense. The second way is explicit, through a user name and password that a person enters. We’ve heard a lot of feedback that kids and tweens don’t want to be talked down to. That’s why you don’t see a kids version of sites. And for audiences over 13, Facebook fans will be able to use that information to personalize the experience.

What protections are you going to have in place to protect kids?
We expect to work with Coppa to make sure anyone under 13 is protected from advertising or [use of] any information that could identify them. There isn’t anything we can do to ensure people can’t lie about their age, but we’re working on that. Our goal is that if a user is honest about their age, we can tailor all experiences to the audience. That would be the holy grail—to have an age-appropriate experience for our guests.

What have you learned about audience and consumption trends that fed back into the design of the site?
We’ve seen consumption on tablets grow significantly, and 12 percent of tweens already own their own tablet. We’re seeing that consumption is twice what it is on smartphones and twice what it is on the desktop. It’s really becoming the primary screen for this age group. I think one of the most terrifying pieces of data is that by 2014, mobile usage will outstrip desktops. We’ve taken a mobile-first approach, so video is the best possible on those screens. We wanted to make sure we were creating an experience that was consistent with those platforms.

Before Disney, you headed up sports and games for Yahoo. It sounds like you’ve led a charmed life.
I get a lot of jokes about the perks changing from having access to the Super Bowl to going to Disneyland for free. I’ve used my silver pass a few times to take some nieces. I got to tell you, I don’t know how parents do it. I got a long way to go to have the patience to navigate the challenge of a whole day at the park.

As much as kids today know about technology, do you ever learn anything from them?
I like to think I’m on the cutting edge, but that’s not to say guests don’t surprise you. I’ll give you one example, and [our PR person] is going to cringe, but we’ve been developing some new user experiences where guests are able to interact with objects within the site. We’re looking at making the experience more engaging for kids who can’t type by letting them drag an object into the search bar. During testing, a kid was saying, “This is great—you can throw Buzz Lightyear into the trash!”

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