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Ethical children’s virtual world MiniMonos has struck a tie-up with publisher Egmont, marking one its first deals since joining BBC Worldwide’s Labs scheme.

The company, which soft launched in the UK last year, is working with the children’s publisher to create content for the latter’s products including the Toxic magazine. It has created six comics and will include a MiniMonos membership card within the next issue of Toxic as part of the deal.

MiniMonos founder and CEO Melissa Clark Reynolds (pictured) told new media age Egmont’s brand is well suited to the start-ups ethical brand goals.

“It’s the biggest children’s publisher in Europe and its profits go back into literacy products. It is a fantastic ethical fit for us. We will start with this and see where we go. It’s a really exciting time to be in the children’s space.” she said.

The virtual world has generated 1.2m members since its soft launched in the UK last year, with each user averaging around 40 minutes on the site per week.

Clark-Reynolds believes there is a dearth of ethically-geared children’s brands and products in the market, which is a major differentiator for MiniMonos. “I realised some time ago the toy industry is made by the cheapest bidder, from petroleum-based products that will all go into a landfill for 1,000 years. No one asks ‘did a kid make this toy for my child?’ there is no fair trade certification on this stuff. I wanted to build a global, ethical children’s brand,” she said.

Virtual world Moshi Monsters paved the way for the launch of MiniMonos, according to Clark-Reynolds. “Moshi Monsters launched its toy range, which was really girly. We went for a slightly older, more boy-focused demographic, so it meant we could pick up some of the Moshi older brother demographic,” she said.

The digital start-up is one of the six companies selected by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, to kick-start its mentoring scheme Labs (nma.co.uk 16 August 2012).

The commercial arm of the BBC has launched the mentoring scheme ‘BBC Labs’ to help UK digital media start-ups develop with the view to potentially working with them on a commercial basis later on.

MiniMonos is also focused on the opportunities for expanding to include more touch-screen products, according to Clark Reynolds. This includes working with the BBC to see where it can use its IP with the broadcaster’s own children’s brands.

“We are working on some apps as touch is really exciting for kids. We are talking to BBC about how we might use some of our IP with its brands. The BBC is great at pre-school in terms of online and games for its Cbeebies. We are now looking at what we might do around other applications for slightly older children,” she said.

The MiniMonos brand is also aimed at encouraging children to take part in real life eco-projects as well as interacting on the site by playing games and earning avatars. Over 1,200 kids, the majority of which are UK-based, have taken part in such projects, and Clark-Reynolds is aiming to push this to 1m globally over time.

The site is monetised via subscription membership and the sale of virtual goods. It currently has a tie-up with WWF centred on a revenue share basis. Kids can buy a virtual dress-up tiger suit for example, with a percentage of the money donated to WWF. It is also working on plans to further diversify its revenue streams via licensing agreements with charities and potentially producing co-branded physical goods.

“We want kids to feel they have power over their own environments. We will release a research project we have done soon about kids and the environment. Kids have grown up in a world where they can see things like hurricane Sandy on TV, and know there are environmental catastrophes happening everywhere and they are quite scared. The eco projects are aimed at reassuring them they can get inolved with outdoor activities,” she said.

MiniMonos rolled out to Australia and New Zealand last week.

This is the first of several new media age Radar articles, which focus on digital start-ups.

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Published 21 November, 2012 by NMA Staff

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