With microblogging and social networking seemingly dominating all of the headlines these days, I was really refreshed a short while ago when I came across an original pay-per-download instructional web video series called Hailey’s Hacks. I thought it was great to see someone investing video content with a clear purpose, rather than simply networking, and even greater, to see that it was starting with a business model – a somewhat novel concept these days! I got even more excited when I realized that Hailey’s Hacks was created by Toronto’s own Jill Golick of Story2.OH. Giddy beyond what is reasonable considering the series is for pre-teen girls, I got in touch with Jill to ask her to share with me, and with all of you, a little more about what went into launching this unique online property.
Because I had so many questions (I’m curious like a cat) and Jill had such great answers we’re going to make a two part series. You can click here to skip to part two, but for now, enjoy part one:
Hailey’s Hacks is a web series aimed at getting 8-13 year olds – especially girls — excited about technology. The series is built around the character of Hailey, a wise-cracking, 11 year old, computer genius who shows you how to use your computer and the web to do cool things. The series includes funny YouTube-style videos and along with social media content to support it.
Hailey’s weekly videos are part screencast, part live action video. Each video teaches kids to use technology in their daily lives – for school, social life or just for fun. In each video, kids learn new technological skills and how to apply them.
I looked across the dinner table and there she was. Hailey is the name of the character. The actress is Marlee Maslove, my daughter.
The character was the starting point: a snarky preteen girl with prodigious technical know-how who used it in a distinctly girl-like fashion. I’m a big fan of Felicia Day and Amber Mac who use technology and the social media so well. I started to wonder what they like at 11. And how did they use technology?
The more I thought about this character of Hailey, the more I thought she was the right girl for the right time. When my partner in this, James Golick of Giraffesoft suggested using this character to host screencasts it seemed right, especially when you think about the audience we’re aiming at: kids from 8 to 13, especially girls.
This audience is very interesting and quite different than any other generations. The kids who are 11 and 12 now are the first kids to watch television as babies. Many of these kids have been on the computer almost as long. And at 8, 9, 10, 11, the computer is an increasingly important part of their lives. For many of them it’s their primary form of communication. Too young to own cell phones, they don’t use landlines much. They communicate with each other through IM and video chat. They don’t go to the library to do the research for school projects, they use Google. And they play games online and watch YouTube and lie about their ages to sneak onto Facebook. But they still do their school assignments on Bristol board. They type their projects up on the computer, but most of them don’t make movies or audio entertainments or slide shows or animations.
When I look at this landscape, I see a real need. Kids need to learn about the cool tools at their disposal and girls especially have to see technology as something relevant to their lives. No one is teaching them any of these things. You can’t look to the parents to teach them the Facebook ropes, because many of them don’t know. The teachers who can teach you how to do a great Google search, build a wiki or use an RSS feed are few and far between. And how many schools have computers that are powerful enough and equipped with the right software for kids to learn about animation and movie making?
It doesn’t hurt that tweens are a multi-billion dollar market.
We’re testing the waters with three episodes – I hate to call them interstitials because they are well over 6 minutes long. Two are available now, Hailey Hacks April Fools and Hailey Hacks lolcats. We’ll release the third (Hailey Hacks Wish lists) toward the end of April, giving ourselves some time to work on promotion and community building until then.
One of the many things I love about the web is that we can get stuff out there pretty easily. Then you have piles of real world feedback to that informs your next step. So the strategy behind the schedule is really, “get something out there and learn what you can.” In fact that’s pretty much the theme of the whole endeavour.
With summer fast approaching, our audience will be spending less time at their computers. So we plan our next big launch of new videos in the fall when school resumes. Until then, we’ll focus on social network content and community.
Whew! We’re at the half way point folks but that’s lots to chew on for sure! Click here to check out the dramatic conclusion. If there are any thoughts on what we’ve covered in Part 1, please leave them below.