Beyond Disney: An Interview with Jane Murphy of KIDVIDZ
Written by Dave Avdoian | Posted by: Anonymous
Kids’ programming is a tough business, especially when you’re up against the Disneys of the world. No one knows this better than Jane Murphy, co-founder (along with Karen Tucker) of KIDVIDZ, Inc., the award-winning producer of educational videos for children. In a marketplace overflowing with videos featuring licensed characters and little substance, Newton, MA-based KIDVIDZ has found its niche as a reliable provider of reality-based videos that address issues of daily concern to children.
In spite of receiving national media exposure as a result of its efforts, it hasn’t been easy. KIDVIDZ counters the star power of its competitors’ videos by focusing on content and producing a valuable product that offers kids real-life lessons. Still, the reality of the marketplace dictates that the company offer an alternative to the mainstream fare. "If we’re sitting on the retail shelf next to a licensed character or a repackaged TV product that has name recognition, the kid is obviously going to go for that," Murphy says over the phone from New York. "The stars of our videos are the topics. They’re the kind of topics that all kids experience or are interested in."
This belief is reflected in the diversity of themes within the company’s catalog. Titles such as "Piggy Banks to Money Markets: A kid’s video guide to dollars and sense," and "Kids Get Cooking: A kid’s video guide to food and cooking" provide kids with useful lessons for everyday living. In addition, the company’s video line includes titles that explore difficult life transitions, such as adjusting to a new baby in the family or surviving a family move. KIDVIDZ also offers print ancillaries such as Activity Guides, Leader’s Guides, and Parents’ Tip Booklets to accompany the videos and expand what happens on screen.
The two hallmarks of KIDVIDZ videos are the original music that carries the content and introduces kids to a variety of music genres, and the use of real kids as hosts. "Just from an educational standpoint, kids learn best from other kids," says Murphy. The kids featured in the videos serve as principal informants and experts on the content. They provide credibility to the videos by lending an air of "been there, done that" sensibility to the videos, which resonates with other kids.
In addition to the entertainment component, KIDVIDZ has focused on producing a highly researched product with a strong, effective message. "You’ve got to deliver it in the most entertaining venue or you’ve lost your market," Murphy says. "On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be some stuff that has some meat on the bones as well as an entertainment value." The company consults a board of advisors with both content and child development expertise throughout the script development of each title. For example, when developing the "Piggy Banks to Money Markets" tape, KIDVIDZ consulted representatives from the American Banking Association, the National Consumer Group, and other financial education specialists.
As a result of its commitment to research and development, KIDVIDZ has accumulated numerous awards from both industry and children’s programming groups. Print media outlets such as "People," "Entertainment Weekly," "TV Guide," "Redbook," "US News & World Report," and the "New York Times" have recognized KIDVIDZ for the quality of its programming; and television programs "Good Morning America," the "Today" show, and "Sneak Previews" have given the company exposure. Likewise, the company has also been honored by a variety of experts, including the National Education Association, the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, the American Film Institute, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Bank Tellers Report.
Still, finding a place in an over-saturated market proves a constant challenge. Up against the giants of children’s programming, KIDVIDZ attracts an audience aside from, and in addition to, the more mainstream traditional retail and catalog venues such as schools and libraries. For example, the video "Let’s Get a Move On! A kid’s guide to a family move" was designed specifically to be sold to a variety of different markets within the relocation industry, including major van lines, moving companies, and real estate companies. The video is customized specifically for these groups, including everything from virtual product placement to the company’s name and logo on the sleeve.
KIDVIDZ hopes to continue to grow by targeting the same audience in a different way. Recently, Murphy and Tucker authored a book, "Stay Tuned! Raising Media Savvy Kids in the Age of the Channel Surfing Couch Potato," and they are looking to expand into the Internet and cable television as well. Though the venue may be changing, the mission–to help empower kids to take charge of their lives–and the challenges remain the same. "There’s some really great stuff out there that never finds the light of day simply because there are people who make the product but simply don’t have the resources or the wherewithal or the knowledge to know how to distribute and market it," says Murphy. "And that’s the key. You really need a good product, but you really need to have the resources and the know-how to get it to your audience."
To learn more about the KIDVIDZ line of products, visit the Web site at www.kidvidz.com.