New Kids Service Launches from AOL

America Online has launched KOL, a new version of its
service for kids, which gives more control to parents with AOL accounts —
and
fewer reasons for members to switch to another ISP.

The new KOL service is geared for kids aged 6 to 12 but also includes a
version of the AOL service for younger children and pre-schoolers. Designed
to replace AOL’s popular Kids Only Channel, the KOL service comes as the ISP
readies to release its latest service upgrade, AOL 9.0 Optimized.

It also arrives as the ISP looks for ways to manage the expected decline
of a chunk of its dial-up base as broadband access from a variety of providers is increasingly available to households. With the new KOL service as one new feature among many in its
upcoming 9.0 Optimized rollout, AOL is moving to capitalize on one of its
more popular features among subscribers: parent controls that let the adults
in a household set limits on children’s online activities.

As a retention tool to keep dial-up or even broadband subscribers from
defecting to other providers, the kids-only service, which is free to
members, has long proven its potential.

Before the launch of the KOL service, for example, AOL’s Kids Only
Channel was consistently ranked among the top online destinations for kids
aged 2 through 11, according to research from comScore Media Metrix. About
3.3
million children use the service through the ISP’s Parental Controls, said
Malcolm Bird, senior vice president and general manager of AOL Kids and
Teens.

The new kids-only version is in some ways a chip off the AOL block with
offers of exclusive content from publications such as Sports Illustrated for
Kids, TIME For Kids and DC Comics, along with loads of personalization
themes.

Other features include 45 new interactive games, a
specially-commissioned interactive storybook, a live hosted online daily
radio program (AOL’s first ever for kids), and animated cartoon shorts such
as the anthology of a character called “Princess Natasha.”

No banner advertising is allowed in the KOL service, but AOL does plan to
make use of what it calls strategic content with some of its partnerships,
Bird said.

“The service comes after extensive consumer research and focus on what
parents and children are telling us they want,” Bird said.

“The service gives kids their own online world, not just one channel on
their Mom’s and Dad’s AOL service,” and is integrated with new forms of
protections to add to AOL’s Parental Controls features, such as timers and
more extensive reports on children’s online activities.

AOL is well aware that kids are among the fastest growing of online
audiences. For example, one third of AOL members are in households with
children between 2 and 12 years of age. According to Jupiter Research (whose
parent company also owns this publication), within three years, 57 percent
of kids under 11 will be online.

When AOL’s 9.0 Optimized rolls out for subscribers, AOL members using the
kids channel will instead see the KOL service too.

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