From Print to Television and Beyond: The Adventures of Sammy and the Wild Animal Baby Magazine: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Lori Collins, Editor, Wild Animal BabyOctober 1, 2010
First came the magazine, now the television show. Wild Animal Baby is going 360 and anyone who doubts that children and their parents can multitask have to think twice. Ten years after publishing the magazine for the 2 to 4 years old, Sammy, the explorer skunk, moves from the pages of the printed magazine to the television screen where he and his friends star tomorrow (Oct. 2) in the premiere of Wild Animal Baby Explorers television show on the PBS stations. The goal is to go where the “the kids and their parents are.” The pages of Wild Animal Baby magazine which will also sport a new look starting with the December 2010 issue, will jump, move and explore on the television screen the same way it is doing in print. The goal is one according to Lori Collins the magazine’s editor, “giving children a foundation for a lifelong love of wildlife and wild places.”
I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Collins few questions regarding this evolution from being a print publication to a 360 brand. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Lori Collins follows:
Samir Husni: Why television and why now?
Lori Collins: Historically, we’ve grown our subscription base via direct mail. But direct mail has become more expensive and less effective for today’s busy parents. The reach of television is far greater than anything we could achieve through traditional marketing means. By going where kids—and their parents—are, we hope to grow the Wild Animal Baby brand, including magazine sales. By the way, Wild Animal Baby magazine is just one of four children’s magazines published by National Wildlife Federation. As these new Wild Animal Baby subscribers get older, we hope they will move on to our other print publications: Your Big Backyard (ages 4-7), Ranger Rick, (ages 7–14), and Just for Fun (ages 7–14).
SH: How do you see the future of print in this digital age? Is the future all digital or is there print in the future? What are you doing to ensure a print (and do you think it is necessary for kids) future in a digital age?
LC: I think print will continue to play a vibrant role, at least in the near future. Both kids and adults love technology, no question about it. They like the bells and whistles. But kids, especially young ones, love the simple magic only a print product can provide. Our readers look forward to getting mail each month that is not only addressed to them, but also made just for them. It makes them feel special.
More importantly, young children like the quiet time they spend curled up with a parent, mostly at bedtime, going through the pages, looking at the pictures and reading the stories. Most parents cherish those hours with their child as well. Perhaps someday the iPad will allow parents and children to have that cozy, shared experience, but I don’t think we are there yet.
That’s not to say our publications staff isn’t keeping a close eye on where technology is headed. Like other children’s magazines, we’re dabbling with how our wildlife content can be applied to media such as phone apps, software games, and a more interactive website. But for us, it’s a little too early to draw up a specific roadmap. We’re still trying to figure out how to make digital experiences that are as necessary, sufficient, and relevant as the experiences kids already have reading our print magazines.
SH: Launching a magazine for two- to four-year-olds in normal time has been seen as crazy; how about it in digital times?
LC: Our experience is that publishing a magazine for two to four year olds really isn’t that crazy. You have to remember that preschoolers have been enjoying Wild Animal Baby magazine for over 10 years. We aren’t launching the television series because we think the magazine has run its course. Quite the opposite. We don’t have any reason to believe young children won’t continue to enjoy Wild Animal Baby magazine. We’re launching the television series because it allows us to create an experience for preschoolers that is different, but just as valuable as the one created by reading the magazine. We expect our current readers will watch the show and believe viewers will want to read the magazine. Both media offer unique opportunities for us to share our wildlife message.
SH: Will the television show be a lot like the magazine?
LC: As we developed the television show, it was important to us that there be clear connections between the TV series and the magazine. We didn’t want to create another sub-brand for NWF. We wanted to build on the existing Wild Animal Baby brand. So, like the magazine, Wild Animal Baby Explorers introduces preschoolers to the world of animals and helps them develop important observation and problem-solving skills. But we also wanted to make sure that we took advantage of all that television offers. So the series features a unique mix of loveable 3-D animated characters and stunning high-definition wildlife footage that will keep young children engaged and having fun.
Sammy, a young skunk in red overalls, has long been a fixture in Wild Animal Baby magazine. Each month he hides among the pages, and our readers love to find him. (We get more comments about Sammy than any other aspect of the magazine.) So Sammy is one of the five animated characters in the television show. And like in the magazine—Sammy hides at some point during each episode, and the viewers are encouraged to find him.
“I Can” is another favorite feature of the magazine that we incorporated into the television show. At the end of each episode, viewers are encouraged to get up and move to imitate an animal that has been featured in the show.
But we didn’t just want the magazine to inform the show. We also wanted to include elements of the television show in the magazine. So starting in November, each issue of the magazine will feature a cartoon-style story based on Sammy and his four new friends—Skip, Izzy, Benita, and Miss Sally—that appear in every episode of Wild Animal Baby Explorers.
SH: Are you attempting to be a 360 publisher? TV, print, web, apps, products, events, etc.
LC: NWF is a conservation organization that has a long-standing commitment to educating people—especially children—about wildlife. We view our children’s magazines as educational tools—but not the only possible tools. Our goal is to share our appreciation of the natural world with as many people as possible. That means we need to meet people where they are—watching TV, surfing the web, playing with apps, attending special events, or reading magazines. We’re really just trying to share our love of wildlife and to nurture children’s inherent love of animals.
SH: Five years from now, where do you want the Wild Animal Baby brand to be?
LC: I’d like Wild Animal Baby Explorers to be in every preschooler’s home in the United States—and in homes in several countries overseas as well!
I’d also like for Sammy to have become a beloved character to millions of children, much like Big Bird, Barney the purple dinosaur, and our own Ranger Rick. If that were to happen, it would mean that we were successful at a lot more than selling magazines and producing TV shows. It would mean we were successful at giving children a foundation for a lifelong love of wildlife and wild places.
SH: Thank you.