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Walt Disney World (WDW) News Discuss The people have spoken - and Disney Listened! The NEW Disney.com in the News & Rumors forums; Disney Plans to Introduce a Sleek Makeover of Disney.com Site By LAURA M. HOLSON The New York Times ORIGINAL ARTICLE 1/2/2007 When the Walt Disney Company's chief executive, Robert A. ...
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    Lou Mongello's Avatar
    Lou Mongello is offline Lou Mongello (AKQJ10) - WDW Trivia Book Author and Site Owner/Admin
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    The people have spoken - and Disney Listened! The NEW Disney.com

    Disney Plans to Introduce a Sleek Makeover of Disney.com Site

    By LAURA M. HOLSON

    The New York Times
    ORIGINAL ARTICLE
    1/2/2007

    When the Walt Disney Company's chief executive, Robert A. Iger, takes the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 8, he is expected to introduce the new Disney.com Web site that has taken more than a year to redesign.

    For years Disney's Web sites, which include the popular ESPN.com, ABC.com and Disney.com, have been among the Internet's most visited. In November, the company overall ranked No. 9 among sites visited at home and work, according to Nielsen Netratings, which tracks online traffic.

    But critics of the Disney.com, the homepage for a lot of the company's online offerings, say it looks amateurish and is hard to navigate. Disney recently showed off the revamped Web site at a company meeting at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

    Some executives who saw it said it was much improved, with video and interactive features, and was much sleeker than its clumsy predecessor.

    Revamping Disney.com has been a No. 1 priority for Mr. Iger, who has sought to extend the Disney brand by embracing new digital media. But behind the revamping, analysts and others say there is an equally pressing issue facing Mr. Iger, one that many entertainment conglomerates may face in the coming years: Who should be running the company's Internet properties?

    In the past, Disney executives have bristled at the influence Disney's Internet Group, which oversees most of the company's online ventures, exerted over film, television and theme park Internet operations. Executives wanted more authority over their own online creative ventures.

    It is not the first time Mr. Iger has grappled with how much autonomy executives should have. In 2005, he disbanded the company's unpopular strategic planning unit, giving more power to the company's individual units.

    "It's inevitable that each division will be in the Internet space," said Harold L. Vogel, a media analyst. "I don't detect that Disney has resolved this. Someone is going to have to coordinate and, at the same time, not quash the creative side. I'm sure there will be political fights over this constantly. It will happen at every media company."

    At Disney, the Internet Group is run by a company veteran, Steve Wadsworth. Currently, division executives are expected to work closely with Mr. Wadsworth and his team in developing new ideas for their division's online ventures, including those for theme parks, ABC.com and ESPN.com. Mr. Wadsworth first joined Disney Online in 1995, having spent two years in the consumer products division.

    Christopher Dixon, managing director at the investment firm GGCP. who has followed Disney for years, suggested a "structural overhaul" of the group, giving the division heads greater control. "The Internet Group needs to set technical standards, be a facilitator," said Mr. Dixon. "One person can't do it all."

    A spokesman for Mr. Wadsworth said neither he nor the executive overseeing Disney.com's revamping, Paul Yanover, were available to comment because they were on vacation. Mr. Yanover is a Disney veteran who was hired last May from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online, which he headed and helped develop e-commerce business for the company's theme parks. The spokesman said Mr. Iger was unavailable.

    Since 1999, Mr. Wadsworth has had direct oversight of several online sites including Disney.com, FamilyFun.com and Movies.com, as well as Disney's mobile phone ventures. Mr. Iger told investors at a conference recently that it could take three to five years for the company's recent investments in Internet video and mobile devices to show significant profit, despite its promise.

    Disney Online, which Mr. Wadsworth oversees, was founded in 1995 and includes a cadre of games like the highly successful Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online, which will be released in 2007. In 2005 it introduced Disney's Game Café for adults.

    In addition to its own operations, the Internet Group is expected to consult with the divisions on major strategic initiatives. And that has caused tension as executives seek to more seamlessly integrate the Internet into their traditional businesses, said Disney executives who asked not to be named because of their relationship with the Internet Group. ESPN.com was created in 1995, the same year as Disney.com. Many within Disney consider ESPN.com to be a far superior Web site because of strong oversight from ESPN's management team. As a result, said one of the executives, ESPN.com seeks to operate with little interference.

    Last year, the Disney-ABC Television Group appointed Albert Cheng to head a newly formed digital media team and charged him with creating new business ventures for ABC's online unit. He reports to Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, who negotiated with Apple Computer to sell popular ABC television shows like "Desperate Housewives" on iTunes.

    That venture has proved most successful. Not only did other networks follow suit, but ABC has expanded the number of shows available on iTunes while offering ad-supported Disney shows for free on ABC's Web site.

    In November, Walt Disney Studios hired a new technology officer to help it, among other things, deliver Disney movies online. Studio executives are hoping for more oversight of movie properties, including online movie distribution at home which has the potential for big profits.

    "That is the holy grail," said Mr. Dixon, particularly given Apple's interest in in-home entertainment. Steven P. Jobs, Apple's chief executive, is now Disney's largest investor after Disney's $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, formerly owned by Apple.

    Earlier this year, Mr. Iger considered combining all of Disney's online games and video game operations — some of which are overseen by the Internet group — within Disney's consumer products division. The consumer products team has been aggressive in expanding its video game operations and has sought to bring the company's expertise under one roof. Games are a priority for Mr. Iger; Disney has acquired small game makers to create Disney-branded content, instead of simply licensing popular titles.

    Mr. Iger decided to allow the online game business developed by the Internet Group to remain there, instead of combining it in the consumer products division. Mr. Vogel, the media analyst, said there was a case for keeping it separate, although in the long run it might be better if they were a single unit. For Mr. Dixon, of GGCP, it is not whether Disney can best exploit the Disney franchises through Disney.com, but when and how it will actually happen.

    "The irony is they have all the pieces," he said. "They now just have to figure out the next phase."
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    SnwhtNdwrfs's Avatar
    SnwhtNdwrfs is offline Dancing with the dwarfs!
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    Very interesting! I won't pretend that I understand it. I am just amazed that they actually listed to people! I look forward to trying to figure this all out. Oh, a new place to investigate.


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    Hypermommy's Avatar
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    I just checked the disney.com site and it looks the same. Any idea when they'll bring the update online?

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    vixen101485's Avatar
    vixen101485 is offline Queen of the Swaps, bow before me
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    I like the current one. I dont find the main home page hard to naivigate but when you go into the parks section...FORGET IT! That is why I just call them with questions about the parks themselves. Tons quicker to do then using their search function-which never brings up anything remotely having to do with what you searched.

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    Hakuna Matata is offline Yo Ho Yo Ho a pirates life for me!
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    oo, that will be exciting to see a redone disney website. i like the one they have now but it sounds like it is going to be even better!
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    Cool Good news!

    At times the WDW site is laden with problems, especially when attempting to utilize the search option. Rarely gets you to the right info. I have e-mailed questions, (specific trip planning types) and the basic response is to call for more information??? Why waste time with e-mail, they should just tell you to call.
    But I will be trying out the new website come January 8th!

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    ChipNDale's Avatar
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    I like some of the new features, but when trying to book a vacation to get a Disney.com price on what I am looking for it always assumes a room, or cabin that I do not want. I want to camp in Ft. wilderness but when I select the campground it almost always gives me a cabin, or a spot for an RV. I just want a tent site. Nothing too fancy. But overall it is pretty nice.
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    BamaJenn's Avatar
    BamaJenn is offline Disnerd
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    I wonder if with the new site will come some extra bandwith because man that site can be SO slow at times.
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    Belle1313's Avatar
    Belle1313 is offline When I Wish Upon A Star, I Wish To Go To WDW
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    On the current WDW website it loads fast but doesn't load the pictures sometimes.

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    I have cable internet and its slow for me.(the destination/park page) Didnt even bother with it when I had dial up. Well I hope at least the update the info on it. I found out about some info via sites like this(and calling to confirm) a month before the official site had it up. For instance, Magic your way tickets came into effect Jan 1st 05. The official site didnt have info up until the 2nd week of Feb. Some of the Cm's I spoke to on the phone were insistent that it was there. Loved when they went on the site while on the phone and they realized I was right. GOD I LOVE BEING RIGHT! LOL

  11. #11
    Lou Mongello's Avatar
    Lou Mongello is offline Lou Mongello (AKQJ10) - WDW Trivia Book Author and Site Owner/Admin
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    UPDATED info with PICS from the WSJ

    Updated Disney.com Offers
    Networking for Kids
    Web Site's Strategic Revamp
    Encourages More Interaction --
    But Parents Will Be in Charge
    By MERISSA MARR
    January 2, 2007; Page B1

    Like many 10-year-old girls, LuLu Shamberg is a big fan of new Disney Channel shows like "Hannah Montana." When her parents gave her an iPod for Christmas, one of the first things she did was download the show's album.

    But when she sits down in front of her computer in Santa Monica, Calif., it's not Disney.com she usually turns to. Instead, she logs on to an online game called Club Penguin, where she has her own character, chats with friends and plays games in a virtual world. "You can do much more there," she says.

    That view, and others like it, have cut to the heart of Walt Disney Co., impelling the company to address the shortcomings of its Internet offerings. Later this month, it is launching a revamped version of Disney.com, offering a labyrinth of chat rooms, games and personalized pages that will target kids and their parents.

    The new Disney.com, which Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger plans to unveil at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next Monday, is Disney's take on social networking for mainstream America. In it, kids can chat while watching video clips, listening to music and playing a game, all at the same time. Parents, meanwhile, can control their kids' use of the site.
    [Photo]
    The new Disney.com Web site aims to create a 'wow factor' when users enter.

    At risk of being left behind in the Internet world as kids swarm to everything from Club Penguin and Neopets to MySpace, Disney has spent much of the past year working feverishly on the new site. The company had a lot of work to do: The current version is clunky, outdated and has not fully capitalized on Disney's new sizzling shows and characters like "Hannah Montana" and "High School Musical."

    Mr. Iger says the new Disney.com is "the single most important companywide strategy Disney is currently implementing." Disney's Internet chief Steve Wadsworth refers to it as the new "front door" to Disney's sprawling world of television shows, movies, toys, videogames and theme parks.

    Having made his mark so far as Disney's CEO by pushing an aggressive vision for the digital world, Mr. Iger sees the new site as a central hub for Disney programming. While he won't go as far as to say that Disney.com will replace existing forms of distribution such as cable television and DVDs, it is clear the site is heading in that direction. In the meantime, it will offer "great opportunities for advertising, direct sales and commerce," he says.

    But as it moves into the world of social networking, it's doing so with limitations that in some ways conflict with the self-expressive nature of such online communities. At least initially, for example, users will be more or less trapped in Disney's online world, unable to import non-Disney music or video clips to fill out their online profiles.

    Making Disney relevant to Web-crawling kids is one of the tougher tasks Mr. Iger has faced since taking over as chief executive just over a year ago. Facing increasingly fierce competition from MySpace, video-sharing site YouTube and other whiz-bang rivals, the new site needed to be cool enough to lure an increasingly sophisticated audience, but not so cool that it threatened Disney's wholesome image. It also needed to integrate a broad range of businesses.

    It's not the first time Disney had faced such a problem. In the late 1990s, it started shedding teens who saw the brand as boring and babyish. Disney's effort to win back that audience resulted in such properties as "Hannah Montana." But Disney.com got left behind in the makeover.

    While entertainment rivals were busy snapping up hot Internet properties, Mr. Iger had another strategy in mind: to largely go it alone based on the strength of the Disney brand. "I don't feel it's necessary for us to do a deal to succeed on this platform," he says.

    Disney executive Paul Yanover was put to work to come up with something new. Having previously worked on Disney's theme-park Web sites, he spent day after day researching how kids interact with the Internet and conducted multiple focus groups to see how they would respond to new features. Among the things he discovered: While almost all kids went to Disney's old site to play games, they want to multitask.

    For the redesign, Mr. Yanover says his team wanted to create something that combined "iPod cool with Disney magic." They turned to sites like MySpace and Xbox Live Arcade games for inspiration. Just as Walt Disney did with the entrance to the theme parks, Mr. Iger says, they wanted to create a "wow factor" when users first enter the site.

    Another focus-group finding: the importance of parental control. With kids being exposed to increasing risks online, Disney included a way for parents to control access to the site, including the chat rooms. At its most strict, that control includes chatting with preset phrases such as "cool" and "Cheetahlicious," and engaging only with preselected friends.
    [disney]
    Disney Xtreme Digital, a broadband offering with sophisticated functions. gives kids opportunities to multitask and create their own pages.

    Personalization was another big focus. By breaking down its audience, Disney felt it could better address the issue of being cool enough for all ages of would-be MySpacers as well as easier to navigate for parents. Mr. Yanover's team organized the home page by subject for adults and by character for kids. They also created six categories covering preschool; boys; girls; older kids and teens; families; and older Disney fans.

    Clicking on the girls category, for instance, brings up a page populated with Disney Channel's "Kim Possible," "The Cheetah Girls" and "Hannah Montana" as well as images of Tinkerbell and a design-your-own fairy game.

    A more advanced level of personalization was created with Disney Xtreme Digital (XD), a broadband offering with more sophisticated functions. XD gives kids more latitude to multitask, create their own pages and share them with others. They can do intricate things like mash-ups, taking clips from different Disney shows and snippets of Disney music and mixing them up. It also offers more challenging gaming.

    In its first iteration, Disney.com will lock its audience inside the Disney world -- kids won't be able to bring in anything from outside the site. Mr. Iger accepts that the policy is restrictive and says, "we're looking at ways to change that" -- but only if contact outside the site can be policed. Mr. Yanover says the site is a "work in progress."

    Of course, a closed universe has advantages beyond parental control. Mr. Yanover says there are many more advertising opportunities on the new site, including display ads, video ads and sponsorships. Disney will also charge for subscriptions to more advanced games and also plans to offer things like special powers in a game for a one-off charge. And it will sell DVDs, merchandise, travel packages and tickets to its parks directly to the public.

    The question is whether Disney is too late. Rivals like Viacom Inc. have been moving aggressively into the kids and parents space for some time. Mr. Yanover argues the relaunch captures the sweet spot of trends like the adoption of broadband and an understanding of social networking. "We're right on time for mainstream America," he says.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The people have spoken - and Disney Listened! The NEW Disney.com-sse.jpg   The people have spoken - and Disney Listened! The NEW Disney.com-sse2.jpg  
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    disneyvixen's Avatar
    disneyvixen is offline The Harasser of Podcasters!!
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    I'm looking forward to this update. Although I like the website, I can see where improvements should be made. When I think Disney, I of course imagine their website to be top-notch and right now I don't feel it's up to par. Can't wait to see it live!
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  13. #13
    moulds's Avatar
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    Thats pretty cool cant wait till that one comes online.
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  14. #14
    BamaJenn's Avatar
    BamaJenn is offline Disnerd
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    Those screenshots of the new site give me two thoughts....

    1) "Oh wow I like it, very cute"
    2) "Holy poopy it looks more bandwith intensive than the current one..."
    Sometimes all you need is a reminder that out there lies a better place... a better world... a Walt Disney World.
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    dxer07002's Avatar
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    I like the change proposal. I just hope us older crowd can surf through it easier than the kids LOL
    TRICIA JONES: I heard that you were going to propose to Brandi Svenning at some theme park. When are men going to learn that women want ROMANCE, not Mr. Toad's Wild Ride...
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