Wall Street Journal explores the target audience of 6-14 year old girls on the web in this post. Clearly an opportunity for localized versions, marketers, artists, widgetization and for integration in IM, blogging and social networking sites: virtual doll sites web 2.0 style with ratings, reviews, sharing, social networking and recommendation engines. Good for exploratory learning and self presentation skills for this audience group. To me, this is an additional tool for measuring popularity of celebs just like Technorati, Yahoo Trends, Blogpulse, Google Trends and HSX.
"Cartoon Doll Exporium is one of a handful of virtual doll sites, including Stardoll (6,4 million members) and The Doll Palace, that have seen traffic surge. The straightforward sites, which evoke traditional paper dolls, have managed to capture an often ignored segment of the online audience: young girls. And investors are taking note: Stardoll, launched by a Finnish doll enthusiast and her son, has received more than $10 million in venture funding from Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures. Meanwhile, the makers of Barbie and Bratz dolls are moving to add new online dress-up offerings.
In a time of high-end videogame systems and virtual worlds like Second Life, the doll sites seem decidedly low-tech. Users start by picking a template for a doll – drawings of celebrities are particularly popular, and the sites feature hundreds, from singers (Beyoncé Knowles, Britney Spears) to Hollywood stars (Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz) to the curious (Sen. Barack Obama, Camilla Parker-Bowles). Dolls begin as a blank slate – generally in their underwear – positioned next to a two-dimensional wardrobe, which users can rearrange on their computer screens. The sites generate revenue from advertising as well as charging for features such as special dolls or outfits.
Stardoll's Mr. Miksche attributes the site's popularity to the dearth of Web sites aimed at preteen and teenaged girls. "We're doing something for a target group that no one cared about," said Mr. Miksche. "It's really something that girls have always done and will always do, it's just that they can do it online now."
That sentiment was echoed by Sequoia Capital partner Mark Kvamme, who compared his firm's investment in Stardoll with its funding of LinkedIn, a social-networking site for business professionals. "This is the Nickelodeon crowd," he said. "What LinkedIn is to professionals, this is to girls from six to 14."