Disney’s launches ‘wiki’ website aimed at parents

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Walt Disney has become one of the first traditional media companies to launch a wiki web site that can be edited by visitors, as part of a broader move by the group towards building an online community of parents.

Disney’s Family.com site will aggregate links to parenting web sites and allow visitors to create blogs and share other parenting tips on entertainment, food and education.

Users of the service will also be encouraged to edit and contribute entries on “ParentPedia”, which, like the Wikipedia web site, will combine advice from experts with contributions from internet users.

Following the explosion in popularity of community and social networking sites such as MySpace, Disney and its rivals, including Viacom, have grappled with how to build sustainable communities online.

Paul Yanover, executive vice-president and managing director of Disney Online, said Family.com was a “natural extension” of Disney’s internet efforts, which, to date, have focused on branded Disney entertainment and content.

Family.com, though, will see the company creating an online community under the Disney brand. “Disney.com attracts a large audience but there are a lot of people out there looking for things to do with the family,” he said. “There are a lot of mums out there seeking answers.”

The site will provide practical advice and tips and will also rely on users to post links to useful external sites that may be too small to get picked up by search engines, such as Google.

Disney hopes to create a list of 1,000 such sites. “There are a lot of interesting web sites out there which aren’t search engine optimised,” said Mr Yanover.

The site will have its own search facility, provided by Barry Diller’s Ask.com, which will search blogs and other content available on Family.com, as well as on external web sites.

Disney eventually hopes to allow Family.com users to create their own online groups on relevant topics. For example, a mother could create a closed online group and limit membership, via a password, to the parents of children in her child’s class at school.

“The company starts with marketing and brand strengths with this audience and has now proven it understands the power of community and aggregating content from across the web," said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Marketers should consider advertising on sites like Family.com, and some should even create their own destination sites to engage their customers.”

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