Random House and Stardoll create social book

Faith Merino · September 6, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/11a8

Book publisher taps into social networking to raise readership among teenage girls

Teenage wolf and vampire romances are about to step into uncharted territory: the world of virtual paper dolls. Are you scared?

Stardoll, an online fashion and celebrity community for seven- to 17-year-old girls, Monday announced a new partnership with global publishing giant Random House to produce an interactive paranormal teen mystery story called Mortal Kiss.  Created through the collaboration of Random House writers and editors and Stardoll artists and programmers, the story will be serialized to cover a span of eight weeks, beginning September 6 and building to its finale on Halloween. 

Set in the fictional New England town of Winter Mill, the four main characters (Faye, Lucas, Liz, and Finn) will be represented by Stardoll characters, with profiles and outfits that Internet users can dress them in.  The story will be presented in individual chapters each week, each ending on a cliffhanger that will build up until the story’s Halloween conclusion.  Readers can also explore the story through an interactive map on the site, discuss the story with other readers, enter writing contests based on themes drawn from the story, and vote on story outcomes. 

The project represents an interesting new move for Random House, which has never dipped into a virtual reading experience from a social networking platform before. 

“From the most senior executives down, Mortal Kiss is seen as one of the most significant projects we are working on, and it is incumbent on us to find new and innovative ways of retaining and growing our readership,” said Fiona Macmillan, color and licensing publisher of Random House Children’s Books in the United Kingdom in an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian.

The project, from Random House’s perspective, is going to be a serialized 80,000-word book published exclusively online.  The interactive virtual book will be available globally and will be offered in 17 different languages.

Access to the story and interaction with the virtual map are all free, so how will the virtual book generate revenue?

“Anything that drives engagement and usage on Stardoll will ultimately deliver monetization as well, and there are multiple routes to realizing that,” Stardoll executive vice president Chris Seth told The Guardian. Seth also suggested that the company would look into advertising and sponsorship. “We’re a social media business but in some ways we are also an old-fashioned content business, and we have been surprised by the popularity of books in the lives of teens and tweens.”

The Stockholm, Sweden-based startup has seen increasing traffic to its Web site since its 2009 launch.  The Stardoll network includes Stardoll.com, which focuses on entertainment and fashion, Piczo.com, a visual blogging social network, and PaperDollHeaven.com, which offers an online gaming experience geared towards younger girls who are interested in dolls and fashion. 

With over 100 million registered users worldwide, the Stardoll network is the top global publisher in ComScore’s teen category.  Last month the network saw 13.8 million unique users.

A Stardoll representative explained via email that teen audiences can be a tough demographic.  “Teens are known to be finicky and elusive. Stardoll draws them in because it puts them in charge, empowers them through activities, such as designing and selling their own clothing designs, and gives them a voice with mechanisms for constant feedback.”

It will be interesting to see how Mortal Kiss plays out for Random House as the company embarks on a project that synthesizes the teen vampire romance publishing goldmine with the equally lucrative online social networking phenomenon, complete with a virtual goods marketplace.  Random House could not be reached for comment, but the company appears to be poised to adapt to the evolving teen market.

Image source: Stardoll.com

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Stardoll is a virtual paperdoll community site for everyone who enjoys fashion, design and making friends. At Stardoll you can create your own MeDoll or choose from our ever growing collection of celebrity dolls and dress them up in our wide selection of fashions. Every celebrity doll has a wardrobe full of unique clothes and there are new dolls released every week. The membership is completely FREE and most of our members are girls between the ages of 7 and 17. Stardoll is one of few places on the Internet developed with an emphasis on girls' self-expression through fantasy and fashion play. Stardoll is a great place to spend time with friends and to meet other kids from all over the world. We are committed to Stardoll as an inspiring, safe and creative environment.