I notched a new first for myself on the internet when researching this piece. I’ve never been too old for anything online, but much to my dismay, my birth year couldn’t be found on the registration page for Sweety High. That, and I’m the wrong gender. The tween social site, which officially launched in public beta today, is after all meant for girls age 9-13.
What caught my eye in the first place was the launch of this “social world for girls” comes complete with its own professionally produced web series—Sweety. The trailer (above) sets the tone for this glossy drama from the high school hallways, with a noticeably younger spin than most web fare—think the little sisters of the Prom Queen girls.
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Sweety High co-founder Veronica Zelle wrote and directed the interactive web series, herself a producer of music videos for the likes of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears and commercials aimed at tweens. Zelle cast a set of fetching young up-and-comers to play the four “quintessential girlfriends”—My Alibi star Julianna Guill, Kara Crane, Meagan Holder, and Brittany Finamore . In terms of interactivity, for now it means the girls will all participate in character with their own profile pages and regular blog posts.
“The show was playing into our strengths already,” co-founder Frank Simonetti—also a film and TV veteran—told us. “It was someting we knew we could do well—and at a price point that wouldn’t break the bank.” Three other original web series are in the works for Sweety High, including Food Star, with The Clique’s Sophie and Emily Everhard which just began production, Glam Squad with fashonista Scarlett Turner and a forthcoming scripted series, Gadget Girl. “Original content is exciting and it’s sorely lacking in terms of high quality content for this demo,” added Simonetti.
Social Gaming Business
Of all the business models surrounding original web series content, this one too is a first in my book. The 10-episode web series isn’t sponsored, or even ad-supported, with the site itself void of any third-party ads whatsoever (so far). In effect, the Sweety High site itself is the brand sponsor. This really isn’t all that notable until you take a look at how the site plans to monetize that audience.
Users enroll in the virtual high school, which gives some features away for free, but for much of the premium content like the original web series, their parents must foot the monthly subscription fee of $4.99 per month. They can then also buy an assortment of virtual goods like Sweety Hearts and Karma points, for nominal fees via the ‘Sweety Store.’ This is all tracked by users’ ‘Sweety Meters’, prominently visible on their customized ‘Locker’ (profile) pages. The virtual currency can be either earned, purchased (to save time) or won through regular contests on the site. Not a bad model considering the $1.6 billion US market for virtual goods is showing no signs of letting up steam, particularly in the pre-teen set.
“It’s one part FarmVille, one part Facebook, with a lot of secret sauce in it,” said Simonetti.
While the web series itself will get an exclusive run within the gated walls of Sweety High, at least initially, there are still a number of teen-targeted PSAs promoting Cyber Safety released via their YouTube channel. Subjects like cyber bullying (below) are discussed by real teens in their own voices.
As for making sure it’s really 9 to 13 year-old girls and that behavior stays healthy, they teamed up with services NetModerator and Privo to monitor activity. So far they tell us around 1000 girls have been part of the private beta, helping test and develop the site’s features before opening it wide today.
Since you’ll have to prove you’re really a 9 to 13 year old girl to get access to Sweety High, we have some screenshots: