High schooler portal mixes Facebook and textbooks

Toronto's MIR Communications has launched the portal MyFishbowl.ca, integrating educational content with social networking tools like video and chat forums - and opportunities for advertisers.

With an active database of 1,900 high schools and a potential target of 1.5 million students at its disposal, Toronto’s MIR Communications has launched the portal MyFishbowl.ca.

Billed as ‘Canada’s high school connection,’ MyFishbowl.ca aims, by offering a combination of educational and entertainment content integrated with video and chat forums, to become a teen social networking platform as integral as Facebook or Twitter. Articles on essay research tips and the first 30 days of university are generated in-house, led by editor Alexandra Kimball, who has a Ph.D in English.

‘There is nothing like this in Canada, so this really provided an opening in the market for us to create something that bridged the educational needs that kids have, because a large percentage of the time they spent on the internet is dedicated to their school work,’ MIR Communications’ national sales manager Candice Kirkby told MiC.

‘But it’s really about working the educational element of a high school student lifestyle with the social.’

Bolstered with an established print and online presence through its in-school tween magazine kidsworld, MIR has launched a poster campaign within its country-wide school network to promote the site and provide contest incentives for students to join, explore and virally recruit their friends. Online since Oct. 8, the site has registered 50,000 impressions over the last four weeks and the average time spent on the site per viewer as been 11.40 minutes, says MIR president and publisher Michael Sheasgreen.

‘From a social marketing standpoint, we want to see this site become…almost self-supported through the content that the kids are creating and through the growth of the membership,’ says Kirkby. ‘It’s not dissimilar to what Facebook does – creating groups, creating forums – and that’s really where the central hub of the site will be.

‘We also want to create opportunities to reach out to the kids that are probably in keeping with what we do from a marketing standpoint, but creating integrated layers within the site for advertisers to work with.’

Kirkby would not divulge the brands, but said that there’s already been advertising interest expressed by government agencies and public service, ‘as well as electronics, apparel, universities, film and music’ retailers, with Sheasgreen noting that deals are in place to capitalize on the expected surge in student membership forecasted for after the holidays.

‘The deals that we have going now are based less on traffic and traffic projections and more about the environment and the unique opportunity to talk to high school kids,’ he adds. ‘We’re excited because that tells us that the concept works, and with our ability to get into high schools and reach out to 1.5 million kids, the sky is the limit here.’

In the past, MIR has executed in-school advertising campaigns with such brands as Mattel, Neilson, Colgate and Wonder Bread.