Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 00:00 on 28-12-2013, Jamie Johnston
It's this one. Not really opposite the station but fairly close, so I imagine it's the same one you're thinking of — I'd be surprised if there were two Who shops in East Ham! Maybe it's moved a bit up the road or something.
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at 23:20 on 26-12-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Is that the one in East Ham opposite the tube station. I used to live right by it, but that was pre-resurrection, so I had an awareness of Dr. Who, but no real interest in that. There was a real big Dalek in the window thohg and they had a bunch of other stuff and books there as well. A nice store altogether.
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at 13:10 on 25-12-2013, Jamie Johnston
Maybe part of the plan is for Ryde to become a sort of major geek destination, like Glastonbury for New-Agers. Some people will travel quite a long way for niche stuff. There's a Doctor Who shop in a fairly remote bit of East London that does sell online but also has a pretty big physical retail premises, which suggests more actual face-to-face customers than I'd expect from the local area.
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at 21:42 on 24-12-2013, Arthur B
Yeah, I mean I'd assume they'd also be able to get by on distance selling except you'd actually have to be really, really determined to work out how to buy anything through their website so I'm not sure how that would even work.
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at 21:09 on 24-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
And yet it's an actual real shop, not just a dodgy website. I drove past it a couple of weeks ago.

I will concede that it is on the same road as an established Doctor Who shop (but I've always believed that he must do most of his business via distance selling), but surely this is even more niche.
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at 08:19 on 24-12-2013, Shimmin
It's very in-constructiony. Several pages list the same non-existent "artists" as their representatives for Books, Sweets and whatever. The indexy sort of page is just random typing, the poor man's Lorem Ipsum. Even on the slightly more coherent pages, there are links that don't work and there's not a single page that actually functions. The whole thing basically looks like something I might have in a folder on my hard drive while constructing it, but not anything I'd dream of putting online. Which is to say nothing of the actual design.

It's probably not actually sus, but I'm a bit chary of it.
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at 05:01 on 24-12-2013, Melanie
When you said "exploding sweet cake" I was expecting something more... dramatic. I'm left wondering: do they actually explode? Why would you want that? Are they... prank cakes? Is this a British thing?

I'm disturbed by the amount of filler text there, too. Like the "description three", "description four", etc. on the cakes gallery page, and the weird keyboard-mashy stuff on the "steampunk gallery" page. It's like a website a spambot would make.
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at 02:26 on 24-12-2013, Arthur B
Also the associated shops call themselves "galleries" but the blurb makes them sound like shops - like the stocking gallery sells stockings, the steampunk gallery sells steam, and so on. Are they galleries or shops? Is there a distinction? Is this a tax fiddle? Are they trying to get arts council money?

In addition, trying to click through to any of the actual products on the steampunk shop, except for the steampunk clothing ends up taking you to a page where you can buy an exploding sweet cake.

Also, the design on their website is so 1998 it hurts.
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at 00:52 on 24-12-2013, Dan H
The thing that strikes me as strangest is that they seem to have an attached bookshop that deals *exclusively* in the works of Robert Rankin.
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at 18:24 on 23-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
Apropos of nothing, a Steampunk shop has opened in my town. It's an actual shop you can go to.

I'm so confused. I can't see how that can possibly be a viable business.
But I'll have a look when I'm in area.
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at 03:51 on 23-12-2013, Arthur B
Hm, not been following it closely but giving the Kickstarter page a quick once-over my thoughts are as follows:

- On the one hand, I think the big risk of basing your strategy around rejecting mainstream publishing's criteria for accepting or rejecting books is that you'll end up adopting criteria which are either too forgiving, in which case your product line gets loaded down with trash or works which might have had a shot at being good had you forced the author to do another draft, or too disconnected with what the book-buying public actually want, in which case you might be left with a line of very fine books that don't actually make you enough money to sustain yourself.

- On the other hand, if you do come up with criteria which are both demanding enough to weed out the dross and sufficiently attuned with the wants and needs of a particular audience to actually catch on there and turn a profit, whilst at the same time are sufficiently different from the criteria other publishers use that you are able to be a very distinct and individual presence in the market, then that might be an example of the sort of disruptive innovation talked about in that article Jamie linked to recently.
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at 02:53 on 23-12-2013, Michal
Anybody else following the Big Bang Press thing? Anybody else think it's a train wreck waiting to happen?
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at 22:32 on 22-12-2013, Danielle
I did a brief stint working for Pop, and I second that recommendation. The clothes are awesome quality and last approximately forever. There's some serious emphasis on not pigeonholing children by gender; when I worked there we had pink and white striped dresses in the "unisex" section, for example.
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at 20:04 on 22-12-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Back here it's mostly blue for boys, pink for girls, every other colour: depends on the case. I'll just recommend the swedish maker Polarn O. Pyret at this point. They have gendered selections, but they have about as extensive unisex clothing going all the way to older children as well. In case people want options at some point. Also Ticket to Heaven has some variety. And Me and I is great. Not that they don't have gendered clothing, its just that they have choices beyond that. And I like 'em. I'll stop advertising now.
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at 08:27 on 22-12-2013, Danielle
Although they may dial back on the pink, because M&S isn't a terribly pink-branded company.

I was in M&S the day before yesterday buying clothes for my cousin's newborn baby girl. Even there, the system is pink for girls and every other colour for boys. If they change that I'll be surprised.
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at 00:04 on 22-12-2013, Dan H
Now they merely have a pink female-coded floor and a blue male-coded floor that are not explicitly called Girls floor and Boys floor. Not the most inspiring progress I've ever seen.


I confess that this is more or less what I'm expecting from M&S. Although they may dial back on the pink, because M&S isn't a terribly pink-branded company.
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at 18:32 on 21-12-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Still, the tie-in album was pretty rockin'.

Oh...wait...
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at 17:54 on 21-12-2013, Michal
You know those times when you open a book, read the first few paragraphs, then wonder, "How in all that is holy did this thing ever get published?"

So I just started reading Year Zero by Rob Reid. Then I stopped.

This has been a warning to you all.
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at 15:35 on 20-12-2013, Andy G
I remember there was a lot of fuss a while back about a campaign that successfully got Hamley's toy store to stop having a Boys floor and a Girls floor. Now they merely have a pink female-coded floor and a blue male-coded floor that are not explicitly called Girls floor and Boys floor. Not the most inspiring progress I've ever seen.
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at 21:11 on 18-12-2013, Dan H
Topically, Marks and Spencer are making their toy packaging gender neutral next year.


Although by "gender neutral" it seems to actually mean "not actively and offensively gendering things for no reason at all." I'd be interested to see what they actually *put* on their packages.

I'd add that this also ties in interestingly with the observation alula_auburn made on my article that things seem to get less gendered in more upmarket stores. M&S might be a supermarket, but it's a supermarket with aspirations.
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at 13:18 on 18-12-2013, Sonia Mitchell
Topically, Marks and Spencer are making their toy packaging gender neutral next year.

Which I think is particularly interesting given that M&S is a store where people buy gifts for others, rather than somewhere children shop.
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at 01:35 on 18-12-2013, Bookwyrm
To be fair though, the cartoon in question wasn't intended to sell one brand of toys, it was meant to sell the DC Comics franchise in all its many and myriad forms.

So having absolute disinterest in selling to girls is par for the course.

Of course. DC, female superhero fans do exist. We're willing to pay for T-shirts, comics,and DVDs too. Why is DC limiting their target demographic so narrowly? If they're thinking they can target the other demographics through cartoons and movies... they're not doing a very good job in that department either. Two of the four DC cartoons on Cartoon Network have been cancelled. Beware the Batman will probably get cancelled too. So there goes the younger, toy buying demographic.
As for appealing to the movie going public; DC can't seem to make a profitable live action movie that isn't about Superman or Batman. Catwoman, Jonah Hex, and to a lesser extent Green Lantern failed financially. The only recent non-Supes/Bats movie to do well was Watchmen and you can't really build a movie franchise on that. DC movies rely heavily on Superman or Batman at the expense of other characters.(Like Wonder Woman. Seriously when is she getting her own movie.). How does DC expect to compete with Marvel Studios if they're so afraid of variety? >_<
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at 21:25 on 17-12-2013, Arthur B
I suspect I'm over-interpreting from a single data point, but I think that this is particularly tough to achieve in cartoons, where often the whole *purpose* of the cartoon is to sell toys (He-Man, She-Ra and Transformers being good examples from my childhood) as opposed to more conventional merchandising, where the merchandise is a secondary revenue stream. Finding that your cartoon isn't appealing to the sorts of people who buy the toys that the cartoon is designed to sell is basically a disaster, and there really isn't an alternative model that makes sense, any more than it would make sense to shoot a TV advert and then design the product after you found out who liked the commercial.

To be fair though, the cartoon in question wasn't intended to sell one brand of toys, it was meant to sell the DC Comics franchise in all its many and myriad forms.

So having absolute disinterest in selling to girls is par for the course.
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at 19:43 on 17-12-2013, Dan H
That may be the case, but that isn't how Dini is reporting it - he's saying that "too many girls" was presented as a bad thing alongside "not enough boys".


I suspect that this is just averagely non-rigorous use of language. Even in Dini's report, I don't see anything which suggested that the company thought girls qua girls were a problem, just that they weren't the target market.

To put it another way, it's another example of the distinction Jamie made in his 2009 article about the difference between not wanting and wanting not. There are sensible business reasons not to want your show to appeal primarily to girls. There are no sensible reasons to actively want girls to stay away from your show. Even on Dini's reporting, it feels to me like the execs were saying the former, not the latter.

If you could work out a business model which allowed you to rapidly reframe a merchandising plan to respond to a show/movie/whatever's audience demographic not matching the one you originally expected you could make fat stacks.


I suspect I'm over-interpreting from a single data point, but I think that this is particularly tough to achieve in cartoons, where often the whole *purpose* of the cartoon is to sell toys (He-Man, She-Ra and Transformers being good examples from my childhood) as opposed to more conventional merchandising, where the merchandise is a secondary revenue stream. Finding that your cartoon isn't appealing to the sorts of people who buy the toys that the cartoon is designed to sell is basically a disaster, and there really isn't an alternative model that makes sense, any more than it would make sense to shoot a TV advert and then design the product after you found out who liked the commercial.

Of course there *have* been cartoons designed to sell toys primarily to girls (My Little Pony being the obvious) but they're very different from the cartoons designed to sell toys to boys.

This is getting long enough that I'm half tempted to spin it out into a full article, because this raises the fascinating point that how effective a show is at selling things to [Demographic X] seems to be wholly unrelated to the question of how much members of [Demographic X] actually *like* it.
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