It's a basic principle of marketing: to reach an audience, go to where that audience is. That's why more and more authors are stopping by Radio KOL, the live, daily (3—7 p.m. EST) online radio show for kids on the children's area of America Online.
AOL's data indicates that Radio KOL, launched in September 2003, streams to approximately 500,000 computers, reaching between one and four kids with each stream. That means an estimated one million seven—to—12-year-olds tune in to hear a live mix of music, interviews and, yes, plenty of wackiness. The recent launch of Web-cam capabilities for the show means kids can also watch some of what they're hearing.
During the show, listeners can send in requests or share comments and jokes via e-mail, telephone or instant messaging. In fact, show host and DJ Rick Adams receives roughly 5,000 e-mails a day. Luckily, he has lots of experience with his target listenership, having previously worked at Nickelodeon and Children's BBC. Adams practices his own brand of irreverence, but keeps things light and fun by guiding such guests as Sheryl Crow, Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan through a series of live questions and the show's signature bit, the "Moo Baa" game (in which a guest must guess whether a certain animal breed makes a "moo" or "baa" sound). Thus far, authors R.L. Stine, Christopher Paolini, Madonna and Lemony Snicket have been in the hot (or cool, depending on how one wants to look at it) seat.
Snicket's appearance on September 21 was part of the publicity blitz surrounding the release of The Grim Grotto, 11th in the Series of Unfortunate Events series (HarperCollins). Author-illustrator Chris Van Allsburg was on the show November 12, two days after the debut of the feature film version of his picture book The Polar Express (Houghton Mifflin).
According to AOL communications manager Tracy Williams, authors can also reach computer aficionados who are a bit too young for Radio KOL. Author James Patterson has recorded a reading of his first picture book, santaKid (Little, Brown), currently being played on the Bedtime Stories section of KOL, the children's area of AOL, where readings by other authors and such celebrities as SpongeBob SquarePants can be accessed (most often with a parent's help).