Launched in 2011 as part of an online network of sites offering vetted content for kids and their teachers, DogoBooks is an online community that allows children aged 9 to 13 to write reviews of forthcoming books. DogoBooks is part of the Dogo Media network that also includes DogoNews—which offers news, current events, and Common Core content for kids and classroom work—and DogoMovies, where kids can rate and review movies.
DogoNews was the first site launched by Dogo Media founder, CEO, publisher, and editor Meera Dolasia in 2010; she was soon joined in the venture by her husband, Rupen Dolasia, who is Dogo's v-p, business development, and a former venture capital investor. The word Dogo means “small” in Swahili. In an interview at the PW offices, Rupen Dolasia said that after the launch of DogoNews, the company began looking for “other ways to engage kids.” He noted, “Kids want to express themselves.” So the couple decided to “let them opine” about books and launched DogoBooks. With “kids talking to kids,” Dolasia said, “it just took off and had a life of its own.”
The Dogo Media Web sites attract more than 500,000 unique visitors each month, including more than 18,000 educators, Dolasia said. Many of these educators find the site through a growing list of partnerships with teacher and administrator organizations and school resource sites. DogoBooks offers an online community where kids can discover, review, and talk about the books that interest them. The DogoBooks site now has more than 28,000 book reviews, written by kids and posted since the site’s launch. The site is a magnet for kids looking “for reviews and other related cool books,” Dolasia said.
DogoBooks generates revenue as an Amazon affiliate, and site visitors can buy physical books (no e-books yet) through Amazon.com. The site also works with publishers to create sponsored content (including contests to receive free advance reader’s copies of forthcoming titles) for both fiction and nonfiction. “We offer programs that range from banner campaigns, sponsored posts, and giveaways to new titles and writing contests,” said Ed Meagher, v-p of sales. The company also works with publishers to create branded book clubs. Meagher said so far DogoBooks has worked with 12 publishers – among them Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Little, Brown; Penguin; Macmillan; Papercutz; Amazon Publishing; and Scholastic – on 24 marketing campaigns.
To promote the site, Dogo is partnering with the Children’s Book Council; the library cooperative OCLC; and Better World Books, an online new and used bookstore with a social mission to promote literacy, for Summer Reading 2013, a books and reading promotion for grades 3–8 that will start during Children’s Book Week and run through the fall. The goal of the promotion is to compile a list of 120 books from which each child can read and review five books, qualifying him or her to receive a free book. Dogo is seeking publishers to contribute to the list, and participation costs $1,000 per book listed.
Dolasia was quick to point out that DogoBooks is compliant with the Children’s Online Protection Act, and he emphasized that the site is “not for social networking. We can’t collect names and the kids can’t talk to the visitors.” Nevertheless, kids can “follow” books, much like you follow someone on Twitter, and there are about 61,000 books currently being followed by kids on the site.
Dogo Media partners with teachers via a separate teacher site and log-on. The site has 12,000 teacher subscribers and, according to Meagher, teachers often have kids review books on the site as part of their homework. “Sometimes you find 15 reviews of the same book on the site; it’s a class assignment. This is what helps us continue to grow,” he said.
Both DogoNews and DogoBook content is also available through a variety of apps and content partnerships – among them the DogoNews app, the only current events educational app in the Google Chrome Web store. DogoNews content is also available through the app for Edmodo, an educational social media site serving 14 million teachers and students, while DogoNews and DogoBooks content are also plug-ins for Edublog, a site hosting more than one million education blogs. In addition, DogoNews’ and DogoBooks’ content is available to more than four million teachers through Learning.com, a site offering curriculum and assessment tools to k-12 teachers and administrators.
“Our platform lets teachers choose what articles they want to use and a variety of ways to engage their students,” Meagher said. DogoBooks has teamed with OCLC/World Cat to allow kids to search for library books at the Dogo site, in addition to working to create a library-branded version of DogoBooks reviews that will be syndicated to libraries.
Meagher described Dogo Media as “a next-generation online network,” and said its goal is “empowering kids to engage with digital media in a fun, safe, and social environment."