Bolt Bows Young Adult Site

In hopes of branching out from its roots as a site for kids, Bolt Media today is expected to launch a new version of its consumer-generated media and social networking site, Bolt.com, aimed at users older than 18. The company also will spin off a new site, Bolt2.com, targeted at younger teens and tweens.

When the company first launched, the site was targeted to youngsters--but, said Bolt Media CEO Aaron Cohen, some of those original visitors continue to use the site even though they have aged out of the original target demographic. "Our core membership in Bolt has gone from growing up with this site," said Cohen.

With the new sites, the company hopes to retain its existing visitors while also remaining a destination for children. "We couldn't sit here and say we have stuff that's appropriate for 9-year-olds and stuff that's appropriate for 30-year-olds. It's not fair to the consumers, and it's not fair to the advertisers."

Cohen added that the bifurcation of the Bolt brand will allow the company to pursue new advertisers in different sectors. For instance, the company will now consider running ads for R-rated movies, or the automotive industry, on the Bolt.com site. The site's historical advertisers, like Nintendo and Kellogg's, will be directed toward Bolt2, Cohen said.

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Gartner Research analyst Mike McGuire said Bolt's move makes sense, because older users aren't going to be interested in being on a community site with a younger crowd. "Keeping them separate was a smart move," he said, referring to the different demographic groups that use Bolt.

McGuire said that although there has been some negative PR surrounding social networking sites and media sharing sites like MySpace.com--which last month was the focus of several press stories regarding online sexual predators--advertisers will still have to consider the medium because of its high levels of engagement. "The advertisers may be skittish now, and they'll get real nervous if they start to see traffic drop off," he said. "But I think it's abundantly clear that they have a number of people who are spending more than a few minutes a day or a week on these sites--they're becoming an integral part of people's lives. I don't think advertisers get to ignore that."

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