Thursday, October 11, 2012

Donny & Marie, The Site
by Diane Young



It seemed like a regular day as I went through the BW Online mail (the printed variety). Then I pulled out a bright colored postcard, and there they were: Donny and Marie Osmond, smiling broadly and promoting their new Web site, which is called Excited (and mildly embarrassed), I purloined the card from a co-worker's mail and took a covert look-see. As a child I had loved plunking down in front of the tube to catch the Donny & Marie Show. I wanted to look like Marie. I wanted to marry Donny. I wanted Donny's purple socks. Looking forward to seeing how my idols had weathered the intervening 20 years, I typed the url into my browser. 

Bummer. The site is really a companion to the duo's new daytime show, Donny & Marie, which premiered on Sept. 21. I had heard of the show but hadn't seen it, and the site sounded like a way to check it out. Alas, Donny, I hardly knew you. I understand why a show needs a Web site -- for PR purposes, mostly. But it probably helps if it's a good Web site. Why ruin your chances for renewed stardom by disappointing aging twentysomethings like me?

The site's pages are attractive enough, laid out well, and easy to navigate. But the content is lighter weight than the lyrics of an old Donny & Marie song. Come to think of it, that isn't fair. A typical D&M song lasts three minutes. It requires a full five minutes to take in the entire Web site. Lynda Keeler, head of Columbia TriStar Interactive (which produces both the show and the Web site from Los Angeles) thinks there'll be more to see after the show is on for awhile and the producers get a better feel for what interests the audience. O.K. But aren't people looking at this site because what mainly interests them is Donny & Marie? Hel-lo-o! 

It doesn't take long to describe a five-minute Web experience, so pay attention. There are eight areas listed on the home page, starting with "highlights." There's a nice photo gallery of Donny and Marie and some of their TV show guests -- updated every third or fourth show, it seems. The video clips in the highlights area are nice, but changed infrequently. Which explains why there are only three. It's just as well, because downloading one takes forever, even with a T1 connection from my office. 

Pop into D&M's Guests and you'll find a list of the guests for that week. Three to five guests per show -- names, nothing more. No biographies or pictures. I consider myself entertainment literate, and I've never heard of people such as John Haymes Newton and Roma Maffia. So a little picture or blurb would be helpful. The site is updated daily, according to Keeler, but it's hard to tell if anything other than the names are changed.

It's also hard to figure out if there's anyone on the other end of the E-mail. Another button -- "Talk to Us" -- took me to an E-mail form that can be used to submit to Donny, Marie, or their band leader a question that might be read on the air -- or a request for a song to be played. I identified myself and my mission and asked that my note be forwarded to the appropriate person. Weeks later, I have yet to get even a form-letter reply. It's an odd way to attract and keep fans.

I get it, I thought on a subsequent visit: Don't write, chat. So I clicked on a button labeled "chat." I ended up on a screen with Sony splashed all over it, wondering how did I get here? If they don't want to talk to me, I thought, maybe they want me to buy something. Not really. A quick trip to the Donny & Marie store showed me photos of Donny & Marie T-shirts and hats -- with links to the Sony Pictures Studio Store, where you have to hunt them down all over again. A button for The Game leads to an area that's still under construction -- a notice that I thought was a no-no for Web builders. 

"Forget this," I was starting to mutter, when suddenly I found hope. I clicked on a button labeled "Behind the Scenes," and on another called simply, "Donny & Marie" and found a few pleasant surprises. Rather than rehashing familiar career milestones, Donny and Marie's bios focus on what they've been doing as adults during the '80s and '90s. For example, Donny is quite the computer buff, and Marie designs her own line of dolls. Links off the biography pages go to the Web site for the entire Osmond family ( which is massive (both the site and the family). Anything you want to know about the Osmonds or their foundation, the Children's Miracle Network, is here.

To be fair, plenty of celebrities have Web sites that are no better than Donny & Marie's. And if you never liked their wholesome brand of entertainment, you probably won't care that their Web site is largely bereft of interesting material. In case it isn't clear, though, I still have a soft spot for Donny & Marie. And I'm a lot more forgiving than most hardened Web surfers. So I'll keep checking for awhile to see if the the site will show signs of life. I would feel a lot better about it all, though, if someone would answer my E-mail. 

By Diane Young, associate Webmaster, Business Week Online

No comments:

Post a Comment