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Disney Taps Old Media

Old media will become new again to promote Disney Channel’s upcoming tween series, Sonny With a Chance, as the basic-cable network builds a magazine online that will offer a peek into the “lives” of the fictional characters featured in the series.

The digital magazine will be a character in itself: the actors in the series will be seen reading Tween Weekly on the series, and the “magazine” will be found at the series supersite.

“It won’t look like an old-school magazine. Kids today are in the digital age, and we’ll play to that,” said Disney vice president of digital media Lauren DeVillier. But the online publication will definitely have the feel of “teen” magazines from days gone by, she added.

Instead of breathless printed prose on characters, Tween Weekly will offer blogs that seem to have been penned by the fictional folks themselves. Other stories will be composed by fictitious reporters dreamed up by the digital media team.

The magazine will target the show’s 6-to-14-year-old viewers. It will launch in conjunction with the debut of the series, which joins the Disney Channel lineup on Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Sonny With a Chance is a TV show within a TV show, exploring the lives of the stars of the fictional series So Random.

DeVillier said viewers will not be pushed to the Web site for the magazine with on-air prompts — designers expect new show fans to find the content organically.

“Our role, with digital media, is to deepen engagement by deepening the storyline,” she said.

Topics in the magazine may, in the future, also include features on other Disney characters, such as Hannah Montana or the characters the Jonas Brothers play in their upcoming scripted series.

DeVillier said young viewers will have no problem differentiating between content on characters and the true lives of the actors who play them. Though characters from other shows may be integrated into Tween Weekly, the cable channel does not anticipate launching separate digital weeklies for each upcoming shows.

The four main content areas will include a feature story, “The Scoop,” “Celebrity Corner” and “Style & Fashion.”

Interactive features will include quizzes and polls. It is “not out of the question” that viewer feedback and other forms of input could be used in the show, but Disney just wants to get the venture launched and see how it works with fans.

All pages of the online magazine will be advertiser-supported, but DeVillier declined to offer a client roster.