The surge of digital media in recent years has dramatically changed the playing field. And the rules for young viewers and publishers catering to kids content are at the forefront of the game.
Childrens’ relationship with media is no longer limited to the plain, acquiescent consumption of content and ads. Today, kids are interacting with digital apps and publications every day, often unwittingly inviting publishers to connect with them and their friends online. Business intelligence are carefully tracking their segment online and by mobile gadgets, mining conversations from kids’ social networks such as Club Penguin and iTwixie, collecting data to record, analyse, personalized their behavioral profiles, and more.
Today’s existing digital publications for kids are fully and seamlessly integrated into their social relationships and minute-by-minute interactions. Childrens’ print publications are spinning into a revolutionary new world, as digital publishing for kids draw from an expanding toolbox of sophisticated interactivity and engagement techniques.
Following is an article written by Karen Raugust for Publishers Weekly. She discusses how Disney is now taking its digital content development expertise into the educational space, introducing a series of apps under the Disney ImagiCademy brand. The mass media company awesomely brings a unique perspective to creating children’s publications.
And if you’re in the business of creating animated stories for kids, see how Disney’s digital strategy can resonate with yours and win the hearts of our world’s toughest critics.
The Digital Kids Conference, held alongside Toy Fair this year, featured a keynote by Andrew Sugerman, executive v-p of Disney Publishing Worldwide, who spoke about the company’s digital publishing strategy, including the interrelationship between print and digital formats. “We’re blurring the lines of what’s a ‘read’ experience, what’s a ‘watch’ experience, and what’s a ‘play’ experience,” he said in his address. “It’s all storytelling.”
DPW’s digital publishing activities encompass digital replicas of physical books (e.g., flat e-books), enhanced e-books, and apps. Sugerman points out that the area between e-books and apps is getting grayer, with the former increasingly housed inside the latter rather than in an e-bookstore setting. “We’re allowing users to find e-book titles through our apps, and our business is growing because of it,” he said.
DPW has published 120 apps to date and became the world’s largest publisher of kids’ apps in 2014, according to Sugerman. Monetization is through several models, depending on the product. Some apps are dubbed “freemium” offerings (a free initial app with purchases of additional in-app content); some “paymium” (payment for both the initial purchase and further content); and some are sold under a subscription model.
In his presentation, Sugerman outlined the three keys to Disney’s digital content development. The first is personalization, as exemplified by its new Color + Play Collection, a series of apps that launched with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Color + Play. Children can digitally color a character, which then interacts with other characters in a digital environment.
“The next iteration involves physical product and digital product,” Sugerman explained, noting that Disney has licensed Bendon to create traditional coloring books that are compatible with the Color + Play apps, allowing characters colored on paper to be imported into the digital space. An upcoming app, Cars Daredevil Garage, will enable children to take a picture of a toy vehicle and bring it into a mobile garage, where they can personalize it.
The second focus in DPW’s digital content strategy is the creation of “expansive, rich worlds” that encompass both Disney-produced and fan-generated content. Star Wars Scene Maker, for older children, lets users reimagine scenes from the film using assets provided, setting up shots and adding words and music, then sharing their scenes with friends on YouTube or other platforms. Star Wars Journeys is a gaming app with embedded storylines, allowing the company to introduce new characters and new story arcs in the lead-up to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the new film that will debut later this year.
On the e-book side, Frozen Read & Play allows the user to flip the tablet to influence how the story is told, while Disney Story Central is a “container app” that allows families to download, store, and read e-books. Since its release last summer, the app’s users have read eight million books, and usage growth is accelerating, Sugerman reported.
Finally, the third key to content development is fostering a shared experience. Disney worked with author Ridley Pearson and Kingdom Keepers Insider, the fan community for Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers novel series (which takes place at Disney theme parks), to encourage fans to contribute passages online. The community voted on the best entries, also evaluated by Pearson, and the winning passages are integrated into a series of three novellas. “It was great to see that, on a Friday night, thousands of kids were writing passages for the book,” Sugerman said.