iStoryTime looks to become Netflix for children’s eBooks

Image via zuuka
Image via zuuka
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With the way kids binge consume media on their tablets these days, it only seems natural that the popular iStoryTime app is adding a monthly subscription service to its range of pricing options, enabling little readers looking for their fix of fables to enjoy every book in the app’s library for only $5 a month.

“We’re a children’s media company, 100-percent focused on kids,” says Graham Farrar, the founder of zuuka, the tech company behind the read-aloud program. “Everything is focused on mobile storytelling. We don’t do games. Everything is about the storytelling experience.”

In the past, the company released one story at a time, and parents would purchase every ebook separately in order to build up their child’s library.

“Historically, when a new book came out, it was one app, one story, and that was it,” says Farrar. “But with the iStoryTime library, the concept is Netflix for kid’s storybooks, where you have one app, but you have 200 stories in it. These are the brands and characters kids love, from Smurfs to How to Train Your Dragon to Madagascar, so it’s all premium, top-grade content. We’ve specifically designed the app to include a kid’s section and a parent’s section because we think there is a lot of fatigue out there from the free apps, how every other button is something they want you to buy, so we wanted to go the opposite direction.

“When a kid goes to their bookshelf, everything there, they own. They can read it all, and it’s up to them to make the choice, as everything on the shelf has been curated by their parents. The parents then have their own section of the app that is closed off behind a gate so only they can access it.”

And while parents are still able to buy one book at a time for their kids if they don’t wish to subscribe, Farrar believes that the new subscription service is more aligned to how children devour multiple books in one sitting, especially since a new book will be added to the library every week.

But that’s not the only change hitting iStoryTime, as the Santa Monica based company is teaming with Tapjoy to offer parents who don’t want to subscribe to the full library a new way to download books for free. Here, parents who interact with ads can earn points in order to acquire new books, while at the same time, their child never sees a single pop-up.

“I can’t think of any media ever that has done something like this before,” says Farrar. “Basically, you go to the library, and the parents head to the parental gate. When you click it, you’ll see something that says ‘Earn a Free Book.’”

Parents then look down a list of advertisers, and if they like Samsung’s page on Facebook, for example, Samsung will give the parents story points that can then be used to buy books that are delivered straight to the bookshelf on the kid’s side of the app with no advertorial intrusion to the child.

“The book in the child’s library is identical to the version you buy with money,” explains Farrar. “So if a parent is sitting in the doctor’s office or in the subway, they can watch a commercial, like a Facebook page, or maybe even sign up for a Netflix account, and Netflix will give you enough points for ten free books. You buy those books, the kids read them, and they never see a single ad.

“This is a great new way for parents to buy new books for their kids. Tapjoy is our partner on this, and they have a great network of advertisers that they work with. You don’t want to take a product that is targeting 18-month-olds to 10-year-olds and stick in a bunch of commercials wanting them to sign up for auto-insurance quotes. Kids don’t want that, parents don’t want that, and the advertisers don’t want that either. Because of the way we’ve now designed the product, and how it’s split, the kids can get the content, and the parents can pick how they want to pay for the books.”