Once upon a time, a little girl was walking through an enchanted forest when her path was barred with an advertisement. If she wanted to continue on her way, she had to pay a toll.
Zuuka is a children’s e-book publisher that wants to prevent this tale from happening.
The company recently revamped its iStoryTime app to feel more like a “Netflix for children’s books” and introduced an innovative monetization model that keeps ads and in-app purchases away from kids.
Kids are an advertisers’ dream audience — captive, impressionable, and persuasive. They they have a significant influence on how their parents’ spend money, but peppering kids with ads is morally questionable. Zuuka wanted to figure out a guilt-free way to present parents with sponsored content and offers.
“In-app purchases are a great model, but we don’t want to put things in front of kids that they can’t have, that’s almost predatory,” said founder Graham Farrar in an interview with VentureBeat. “So we store it behind a parental lock. This way advertisers get to connect with the parents, who they want to talk to anyway. Never in media has there been an opportunity for kids to get content sponsored by advertisers, without seeing advertisements.”
This approach works through a partnership with Tapjoy, an advertising network that drives monetization for mobile apps.
Zuuka is free to download and the first four books are free. After that, individual books cost around $3. However they can also earn points for free books by interacting with advertisers. For example, Samsung could give a mom points for becoming a fan of Samsung’s Facebook page. Using those points, mom can buy an ad-free book for her kid.
The advertiser reaches its target audience, Mom gets books for free, and Zuuka is able to monetize its content. Meanwhile, the kid is reading without getting tripped up by ads or in-app purchases.
With this model, Farrar said everybody wins.
Since 2009, Zuuka has built up its large and engaging library of children’s content. It works with publishing houses and film production companies such as DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Sony, Harper Collins, and Random House to produce interactive digital storybooks based off popular stories, such as Ice Age, Turbo, and How to Train Your Dragon.
“We are the oldest kid on the monkey bars when it comes this space,” Farrar said. “We started the company because we have kids. We wanted to build something for ourselves and our kids, and run a business in a way that felt good to us as parents, while also allowing brands and advertisers to support the content.”
Zuuka’s entire storybook portfolio has been downloaded 6 million times to-date, with 65 million reads. The company is based in Santa Barbara and is backed by $2 million.