The iPad and Rich Media Apps—Capitalizing on the Future of Storytelling

1/6/11

Storytelling has a “storied” past. In written form, it dates back some 10,000 to 12,000 years to ancient petroglyphs (also known as cave paintings). Personally, I have a passion for storytelling as a means to communicate, educate and socially engage all at the same time. As an interactive and content marketer, I appreciate storytelling as a vehicle to share authentic accounts of life experiences. As a father, I delight in storytelling as a way to jumpstart my kids’ creativity, teach them important skills and lessons, and encourage them to have boundless goals.

In 2006, my enthusiasm for storytelling compelled me to join Cambridge, MA based Panraven, a company that, through an intuitive, flexible interface, lets consumers combine media (text, photos, audio and video) into one rich expressive story. “Our Guardian Angel,” a personal account written by Panraven member, SilverWaves, about her friend’s tragic car accident, will stay with me forever. Below are two of my favorite quotes that to me capture the power of storytelling:

“We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say-and to feel- ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought.” -John Steinbeck

“Because there is a natural storytelling urge and ability in all human beings, even just a little nurturing of this impulse can bring about astonishing and delightful results.” -Nancy Mellon, The Art of Storytelling

Storytelling Meets the iPad

Here we are in 2011, at the onset of the second wave of digital publishing. The iPad, with its touchscreen, accelerometer, and other advanced features, has ushered in a whole new era of storytelling, one with unprecedented potential to captivate in an immersive learning environment. Publishers are creating rich, interactive apps that make e-book readers, which merely simulate traditional book reading, seem so 2010. Today’s apps are even tailored to different types of learners, from visual to auditory. With an iPad app, one child can read and interact with stories independently, while another can have them read aloud and/or accompanied by music. Other perks, such as short-length videos, quizzes, challenges and games, are often included in addition to the core content. (I will continue to focus the rest of this article on children’s books, because it is one of the categories that stands to benefit most from the iPad’s capabilities.)

Callaway Apps for the iPadTwo companies in the children’s app space with stellar execs and killer apps worth the money are Callaway Digital Arts and Ruckus Media Group. Callaway, a spinoff of Callaway Arts & Entertainment, recently received $6 million in Series A funding in a round led by Menlo Park, CA-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and is set to open an office in San Francisco. John Lee, CEO of Callaway and a toy industry veteran has called the newly created company “a cross between publisher Random House and animated film studio Pixar.” Ruckus CEO Rick Richter, spent twelve years at Simon & Schuster, including as President and Publisher of the Children’s Publishing Division. According to Richter, the Norwalk, CT-based company has received only seed financing to date.

The typical industry business model includes releasing titles for both owned and licensed brands. Callaway has rights to create stories for kid favorites Thomas & Friends, Sesame Street and Miss Spider. Apple recently named Miss Spider’s Bedtime Story, the only Callaway title out long enough for consideration, one of the Best Interactive Story Apps of 2010. Ruckus Media has enlisted talent such as … Next Page »

Jonathan Michaeli is former vice president of marketing for Boston-area startups Gather.com and Panraven and Israel-based WorldMate. Follow @

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