How JibJab grew up by focusing on kids apps

After exploding on to the political scene in 2004 with its animated videos, the JibJab brothers are trying out more family-friendly fare.

The JibJab brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis and their StoryBots creations. JibJab

Remember the JibJab guys?

To refresh your memory (I needed to look them up myself), they're the brothers who shot on to the public stage in 2004 when their video, "This Land is Your Land," starring George W. Bush and John Kerry, skyrocketed in popularity. While JibJab, founded by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis, were never able to reproduce that success, they showed what media on the Internet could do.

The JibJab guys have now turned their attention to a new venture, "StoryBots." Instead of focusing on politics, the Spiridellises hope to make a name for themselves with children's entertainment and educational videos and books.

"Now, we're dads," said Gregg Spiridelis. "We see in our own living room how rapidly media consumption is changing."

StoryBots isn't just one video outlet; it's designed as a franchise for a number of different apps and videos, all aimed at helping children learn while still having fun. They utilize cute robot characters -- think a cross between the Android mascot and those squeaky, odd creatures from "Despicable Me." The apps can alleviate the guilt of parents who tend to shove an iPad or iPhone in front of their children to distract them, Greg said, since they have educational value.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

The original JibJab video that vaulted the company into the spotlight.

StoryBots will remain exclusive to iOS for a while, Gregg said, because it ensures that the company can control the quality of each app. He said that he would like to expand into Android, but the platform right now is too fragmented.

The apps include Starring You!, which uses pictures taken from the iPad's camera or photo gallery to put the face of the child (or parent) into a digital story book, and Beep & Boop, a novel tool to help modify and improve a child's behavior.

Starring You! under the StoryBots franchise is an evolution of a similar app under JibJab. These, of course, will be more geared towards kids, with a free app and a book-of-the-month-type model that provides new stories (families can buy books a la carte too). Unlike other digital books that have more interactive features, Starring You! focuses on the story and the act of reading, with the difference being that the child plays a unique role in the book.

The StoryBots have a series of videos devoted to each letter of the alphabet. JibJab

Beep & Boop are two StoryBots characters that are represented by two buttons in an iPhone app, pushed when a child has been naughty or nice. When a child gets an A on a test or finishes his dinner, the parent hits the Beep button, while the Boop button is pressed when the child does something wrong. The goal, for the child, is to accumulate enough Beeps to hit some preset benchmark. It's the gamification of child behavior.

The app already has 7,000 parents and 11,000 kids registered, with 150,000 Beeps and Boops pressed, Gregg said.

The company has a third app set to launch in November called Tap & Sing, which features two rows of StoryBots that make different sounds when tapped, forming an unusual piano or keyboard.

On the Web, JibJab has an assortment of videos and activities that can be a resource for children. Gregg said there was a large untapped opportunity for professional quality educational video on the Web, and StoryBots aims to fill that gap.

The company eventually plans to expand to address of lesson plans and topics.

"It's a universe that is literally never ending," Evan said.

The videos and apps are designed to be entertaining for children and won't drive parents batty watching it. I'm not a parent myself, but I could certainly see myself using these apps if I ever had children.

Tags:
Mobile
About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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