PART 3 OF 3: PODCASTS
Audio entertainment service for kids is a case study in inventing, podcasting and using social media
Pinna is an example of how podcasts are increasingly relevant, and how to innovate for a specific audience as market conditions change.
BY ELIZABETH BREEDLOVE
The podcast market was valued at $9.28 billion in 2019 and increased as we moved into 2020. The children’s podcast industry grew even more during the pandemic: With kids using screens for remote learning, parents began to seek other ways to engage their children.
Pinna is an audio entertainment service designed for kids. The streaming service offers podcasts, stories, music and other audio content specifically created and curated for children 3-12. This subscription service offers hundreds of hours and thousands of episodes of audio content for kids on a variety of subjects—all served in an ad-free, safe browsing environment with age-appropriate content.
The New York-based company partners with respected children’s brands to create content, as well as producing original programming under the Pinna Originals brand.
I recently spoke with Maggie McGuire, CEO of Pinna. She spent more than 20 years working for large media companies such as Nickelodeon and Scholastic; before that she was an English language arts and history teacher.
Pinna’s recent success can teach entrepreneurs why podcasts are becoming increasingly relevant, how to launch a new product or a successful business, how to use social media to promote your product, and much more.
Filling a gap
McGuire said that even with more than 750,000 podcasts now in the marketplace, Pinna’s creators saw an opportunity.
“No one entity was producing podcasts at scale for kids,” she said. “Pinna saw this gap in the marketplace and believed there was room for more audio in a kid’s day, and believed podcasts provided room for a tremendous amount of innovation and experimentation when it comes to kids.
“The audio renaissance—with the emergence of smart speakers, smart cars, smart homes and voice-directed technologies—has accelerated the growth of the overall audio and podcast marketplace.“
The COVID-19 pandemic left no industry untouched as the world’s screen time increased. Pinna was able to lean into this disruption to grow its business.
Because the product does not rely on screens, “kids can be active while they’re listing,” McGuire said. “While listening to audio, kids are hands free and heads up so kids can move, cook, draw, play and listen on the go.”
When schools went remote across the United States last March, “we realized we needed to make Pinna easy for teachers to share with students who were learning at home. So we launched the ability for teacher subscribers to be able to share a free class code with their students so they could log into the Pinna service remotely and listen independently to our ever-growing catalog of podcasts and audio stories during the school day.
“Additionally, consumers searching for screen time alternatives have turned to Pinna.”
Many convenience features
Pinna’s content for students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade promotes listening, vocabulary and comprehension skills; models language fluency and expression; develops motivation to read; makes books and stories accessible to all learners; helps narrow the achievement gap, and supports early literacy instructions. The service includes features designed with remote education in mind:
- Teachers can get six months of the service free, and students can access their class account for free during the school day.
- Teachers can create playlists for each student.
- Students can listen to content as a class or individually.
- Some content includes resources for teachers to use, such as activity sheets.
“Pinna continues to be seen as a leader in the kids audio marketplace and is the leading producer of original podcasts for kids,” McGuire said. “We have won numerous awards for both our listening platform and app as well as for our individual podcasts, including a Peabody Award for our podcast “The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel” in partnership with Gen-Z Media.”
The company launched its 42nd podcast during the second week of March 2021 and rolls out new content daily. “Today, two years after launching, Pinna is being listened to in 144 countries and counting. The average Pinna subscriber listens to Pinna programming for approximately 65 minutes a day. That’s over seven hours a week.”
Pinna uses social media heavily, with great success.
“We actively engage our audience across a wide variety of social channels and meet consumers where they are,” McGuire said. “Moms, teachers and caregivers who subscribe to Pinna have huge influence in their peer groups on social media, and virally spread the word about our product … we’re honored.”
The service uses Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to reach parents and educators and provide more information about what it offers and how to subscribe. Pinna does an especially good job of repurposing content by sharing it across each platform but tweaking it to make it fit the platform’s typical audience.
For example, it may share the same photo on all three of its social media pages—but on Facebook it includes a link directing traffic to the Pinna website; on Instagram it uses many relevant hashtags; and on Twitter the content stays short and sweet.
The Pinna team also supplements each platform with additional content wherever it’s relevant. For example, on Twitter the team retweets those talking about or mentioning Pinna. On Instagram, Pinna uses stories for additional content such as highlighting parents and teachers using Pinna, or offering suggestions for how to help kids get the most out of the streaming content.
McGuire offered advice for anyone looking to create podcasts specifically for child audiences.
“Talk to kids, play with kids, spend time with kids, and make sure you test your ideas with the kids you aim to appeal to in your podcast.”