Commentary

'Highlights' Goes Mobile

If you’re like me, your memories of Highlights, the classic educational magazine for children, will always be a little conflicted, because you usually read it while waiting for something painful to happen at the doctor or dentist.

Sure, there was also a sad goldfish in an algae-covered tank and a box of ancient toys, but it was all an obvious gambit to distract you from the impending horror. Highlights was kind of the final insult, because the issue was usually a few years old and the activities were already all filled in.

If a helpful parent tried to erase the old answers, it just ended up tearing the paper or turning it into a big graphite smudge.

Never again! The 69-year-old kids’ publication is now focusing on mobile publishing in a big way. Which means (among other things) that no child will ever have to deal with a used fill-in-the-blanks exercise again. The new mobile offerings, designed in collaboration with San Francisco-based mobile kids platform Fingerprint, include a whole array of other interactive features like video to keep the interest of our little 21st century cyborgs.

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According to USA Today, Highlights will offer a mix of free, paid and subscription apps and games, set to roll out some time toward the end of the year. A previous attempt to reposition the brand for mobile back in 2010 fell flat, but this time the Fingerprint partnership will provide insights into how to engage kids via tablets and smartphones.

Of course, Highlights has a built-in advantage from its brand recognition among parents who, like me, remember it as a mostly quality, noncommercial publication.

The magazine will continue publishing its print edition, with a total circulation of 2 million copies per month.

No question, the new Highlights mobile offerings will face plenty of competition for kids’ attention. Thanks to the “iPad as babysitter” and “pass back” phenomena, games and media for kids are among the most popular and heavily used apps out there, and a whole new generation of services from big content platforms are targeting kids as well.

Nickelodeon resurrected its preschool brand “Noggin” as an advertising-free mobile subscription service with a sub price of $5.99 per month. The app offers a number of old TV shows that are no longer available on Nick Jr. (Noggin was rebranded as Nick Jr., aimed at kids ages 2-6, in 2009) as well as games and activities.

YouTube also announced a new free app just for kids, called YouTube Kids, including a video library preloaded with kids’ shows like “Yo Gabba Gabba,” “Sesame Street,” and “Thomas the Tank Engine.” YouTube is also said to be creating original content for the app.

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