Since debuting its hilarious “This Land” viral video that mocked John Kerry and George W. Bush prior to the 2004 presidential election, Venice, Calif.-based digital entertainment studio JibJab has created some of the most entertaining and commercially viable content (OfficeMax elves anyone) found on the web.
Last month, JibJab debuted what will be the first of a series of monthly iPad-based StoryBooks. In this edition of Meet the Makers, we check in with Gregg Spiridellis, who cofounded JibJab with his brother Evan a dozen years ago. Spiridellis explains why he believes the iPad is the best medium around for children’s books, how they developed their pricing model, and why they are only (for now) developing apps for iOS devices.
Appolicious: From political satire animations to ElfYourself promotions for OfficeMax, JibJab for more than a decade has existed on the cutting edge of digital creative development. Tell us about your experience to date developing mobile media applications.
Gregg Spiridellis: Developing stories intended for parents to read to their kids on a tablet device has required us to completely re-think the kinds of stories we tell and how we deliver them to users. It’s been an insanely tough challenge, but we have an amazingly talented team here to pull it all off and we’re just getting started. We have tons of stories and product enhancements in the queue, like adding sound!
APPO: Last month you debuted JibJab Jr. Books. What should parents and their children expect from this iPad storybook?
GS: We are releasing a new JibJab Jr. storybook every month. We hold ourselves to the highest standards and parents can expect the same attention to quality with regards to story, art and animation in future books that they see in the books we’ve released so far. They can also expect new product enhancements like sound.
APPO: While the app is free to download, individual books can be purchased a la carte and via monthly subscriptions. How did you go about pricing this?
GS: My brother and I read (and buy) a ton of children's book titles on the iPad to read to our children, so we are pretty familiar with the pricing in the market. From experience, we know that $3.99, even $7.99, for a top quality iPad children’s book is a steal compared to the $20+ you pay for a physical book in the store. And the experience is better! You can turn out the lights and read to the kids in the dark, which helps them wind down and fall asleep.
APPO: Describe the differences in creating content for a tablet environment relative to the web.
GS: The big difference, for users, is the ease of creating characters for your books on the iPad versus the web. In a web browser, the experience is pretty involved. With the iPad you are able to take a picture, pinch, scale and submit in seconds. It’s a much better experience.
APPO: Do you plan to develop iPhone or other smartphone applications?
GS: We are going to develop a version of JibJab Jr. Books for the iPhone in 2012.
APPO: What about Android-based tablets and smartphones?
GS: Right now JibJab Jr. is built exclusively for Apple’s iOS. We are a small team and, in order to build the best app possible, decided to focus 100% of our resources into making the iPad great as opposed to spreading ourselves too thin and trying to build for other platforms. Hopefully the business will grow and we will have the money to invest in an Android version of JibJab Jr. in the near future!
APPO: Moving forward, how much of JibJab's resources do you plan to allocate to mobile media?
GS: The amount of investment in mobile media in the coming years will be a huge multiple of what it was in past years. How much we invest and how fast will be a function of adoption and monetization. We have high hopes that we’ll be investing a lot more soon!
APPO: What are the two or three biggest things going on in the mobile media space currently keeping you up at night?
GS: Nothing. My brother and I sleep very well at night. We have a great team that is focused like a laser on building a product that helps parents enhance the storytelling experience with their kids by adding personalization to the mix. We intend to be the best in the world at that.