Storybutton, a new audio player for kids, aims to be the go-to alternative to screened devices for the 12 and under set. Created by kid-friendly podcaster Jim Jacob (“Mr. Jim”), Storybutton wants to improve the way kids listen by moving the podcast experience off phones and tablets.
Storybutton costs $99.99 and features an easy-to-use design with an internal rechargeable battery that lasts roughly a day, and a headphone jack so kids can listen quietly around the house. The device comes in three styles: green/black, purple and white. A Wi-Fi connection is required.
The company began shipping its devices in August and sold 1,500 units across the U.S. and Canada. The company will expand to Australia and the U.K. in 2024. Customers can only purchase Storybutton through its website, however, the company is in talks with several retailers, Jacob revealed to TechCrunch during an interview.
The device offers over 10,000 stories designed for kids ages 5-12, ranging from audiobooks and bedtime stories to educational stories, animal content and more. There’s also an option for children to build their own playlist of favorite episodes.
Storybutton could appeal to parents who want their kids to have a screenless device to control on their own and entertain themselves with. The company found that 85% of kids use their parents’ mobile devices to listen to their favorite podcasts.
Unlike other audio players for kids, such as Yoto and Tonies, Storybutton’s content is completely free. Meanwhile, Yoto requires customers to purchase separate cards to insert into its device, and Tonies sells figurines that users place on top of the box (similar to Nintendo Amiibos).
Most Storybutton content can be found on popular digital music services, however, the company has recently been investing in exclusive original shows. Storybutton plans to produce nine original podcasts over the next year and a half. While the first two seasons of each original show will be available everywhere, all the third seasons will be exclusive to Storybutton.
Storybutton also recently partnered with iHeartMedia to launch a new kid-focused podcast network to help creators monetize their shows. Podcasts already signed to the network include “Koala Moon,” “Unicorn Bedtime Stories,” as well as Mr. Jim’s portfolio of shows— “Bedtime Stories with Mr. Jim,” “Spyology Squad,” “Kids Short Stories” and “Kids Animal Stories.”
The iHeartMedia partnership is notable since the massive media corporation will benefit kid-friendly audio creators who want to promote their shows to a wider audience. As part of the deal, iHeartMedia provides promotional media, ad sales and operational support to all the kid podcasts that Storybutton is signing to its network.
The new network enables the company “to bring in other kid podcasts to safely grow and monetize their shows,” Jacob told us. “That’s one of the big challenges in kid podcasting today; a lot of creators and studios have really great shows, but monetizing it in a compliant and safe way is very difficult.”
Separately, Storybutton also signed 25 successful kid podcasts to distribution agreements, including shows from GoKidGo, ABF Creative, Lingokids and many others. The company says it’s investing $500,000 in the kid podcast economy.
Looking ahead, Storybutton plans to launch an app called Storybutton Plus for parents that allows them to upload or remove podcasts, audiobook files and music onto the Storybutton audio player right from their phone. Parents will also be able to record their own stories or book readings to make available on Storybutton. The app will also grant access to ad-free versions of Storybutton Network shows. Storybutton Plus is launching in November.
Also on the long-term roadmap, the company is exploring other features to bring to future versions of the device, like Bluetooth capability and a notification feature that tells users when a new episode of their favorite show just dropped. Storybutton is also working on AI-powered features that will enable users to create content. For example, a choose-your-own-adventure option where kids can interact with content through the device.
“Over the next five years, we aim to make Storybutton the go-to off-screen platform for audio content globally,” Jacob said. “With continued product enhancements and content partnerships, we envision a future where everyone has access to a world of imagination, education and wellness through Storybutton.”