Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Jumping Pages founder Rania Ajami

Aug 22, 2012

Children’s books continue to find a more accepting home on the iPad. Despite some initial concerns about the medium, it’s clear that more and more parents these days are finding that Apple’s tablet is an ideal way to relate stories, providing an interactive and colorful environment that help kids learn and keep them engaged. In […]

Children’s books continue to find a more accepting home on the iPad. Despite some initial concerns about the medium, it’s clear that more and more parents these days are finding that Apple’s tablet is an ideal way to relate stories, providing an interactive and colorful environment that help kids learn and keep them engaged.

In this edition of Developing Minds Want to Know, the founder and creative director of Jumping Pages, Inc, Rania Ajami, talks to us about how her company’s educational storytelling apps like David & Goliath, The House That Went on Strike and House Band have captured not only the public’s imagination, but also those of celebrities and mainstream media like The Huffington Post and Wired.

Key company facts:

Name and Title: Rania Ajami, Founder and Creative Director

Company: Jumping Pages, Inc.

Location: New York, NY

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): Five employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: David and Goliath (iPad) narrated by World Series MVP David Eckstein, The House That Went on Strike (iPad), House Band (iPad) scored by two-time Grammy winner, Vernon Reid.

APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

RANIA AJAMI: As a filmmaker, I saw the mobile space, particularly the iPad, as the next visual media platform. Films and story apps are so much alike. Each is a canvas that allows for a story to come to life through words, music, graphics and animation. The benefit of the iPad is that its canvas provides an interactive element that allows the viewer to become even more engaged with the story. This is particularly important when presenting a story, via the iPad, to children.

Here’s a video that showcases the wonderful animation and interactivity of The House That Went on Strike:

APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

RA: We launched in October of 2011, and perhaps the biggest difference to us is the increasing acceptance of the iPad as a story book venue for children from parents. We have noticed an increase in requests to use our David and Goliath book app as a teaching tool from religious entities and schools around the country. Similarly, with The House That Went on Strike, our narrator, former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder who for twelve years represented the biggest publishers in the United States, was not very familiar or comfortable with the iPad as a book platform. However, we’ve added her as a convert to the device as an acceptable tool for kids to read from. She actually wrote about her experience in an article for The Huffington Post. So, the biggest difference is that we’re seeing the children’s book on the iPad as a more acceptable choice.

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APPO: What apps (outside of those that you develop) inspire you the most and why?

RA: Apps that tell stories while teaching kids are inspiring and those that allow the child to have fun. The Toca series does a great job with the latter.

APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

RA: We see innovation in the way children’s stories are told. Stories used to be words on a page. Then came the pop-up book which made books come to life in a different way. Now, the iPad provides a way for children to actually engage with the written word, not only through animation, but with phenomenal ways for the child to use the screen and the iPad to immerse themselves in the story.

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

RA: We have been careful to use these innovations, animation and interactivity selectively. We strive to make sure that any of the elements we create within our stories actually relate to the stories. Congresswoman Schroeder addresses this eloquently in the article she wrote for The Huffington Post. We strive to make sure that our story book apps are story books first. Parents have raved about the way our interactive features and our animation and graphics actually pull the child more into the story. And that’s what we’re aiming to do.

APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

RA: We’ve engaged a tremendous marketing/PR guru who has vast experience in the consumer, retail and children’s sectors. For our David and Goliath app, we received incredible media coverage. In fact, Smashing Magazine, which is a must-read for developers and designers, published a case history about our success, and we’ve heard from a number of developers who wish to emulate that. For “The House that Went on Strike” within our first days of launch, we were featured in The Huffington Post, Wired, and Smart Apps for Kids, a leading review site for kids apps, which gave the book app a great review. Having a smart and skilled marketing professional on our side is a big advantage, and a way in which we differentiate ourselves.

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APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

RA: The biggest technical constraint is undoubtedly cost. You’re always trying to create an exceptional product, and while you’d like the app to contain an infinite amount cool features that utilize the latest technology and wizardry, invariably budgets get in the way.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

RA: We plan on announcing some exciting partnerships and production deals soon that will bump up our outreach, project flow and widen our audience. In addition, with the added benefit of having a skilled marketer on board, we’re starting to work with several companies about creating story book apps that not only teach kids, but are a way to enhance awareness for the brands among parents.

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

RA: Engage an energetic and creative technical team, and as mentioned above, make sure there is someone on board who is skilled at incorporating publicity components within the application, and promoting the finished product.

APPO: Where do you see the app sector one year from now? Five years from now?

RA: I think it’s anyone’s guess as to where and how the app sector will unfold during the coming years. It’s been compared repeatedly to the wild west, and then some. Our goal is to be around and thriving as a children’s mobile content and book app publisher for years to come!

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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