Cover Story: Four Publishers Reveal Their App Strategies
While Forte says the average children's app loses velocity after just three months, the I Spy apps have remained popular downloads for more than two years. According to Scholastic, "I Spy Spooky Mansion" began life in September 2009 as a top-five paid kids game and top-10 puzzle game in the App Store. It has since won several awards and continues to rank consistently in the top 100. (It doesn't hurt that Scholastic went back and optimized the app for the new iPad's Retina display.)
App development and production is part of an integrated strategy applied to either "master brands" (the overall brand concept, e.g. I Spy or The 39 Clues) or particular key products and services within a brand (e.g. apps or events). To do app development well, Forte says, publishers should define goals for their brands early in the process and figure out how an app can help accomplish this goal.
For Scholastic, the decision to include an app in an integrated product strategy does not proceed from a set formula. One of the key questions to be answered during the development process is whether the goal of an app is marketing or content enhancement: "Is it that there's a component about that brand that can be beautifully executed and differentiated on a mobile platform? … You don't need to do it if [the app experience] is the same as what you're doing everywhere else, and you don't need to do it if you can't execute it well."
For this reason, Scholastic puts effort into making each app experience unique. While some publishers work with one app template and "skin" it differently for each book, Scholastic builds each app from scratch to ensure unique functionality. This allows Scholastic to optimize the experience for various age groups, purposes and content, Forte says.