With Cartoon Network’s new Cartoon Network Anything app, the idea is to get kids engaged for minutes—not hours.
Knowing that children’s free time is often fractured between homework, after-school activities and family time, the app provides short-form content that can easily be consumed in between those activities.
Providing truly micro content, it serves up an endless stream of 15-second content bites (games, videos and trivia), delivered randomly and constantly refreshed.
Launched last October, the app was selected as one of Google Play’s Best Apps of 2014, one of only three kids apps to make that list. It also caught the attention of the kids entertainment industry, as the first micro-net app built by a TV brand.
According to Cartoon Network Digital’s senior director of user experience, Beau Teague, the app has quickly gained traction, with millions of kids playing the roulette-style blend of games, videos and activities. Ahead of his presentation at next week’s iKids conference in Miami, he talks with us about the design and strategy for the micro-net app.
Can you tell me a little bit about the development of Cartoon Network Anything? How long has this project been in the works?
We started conceptualizing Cartoon Network Anything late in 2013. We designed, developed and ultimately launched the app across 2014. That said, since the core experience of the app is to deliver anything that our audience finds fun, we haven’t really stopped developing new things for kids to do in the app.
Why did you decide to launch a micro-network for mobile platforms?
As we’ve observed kids and their adoption of mobile devices over the years, it’s been fascinating to see how their usage fits what we’ve always known about their fractured free time—our audience is often on the go, bouncing from after-school activities to homework and family time.
We saw an opportunity to create an experience that can entertain them when they don’t have time for a full episode of their favorite show. Our goal was to create something new for those in-between spaces in a kid’s life—a chance for them to snack on an endless stream of fun and funny content.
How is Cartoon Network Anything designed specifically for small screens?
Knowing we were designing for a smaller screen canvas, one of our primary design guidelines was to get the interface out of the way. We worked hard to boil the core experience to full-screen content, with simple navigation techniques to move kids from one piece to the next—a swipe from right to left.
What feedback have you gotten in the five months since the app went live on the App Store and Google Play? Is there anything you’d like to retool?
We’ve talked to a lot of kids since the app went live and have heard that there’s strong affinity for a much wider variety of our content than we expected. We knew that kids would love the games and the video clips, but we didn’t anticipate how much they’d enjoy some of the other activities, like drawing and choosing the ending for a video mashup. We’ve heard that they want certain activities to last longer than our 15-second guideline, and we’re certainly open to rethinking some of our rules around content length.
What marketing tactics have you used to grow your audience?
Our marketing and creative teams came up with a fun on-air spot at the very start. That gave us a huge boost when it came to getting the app in our audience’s hands. Since then, we’ve begun monthly campaigns that focus on a particular favorite show. In January, we created a spot highlighting an influx of new Gumball content that we added to the app. This month we’re focused on Ninjago. That combination of show-specific content and messaging has worked really well in terms of consistently introducing the app to new parts of our audience.
What’s next for the app?
More, more and more. The longer we live with Cartoon Network Anything, the more we realize we can do with it. People in departments across the network are constantly thinking up new ways of using the app to entertain our audience. It’s been fun for our team to get a crazy idea, create it, and then see it go live in the app so easily. And while we’ve jammed this app full of original content created from our audience’s favorite shows, we’re looking forward to introducing new shows in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without Cartoon Network Anything.