Read any interview about the fascinating world of kids podcast apps and its sure to feature Leela Kids – the ‘world’s first’ podcast app aimed squarely at young people and their audio needs.
With Pinna and the Kids Listen network, we feel that Leela Kids is doing some really interesting work in the space right now – and with over 300 shows and 15,000+ episodes on its servers it’s a note-worthy contender in the content space.
To learn more about Leela Kids we reached out to the app’s founder, Sandeep Jain, to talk about the development of the platform, and the dynamic world of kids podcasts. Bridging time-zones, he kindly answered all of our (sometimes wonky) questions about the kids audio space now and where his app sits within it…
Leela Kids: Creating a Walled Garden for Kids Podcasts
Hook Research: How would you describe Leela Kids?
Sandeep Jain: Leela Kids is the world’s first (really!) kids podcast app that allows kids to instantly listen to (kids-safe) stories that are best suited for their age and interest. Kids can also search for specific episodes based on their interest. They can subscribe to the shows they like and also download episodes for offline listening (e.g. in-flight).
Screentime is #1 parenting issue today and even though kids love to listen to stories, there is no platform today that can instantly start playing a story based on kids’ interest and age. Regular podcast apps have non-kid-safe content and can’t be given to kids – Leela Kids, however, is meant to be used by kids.
HR: Lots of media brands are starting to get really excited by kids audio – why do you think that is?
SJ: I think the visual channel is way too overloaded, with brands like Netflix, Youtube etc.
“I think the visual channel is way too overloaded, with brands like Netflix, Youtube etc.”
That was (and still is, I think) due to lack of good monetization options for the “long tail” of podcast creators. I believe renewed interest in kids podcasts stems from more awareness about podcasting in general (recent heavy acquisitions made by Spotify might impact this) and even availability of platform like ours that facilitate kid-safe listening to podcasts.
HR: Brands are doing lots of work to improve discoverability, but I don’t think any have absolutely cracked it yet (Google’s SEO changes to make podcasts a ‘first class audio product’, Apple’s re-categorisation efforts, and Spotify’s integration of podcasts into playlists are all part of this). In your opinion, what’s Leela Kids’ point of difference?
SJ: Let’s think from the view point of a parent who wants to quickly play a story for their kids whether they are in car or at bed time or somewhere else.
They first want to make sure that the story is kid-safe (a lot of podcasts under “Family” category in iTunes have patently unsafe content for kids). At the same time, the story should be suited for their specific age group (e.g. stories that a 5 year old may find interesting, might be considered boring by a 10 year old). Finally, the story should match with the interests of the kid – every child has a favorite topic and they want to hear stories on that topic, whether it’s hamsters, tigers or princesses!
And all this needs to happen in under 3 seconds.
We do this today and no one has it. But one could argue that – with deep pockets – companies like Apple, Google, and Spotify can make the above happen. So how can/will we compete with above?
First, if the parent wants to give kids control of the platform (which is the case for 4 year+ age group), a requirement is to have a kid-safe sandbox. None of the players have this today.
Second, we take privacy very seriously in our platform and have designed our product from ground-up around it (for example, we don’t ask our users to create any profile, you can instantly start using our app upon download.). Most importantly, our business model is not ad-based so we are not burdened with how-to-make-money-if-we-can’t-target-ads business model of other tech giants.
“We are going deep into the kid vertical and how kids not only listen but would like to engage with audio. e.g. no young person wants to listen to audio in a vacuum; they want to interact”
Third, we are going deep into the kid vertical and how kids not only listen but would like to engage with audio. e.g., no young person wants to listen to audio in a vacuum; they want to interact. To this end, American Public Media’s Brains On Podcast partnered with us around asking kids to vote on a question being asked in the podcast right from within the app instead of going to their website later.
We got a lot of responses from kids/parents who liked that. Recently, based on demand from parents and some podcasters, we launched the ability for kids to leave voice message to the podcaster as well (podcasters plan to use these sounds bits in their own podcast).
HR: Kids’ media diets are quickly filling up with lots of different platforms (Netflix, the upcoming Disney+, etc) – is this something you’re worrying about?
SJ: I worry to the extent that I am a parent – video content is not bad in itself. It’s just that very little of it is intended to be fun and educational.
There is a place for Peppa Pig, Disney characters etc. but 99% of content being just that kind of content is a serious disservice to kids.
HR: You’re an American product with a global presence – can you shed any light on the way that different youth audiences interact with podcasts? Are there any key differences between US vs UK vs Eastern Markets (in terms of their consumption habits)?
SJ: That’s an interesting question.
Our audience is 3-10 year olds with a large portion of it is skewed towards the younger side.
Some regional differences that we have noted: Parents in South East Asian countries love us because we are also providing an interesting way for their kids to learn English. Parents will email us about creating content on religion (Islam/christianity) – there may be some regional slant to such requests.
We’ve also had demand for creating non-English content, kids-safe news, rap songs and life skills such as teaching kids about money etc.
“Every kid has a wonderful story to share and with right guidance (manual and even AI), such stories can be edited for audio quality as if they were professionally edited”
We do see a lot of offline listening in the Middle East and some parts of Asia (probably due to some lack of connectivity issues). In fact, a few parents have written to us to say that offline listening has really helped them during long flights when kids get antsy with being confined in a small space for an extended period of time.
HR: To wrap up, what do you think the kids podcast market will look like in a year’s time? In 5 years? Where will Leela Kids sit in this?
SJ: In the near term, I see more professional content creators (e.g., Spotify) entering into the market.
Longer term, I see kids podcasts expanding into classrooms, more non-english content being created, and even facilitating kids creating their own podcasts! Every kid has a wonderful story to share and with right guidance (manual and even AI), such stories can be edited for audio quality as if they were professionally edited.
Find out more about kids audio
A big thanks to Sandeep for taking the time to speak with us! If the above has piqued your interest, you can learn more about Leela Kids here.
Want to find out a bit more about the kids audio landscape? At Hook, we have loads of stuff you should check out!
How about this interview with the creator of the What If World podcast? Or this one with the composer for Thomas & Friends? If you like listicles, then you’ll love our round-up of the best kids podcasts – and if you’re more of a stats person (fly that freaky quant flag!) you might want to look at the delicious numbers presented in our recent panel conversation at the Children’s Media Conference.
Still not enough? Then you should definitely sign up for our monthly newsletter exploring the biggest issues in the kids landscape today…