Creating ‘Imagination-Led’ Kids Audio – Pinna’s CEO Maggie McGuire

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Published on

November 26, 2019
Time to read: 6 minutes
Pinna - Kids Audio

Can kids audio offer a guilt-free alternative to busy parents looking to keep their children entertained? Can audio stimulate and excite young people in a safe and engaging way?

Those are the question that brands across the media landscape are exploring as they fight to claim the increasingly important ear-time of young audiences.

One of the key platforms in the kids audio space is Pinna – an audio streaming walled-garden that has been designed with young listeners in mind.

For our latest ‘Creator Conversation’, we caught up with the brand’s CEO, Maggie McGuire, to hear her thoughts about the opportunities, challenges, and increasing competitiveness in this space – and where she sees Pinna sitting now and in the future.

Guilt-Free, Scree-Free Entertainment – Maggie McGuire, CEO of Pinna

Hook Research: For our readers in the UK who might not be aware of Pinna, how would you describe your platform?

Maggie McGuire: Pinna is the first and only ad-free audio entertainment platform for kids 3-12.

Each podcast, audio show, music album and audiobook on Pinna is expertly developed and curated for kids. Pinna has hundreds of hours of programming to pique the interest of every kid and get them giggling, guessing, wondering, puzzling, and participating.

HR: Safety is a big issue in the kid’s media space – how does Pinna address this?

MM: Pinna is a member of the kidSAFE Seal Program, an independent safety certification service designed specifically for kid-friendly websites and technologies. For Pinna, that means we adhere to COPPA rules and regulations ensuring that we do not collect any personally identifiable information about kids

We keep any account information behind a gated wall for only adults to access.

Additionally, we are ad-free which means that we do not let anyone advertise to our kid listeners. Whether they are browsing for an adventure audiobook or listening to a thrilling mystery podcast, parents can be sure that their child’s experience will not be interrupted by unwanted messaging.

HR: There is loads of excitement from brands around the kids audio space right now (particularly around podcasts). Why do you think this is capturing brands’ attentions right now?

MM: As the next natural extension of storytelling, there has been a spike in interest in the kids’ audio space from brands – many with which we’ve built relationships.

HR: Speaking of brand excitement… Spotify has just announced the launch of its new kids product. What impact do you think this launch will have on Pinna? Will it affect the way you position the platform moving forward

MM: We welcome new offerings entering the kids audio entertainment space. Competition brings more awareness and focus on the space.

As experts and leaders in the field, we are excited to have more people aware and on the hunt for entertaining, high quality audio entertainment for children.

HR: In your opinion, what do you think makes podcasts appealing to kids? To parents? What kinds of marketing messages most appeal to these different audiences?

MM: Parents are increasingly looking for options to balance the amount of screen time and other entertainment activities their children access daily.

“Here is an active conversation that started in pediatrics and is expanding into world health discussions about children cutting back screen time, particularly pre-schoolers. Audio entertainment is a solution to this”

Now kids are consuming Podcasts at a higher rate than music and audiobooks on Pinna. Pinna Original podcasts have represented almost 50% of total listening every single week since launch.

Additionally, there is an active conversation that started in pediatrics and is expanding into world health discussions about children cutting back screen time, particularly pre-schoolers. Audio entertainment is a solution to this.

Pinna 1 - Maggie McGuire - Hook Research
Pinna 3 - Maggie McGuire - Hook Research
Pinna 2 - Maggie McGuire - Hook Research

HR: Pinna commissions lots of its own original podcast content – in your opinion, what makes an idea for kids audio content feel fresh and stand-out? What are you looking for when commissioning?

MM: Our team of content developers, producers, child development experts, curriculum experts, psychologists, and show theme experts are disrupting the space by not only curating but creating a wide variety of original podcasts, audiobooks and music just for kids.

We are focused on innovation. We like to say audio is an “imagination-led” form of entertainment where kids are building the visual pictures of story in their imagination as they listen along. And with their hands free and heads up (no screens), audio entertainment can activate new ways to participate – it’s participatory media.

Pinna develops original podcasts and audio content aimed at activating kids in new ways:

“We like to say audio is an “imagination-led” form of entertainment where kids are building the visual pictures of story in their imagination as they listen along”

  • Our game show podcasts and trivia shows (ExtraBlurt, ExtraBlurt Jr., and 5 for 5 Trivia) get kids to show what they know and shout out answers to fun game show style segments
  • Our art show Anytime Art encourages kids to pull out their crayons, markers, paint, scissors and paper and make something new while they listen along to their virtual art teacher, Sasha
  • A to Z Mysteries: Clue Club based on the bestselling book series from Ron Roy and Random House Children’s Books, invites listeners in to solve a mystery in every episode alongside Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose
  • Piper & the Dots is designed to actively get kid listeners to propel the story forward through verbal and physical play.

At Pinna, we are always looking for concepts that will get kids actively imagining and participating as they listen along. We want to spark conversation. We look for ideas that tap into kids’ passions & interests and we look for ideas that get kids to giggle, guess, wonder, learn, puzzle and participate as they listen along.

HR: I’ve seen in previous interviews that Pinna has done some research with parents and kids – how did this research shape Pinna’s offering?

MM: Our research with parents and teachers informed our go to market strategy across product, content and marketing. We understand why, what, how much, where and when kids, families and teachers/classrooms tune into audio and we’re developing with those behaviours and interests top of mind.

We understand the different development and entertainment needs of kids at every age from 3-12 and are always looking for podcasts, stories and songs that encourage active listening, conversation, social interaction and imaginative play.

Pinna ensures that its podcasts are of the highest quality and will have strong appeal to children in part because we kid-test each and every original production in a pilot phase. This approach ensures the ideas imagined by adults actually resonate with kids. During this pilot phase, we’re able to see the children’s reactions first-hand and witness their interactions in response to our content in real-time.

“We kid-test each and every original production in a pilot phase”

HR: As new tech emerges – the internet of things, voice/smart speakers – how do you think this will impact the kid’s audio space?

MM: Thanks to the IoT, kids are able to consume audio entertainment throughout their day across a wide variety of platforms and devices.

To date, we have seen a massive spike in audio consumption on our platform. In just nine months, we’ve expanded into 110 countries and doubled the average amount of daily listening time per unique listener since launch.

Technology is definitely aiding audio consumption – smart speakers, smart cars, smart homes are all becoming audio enabled which in turn has created an audio renaissance and an increased demand for audio content and entertainment.

“We look for ideas that tap into kids’ passions & interests and we look for ideas that get kids to giggle, guess, wonder, learn, puzzle and participate as they listen along”

HR: What’s next for Pinna?

MM: Informed by our understanding of kids and their family’s audio entertainment behaviours, later this month, we are launching playlists which will further the discoverability of our content, allowing families to both curate their lists and subscribe to ours.

The biggest differentiator is that we curate playlists for every mood and moment, every age and interest and go beyond just delivering around holidays and seasonal themes.

And as we head into 2020, you’ll see our catalog of Pinna Original content significantly expand, inclusive of exciting new partnerships, alongside new acquired content from around the globe.

A big thanks to Maggie for taking the time to speak with us about Pinna and the kids audio landscape!

If you enjoyed this read (and we hope you did) – you may be interested in a few of our other ‘Creator Conversation’ blogs as well: from podcast creators to kids composers and platform developers, there are plenty of articles in there to dig your curious little teeth into.

And if you want to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the kids and media industries, why not sign up to our monthly newsletters? They’re informative, light-hearted, and (best of all) free! What’s not to like?


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