Today’s children’s audio market is a rapidly growing space – from new platforms (such as Spotify Kids or Pinna) to new products (like the host of exciting kids podcasts flooding into the market). However, while much of the focus in kids audio has remained on the digital side of the landscape, there are some big changes happening in terms of physical products as well…

We sat down with Jon Kell, the Marketing Director for Yoto – a speaker for kids bringing together podcasts, radio, audiobooks, and physical play – to talk about the opportunities in this growing space, and the benefits of creating an engaging ‘screen-free’ experience for modern kids…

Giving Kids Control: Yoto – Creating a Speaker for Kids

Hook Research: For our readers who don’t know, what is Yoto? How would you describe the Yoto USP?

Jon Kell: Yoto is an audio platform for kids.

Developed based on Montessori principles, we created our first product (Yoto Player) to be a safely connected speaker that children could control themselves using physical cards to play content. Our content library consists of audiobooks, music, activities, podcasts, radio and more – both licensed from partners and created by Yoto.

The first generation Player sold out in August 2019, and using insights and feedback from customers we have just released our new and improved Yoto Player.

HR: In the kids space, we’ve seen a tension in parents between recognising that connected devices offer clear benefits for kids (in terms of education and entertainment) while also feeling that too much screen time might be harmful in the long-run. How does Yoto address this?

JK: Our solution is for Yoto Player to be screen-free!

“These days, the predominant way to listen to audio usually involves a screen. In creating Yoto Player we have provided parents with an alternative”

This was the first thing our founders, Ben and Filip, wanted to address when they came up with the idea for Yoto Player. They experienced first-hand the power that screens had on their kids, so they set about developing an alternative to screen-time.

These days, the predominant way to listen to audio usually involves a screen. In creating Yoto Player we have provided parents with an alternative. Rather than a traditional screen, Yoto Player features a basic dot matrix display which helps with learning by bringing content to life, helping children to associate words they hear with the pictures.

HR: You talk a lot on the site about giving kids ‘control’ with Yoto – why is this so important? Do you think this is a particularly ‘modern’ quality kids are looking for?

JK: We believe that learning is augmented by giving kids control of the learning experience. If learning is fun, and self-directed, even better.

Many households around the world now have various connected devices and tablets which parents tend to be the ‘owners’ of. Yoto Player is there for kids to own. We have a lot of feedback from customers that say their children see the Yoto Player as their own speaker, and not that of their parents. Parents love this as it dissuades them from engaging with more grown-up devices such as Alexa and tablets.

Yoto Player Interview - Speaker Kids 2
Yoto Player Interview - Speaker Kids 1
Yoto Player Interview - Speaker Kids 3

HR: You’ve partnered with a number of well-known kids properties – offering titles from authors like Julia Donaldson & Roald Dahl. What do these brands like about the platform? What do you think this partnership gives to them?

JK: For the publishing industry in particular, it’s a new way for them to get their content out to the world.

“We believe that learning is augmented by giving kids control of the learning experience. If learning is fun, and self-directed, even better”

For audiobooks, as an example, there are a few options but they are mostly digital. CDs are becoming less popular, and there is space for a new format that has been designed for kids from the ground up. Publishers, as we do, see this as a way to get kids into reading.

Studies have also demonstrated that audiobooks can actually help children’s literacy, adding further proof to the power of audio in the learning experience.

HR: Yoto Daily (your podcast) and Yoto Radio expand the audio experience beyond the cards – why did you include these in your offering? How are they received by parents and kids?

JK: We wanted Yoto Player to be more than a speaker that only played content purchased from us.

It’s important for us to add value for our customers wherever we can. So by adding in free content that updates itself daily, it means that parents don’t need to constantly feel the need to purchase new content, while kids get to hear something new and often educational every day.

Yoto Daily is our micro-podcast that updates automatically every morning. Yoto Radio is our very own radio station playing the best kid-friendly music we can find!

HR: I’m curious about your partnership with Pentagram. How important is good design when creating kids products? And what does ‘good design’ look like in this space?

JK: Good design is extremely important when designing for children, just like it is when designing for adults. Everyone deserves good design!

“Too many kids products are just dumbed down versions of adult ones, either with a colourful outer skin, if it’s a physical product, or just a filtered experience that restricts access if it’s a digital one”

We consider this to mean understanding who will be using the product, and making their point of view central to the way we see the product as it is developed.

Too many kids products are just dumbed down versions of adult ones, either with a colourful outer skin, if it’s a physical product, or just a filtered experience that restricts access if it’s a digital one.

We designed Yoto for children from the ground up, so every decision we ever make is centred around making the experience for them, and their parents, as rich as possible. Pentagram share that way of thinking, and we were lucky to be able to collaborate with them to bring this product to life.

HR: What’s next for Yoto?

JK: Top secret! But I can say that we’re continuing to add new content to the platform all the time, plus a lot of exciting new content partnerships are being finalised right now. On top of this, with Yoto Player being (safely) connected, it means that we’re able to work on new features, constantly improving the Player over time, adding value for our users.

A huge thanks to Jon for sitting down to answer our questions! If you want to learn more about Yoto, please do go and check out their website: https://www.yotoplay.com/

If you enjoyed this article, then there’s a high likelihood you’ll like the other interviews in our ‘Creator Conversation’ series – why not take a few minutes and check them out here? While you’re at it, be sure to sign up for our kids newsletter – it’s absolutely chock full of insights like this, delivered straight to your inbox each month.

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