Reading to your kids is an age-old activity, the only business built into it being books and blankies. But Dave Swerdlick, the man behind Fridley-based StoryCub, has seen immediate success producing videos that read to other people’s kids. StoryCub is a video series featuring people reading storybooks out loud. It spent four days atop iTunes’ “Kids and Family” podcasts in September with the book All About Poop, and stories are currently viewed in more than 200 countries.
StoryCub, launched last May, features real people who introduce themselves prior to reading, with their voices narrating the story’s pictures. Different from an e-book, the video contains no text and is not interactive. Swerdlick sees it as a “call to action” to emphasize to parents the importance of one-on-one reading and to get kids excited about a particular title.
Swerdlick works with publishers and authors to obtain the rights to create the videos. The videos cover a variety of books, from “forgotten” titles published years ago to popular new stories to authors that have not gone through a major publisher. “There are a lot of individual authors that are going the route the music industry went,” he explains, “and they want to self-publish.” In November, StoryCub released its first book featuring sign language for hearing-impaired kids. A StoryCub app was recently released for most major platforms.
Swerdlick, who has a background in music promotion, runs StoryCub with the help of a few outside editors and marketing via social media. Despite its small staff, it competes with videos from big names such as Sesame Street, Nick Jr., and PBS’ Sprout.
Currently, StoryCub is self-funded, although Swerdlick is actively looking for investors. (He has depended on word of mouth for marketing.) Swerdlick says he has not settled on a revenue model, but is exploring video ads and licensing deals with tablet manufacturers, particularly tablets geared to kids.
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