As part of our series of in-depth interviews with app developers, we recently sat down with Wasabi Productions, a children’s digital publisher.
ADM - Who are your key members?
Wasabi - Graham Nunn, Creative Director and Co-Founder; Amy Friedlander , VP Marketing & Strategy, Co-Founder; and Chaz Heitner, Financial Director, Co Founder.
ADM - How long have you been developing apps?
Wasabi - Graham began developing interactive storybook apps for the iPad when the device was merely rumored in early 2010. Wasabi in its current form was incorporated in September 2012 to work towards our goal of becoming a children’s digital publishing company of the future.
ADM - Do you program your apps or do you hire development companies?
Wasabi - We currently work with a selection of preferred development suppliers but are looking to bring this function in-house in the near future.
ADM - How large is your team?
Wasabi - Full time - 2, Part time and Contractors - 11
ADM - What languages or SDK's do you typically use for development?
Wasabi - We have developed in native iOS to date but our latest app release, Gorilla Band, was developed in Unity for its cross platform benefits and is published on iOS, Android and coming soon to Kindle. Unity will be our choice for all future releases for its ability to create cross-platform apps in stunning 3D graphic environments where we’re adding to a library of assets over time, making each subsequent release quicker to develop.
ADM - How many apps do you have published?
Wasabi - We currently have 6 apps in the market.
ADM - What is your most popular app?
Wasabi - That would be our newest and most interactive app, Gorilla Band. The precursor to this app, Ten Giggly Gorillas is a close second and was a finalist in the kid’s app category at the Publishing Innovation Awards this year.
ADM - Which market is more profitable for you?
Wasabi - iOS to date as this has been our focus with only 2 apps on Android currently (Lost Larry and Gorilla Band).
ADM - What is your most successful way of earning revenue with your apps?
Wasabi - Paid sales since we develop storybooks for children, we haven’t used in-app ads to date but are considering trialing this in a sensitive way in future.
ADM - Which mobile ad networks do you prefer?
Wasabi - Google AdMob provides extremely cost efficient traffic (1 cent per click) but you cannot track conversion. We haven’t found one that’s perfect :).
ADM - Could you share some general numbers on your app activity?
Wasabi - Our free apps get downloaded 1000 times more than paid apps on average. There are huge volume differences between the free and paid app rankings.
ADM - What is your development process (from idea to release)?
Wasabi - We have a very agile approach with work streams running concurrently. The key milestones can be defined into 5 stages (see insert next page).
ADM - What are the biggest challenges in mobile development for you?
Wasabi - Not having an internal team (yet) means the development production process is slower than we would like. Developing for children also means there’s loads of policy and legal updates which we need to stay one step ahead of, for example, the update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in July. Apple is also introducing sweeping changes for kid’s app developers with new categorization by age and rules about parental consent for any external links or in-app purchases.
ADM - How do you market your apps?
Wasabi - After lots of experimenting in app marketing, we think the best mix (currently) is online PR releases through PRMac and paid distribution services, priority reviews on key app review websites prior to an app’s release (which go live and are promoted on launch day), social media marketing - including sponsored posts to ensure more of your fans and their friends see your news, video previews on YouTube, cross promotion of new apps from existing apps, as well as building a database and leveraging newsletters for marketing and engagement. We also run ads through the Google Display Network, AdMob and YouTube TrueView for video pre-rolls.
ADM - Do you do your own marketing?
Wasabi - Yes, it is an important part of our business. No use having great apps if no one knows about them!
ADM - What is your single most important factor in app development?
Wasabi - For us, it’s involving our users early to ensure the app delights them. Early user testing should apply across all apps though.
ADM - Do you have tips to other developers and app entrepreneurs?
Wasabi - On the development front, developing a storybook app for touch technology is more like directing a mini movie or a play than it is about writing a book. It’s all the other sensory elements that need consideration and coordination upfront (sound, movement, sets) that ultimately make the experience. We take the approach of writing original content for the technology to ensure touch interaction is integral to the experience - helping to educate and delight children. We believe this gives us an edge.
As for marketing, set your launch date in the future and use the promo codes you get when it is approved to get it out to influencers early, and before it is live, to help with launch buzz. Also, use Affiliate links to drive traffic to iTunes to get some visibility on what happens to the traffic you send there - i.e.: purchase numbers and revenue generated. Earning a commission from this is just an added bonus.
ADM - What is your latest favorite app?
Wasabi - Other than Gorilla Band? :) Would have to say Khan Academy - brilliant knowledge at your fingertips for any downtime. Better use of time than checking Facebook!
ADM - What device do you use personally?
Wasabi - iPhone 4s, iPad3, Google Nexus phone.
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