Magazines for kids have a glorious history. There are a few periodical publications that can help children shape their idea of the world as well as practice their imagination: Highlights, Odyssey Magazine, Muse, NatGeo for kids, Il Corriere dei Piccoli, Topolino… We’re huge fans of these magazines for children. We love their periodicity, we love the fact that they become a constant presence in children’s life. We loved growing up with some of their characters, and when we started working on an iPad magazine for children, back in 2010, we basically began to study. What could a magazine for children look like ON AN IPAD?
We knew a few things:
– We wanted it to feature great illustration and design
– We didn’t want it to be too flashy, because we wanted the interaction design to help kids focus on the reading experience, without encouraging alienation and constant distraction
– We wanted it to feature news and current events, because we believe children have the right to be informed about what happens around them
– We wanted the magazine to be likable for both parents and kids, because the best learning experiences happen when children and grown-ups discover the world together
As a result, we built the first beta version of Timbuktu Magazine, that happened to be the first iPad magazine for children ever launched on the Apple App Store. It was April 2011, and Timbuktu Magazine was still a side project for us.
The first issue of Timbuktu Magazine, “The Ice Issue”, was full of mistakes! The interaction was messy, the technology still raw. Still, there was something that struck people. We never talked down to kids. The artists and designers we called as contributors were international stars (thanks Olimpia Zagnoli, Planeta Tangerina, Sarah Fotheringham, Miguel Porlan, Massimo Caccia, Jan Von Holleben, Annalisa Merelli): we thought kids deserved just as much beauty as adults do.
People liked it. And thy encouraged us to go ahead. We started designing the following issue. We wanted it to be more interactive, more playful, easier to navigate. In February 2012, “The Night Issue” was born.
It had improved a lot, but the navigation wasn’t quite there yet. Plus, it had many bugs, and it was incredibly “heavy” to download! By the time “The Night Issue” was out, we had decided that we wanted to make a job out of it. Timbuktu, with its unique approach to digital publishing for kids, needed to become a company. We quit our jobs, and moved from Milan to San Francisco! Now we only had to solve some issues:
– technology-wise “The Night Issue” had been a mess: beautiful, but not scalable! We needed a platform!
– most platforms out there were toasting pdfs for publishers who wanted to adapt their paper content to digital, but that didn’t work for us. We were a digital native company, all our content was designed to be interactive and we needed a platform that could support and make scalable interactive digital native content.
– we needed to find a revenue model
– we needed money to build the platform
We knew 500startups was the right place for us to start all of this and we did all that we could to get into the program. We found three amazing mentors (Tara, Christian and John), who introduced us to Christine Tsai and Dave McClure. We got interviewed, and we got accepted into 500 Startups. (And we got the money to start!). Now we just had to find a way to stay in the U.S. for more than 90 days! We flew back to Italy and started the painful Visa journey. We eventually managed to get one and flew back to California to start our adventure in Mountain View. We flew our team to California too! We were now 4 people working on Timbuktu full time, and sharing an office together for the first time.
After 6 months of hard work the beta version of our publishing platform was up and running! It was November 2012, and we released it to the App Store. Many improvements, an amazing platform and a standing O: “How can you possibly manage to come up with a new story *every day*?”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we simply do. We love creating content to entertain you and your kids, and the fact that in each corner of the globe there are parents and children laughing at our stories and learning something on Timbuktu is enough to kindle our creativity and push us to produce great stories every day.
But what happened then? Kids like our stories SO MUCH that they want to read them over and over again. And it turns out that if we push a new story everyday, it’s hard for kids to keep track of their favorite ones.
So, here comes our latest release. Today we’re presenting the best Timbuktu Magazine you’ve ever seen:
– 9 amazingly interactive stories per month
– A simple subscription model
– A kid safe environment
– One of most advanced edutainment projects on the iPad
All the stories, games and activities on Timbuktu are based on the Reggio Emilia Approach and designed to help children meet education standards while respecting their personal way of learning. Our international and interdisciplinary team has grown and now includes experts in learning sciences, animation, writing, design, music, theater, and software development.
It’s been an incredible journey so far. We listened to you, and we replied to your suggestions with all our brains, hearts, and bodies. We’re confident that your kids will enjoy this Timbuktu more than ever. Because we improved it with their help. And this is why we especially want to thank the amazing kids of the Child Development Center at the Cerritos College, and the wonderful teachers Daniela, Teresa and Elizabeth.
Please keep your feedback coming! And help us spread the word: tweet, email, and tell your friends about Timbuktu Magazine. Be part of this revolution. We don’t know if this is the best magazine for children ever, but we know we can make it with you, through listening, respect, and imagination. The values that inspire our work with you every day.