You probably remember flipping through Highlights magazine as a child, perhaps while in the waiting room of your doctor’s office. But now, this longest-running children’s magazine of 69 years is attempting to make an impact on mobile. The company has partnered with San Francisco-based startup Fingerprint to help transition the brand – and the activities that were once found within its printed pages – to mobile devices.
This would not be the first time Highlights has tried to make an app work. The company previously introduced several games on the App Store, starting in 2010, but never became established as a well-known mobile brand. If anything, the partnership with Fingerprint is an attempt to change that.
It’s not surprising that today’s kids may not know about Highlights. These days, they’re spending less time reading magazines, and instead spending much of their time playing games on tablet computers, streaming Netflix, or engrossing themselves in virtual worlds like Minecraft. The idea that they’d somehow be interested in a paper magazine filled with hidden picture puzzles and stories feels kind of quaint.
But Highlights has hung on for this long – its print magazines today still have over 2 million subscribers, the company claims. That makes its footprint bigger than mags like Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair, for example.
To date, Highlights says it’s shipped more than a billion magazines and developed hundreds of thousands of activities aimed at keeping kids entertained. But Highlights claims it’s not just “slapping its pages onto mobile” with the launch of its first mobile app, due out in the fourth quarter of this year. Instead, it’s reimagining how it can make its activities work on mobile devices. Video will be a big part of the Highlights mobile experience, too, it says.
The two companies, Highlights and Fingerprint, have been working together to develop a suite of free, paid and subscription-based apps and games that will launch over the next year, and complement the print magazines.
One subscription product will offer kids a daily activity. There will also be a new “Hidden Pictures” experience, along with daily content like stories, jokes, puzzles, quizzes and videos. Highlights will tap into its back catalog in some cases to flesh out the apps’ content. Kids will be able to create their own content, too, submitting stories, art and ideas via the app just as they did with the print magazines.
Following the launch of at least three mobile apps, Highlights and Fingerprint will also be teaming up on an integrated print-digital experience, the companies said. The two plan on working together over the course of at least four years, as the products roll out. In 2016, they will launch the digital version of the magazine, with interactive features, video and a “personalized” experience that adapts to how children engage with the product.
Fingerprint, which is led by former Leapfrog exec Nancy MacIntyre, got its start producing its own kids “edu-tainment” apps. But in the years since its 2010 founding, the company has also expanded to power networks for third parties, including Samsung (KidsTime), Sylvan Learning (SylvanPlay), Astro (AstroPlay) and Cricket Media.
But teaming up with Highlights is a big win for the startup, which is today backed by $20 million in funding from investors that include Corus Entertainment, DreamWorks, Reed Elsevier Ventures and others. Fingerprint, which was valued at $52 million as of last June, describes the Highlights as “a very important marriage,” noting that 8 out its 30 employees have been dedicated to the effort.
In addition, the company says that not only is the deal notable because of its size, but also because Highlights will be the one of the first to use Fingerprint’s new proprietary development platform called Nirvana.
Fingerprint is currently raising a Series C round of funding.