Traveling with younger kids, whether it be to the doctor’s office or the vacation home, requires patience, preparation, and kid-friendly entertainment. I’ve recently fallen in love with the suite of educational children’s apps produced by Ruckus Media Group. And I’m not the only one. Ruckus Media’s apps are winning accolades and awards all over the place; a “Present for Milo” recently won an About.com’s Reader’s Choice Award, a Mom’s Choice Award, and was nominated as one of the Best Apps Ever. My 3-year-old couldn’t agree more with Milo’s honors.
In my interview with Rick Richter, CEO of Ruckus Media Group, he spoke about the 8-month-old company’s current position in the children’s app marketplace and his outlook for the developing industry. As a veteran in traditional children’s publishing, having run Simon & Schuster’s award-winning Children’s Publishing Division, Rick Richter is in the unique position of understanding what makes children’s stories successful. His experience along with the other members of his team, position Ruckus to be one of the more distinguished app developers out there.
The company currently has 15 kids’ apps in the market and plans to have “around 40 out this year,” according to Richter. In pointing out how much of a challenge it is to be recognized in the app world, Richter breaks down the stats for me, noting that “there are about 70,000 app creators out there and currently about 30,000 kids’ apps [alone] on the market. The app world is kind of like the Wild West.” He goes on to point out that there are thousands of casual app developers who will over time be pushed out of the market as apps get more and more robust and users’ needs get more sophisticated. At that point, “there will be a clear distinction between professional developers and casual ones.” Ultimately, brand loyalties will emerge. RIchter is hoping that Ruckus will be one of those brands parents look to for educational apps for their kids.
The increasing use of SMART Boards in classrooms opens up another avenue for Ruckus Media Group. The company plans to revisit some of its educational apps for adaptability to the SMART Board, thus aiding teachers in not only expanding their educational tools but also contracting their out-of-pocket classroom material expenses. In addition, Ruckus plans to develop apps that are more complex and age appropriate where even parents can share in the experience.
However, Richter admits that it’s not all giggles and happy faces. The company has its stark critics. For all their media efforts and successes, “some people call us the devil,” while traditional publishers are terrified that Ruckus is “trying to put books out of business.” Richter notes that this is far from the truth and believes that although digital publishing is the way of the future, it’s not the end-all to traditional books and that “an app can be taken at its own merit as a piece of education.”
As we spoke about family, Mr. Richter shared that he doesn’t “believe that kids should be on the screen all the time.” He practices digital sabbaticals with his family where everyone unplugs for a certain period of time and does “normal family activities together.” Unfortunately, digital is becoming the new “normal,” and as apps become more and more educationally significant and empowering for subgroups like Autism Spectrum Disorder children, my youngest included, some families may feel less guilty about extended screen time.