The children’s media company Pinna is on a mission to activate young listeners in new and different ways. The audio-first firm offers the first and only ad-free, audio on-demand streaming service that delivers breakthrough, original audio programming curated and created for kids 3-12 that includes podcasts, music, and audiobooks. And ever since their inception, Pinna prides itself on innovating in the audio entertainment space, with some of the company’s most prominent podcasts being TIME for Kids Explains, A to Z Mysteries: Clue Club, and Dream Breachers.
And now, Pinna is presenting to the podcast market a unique offering: Hey Story Go, a podcast that, Pinna CEO Maggie McGuire says, “gets preschoolers up and moving to help propel the story forward.” The storytelling and each episode is dependent on the listener doing various activities like pushing open a door or shaking like a noodle.
Hey Story Go is releasing at a screen-dependent time, as researchers at leading universities like Stanford, the University of Southern California, and the University of Michigan urge children to find other forms of entertainment. Studies have found that the pandemic has contributed to decreasing levels of physical activity in children, leading to serious health consequences such as declines in attention span and increases in sleep disruption.
Each 15-minute episode of the podcast follows a different storyline, led by the hosts, Sunny Side Up stars Carly Ciarrocchi and Kaitlin Becker. During critical points in each episode, listeners are encouraged to get up and move to help the characters in the story by acting out movements. At the end of each episode, all of these moves come together in one big celebratory dance. These moments of physical engagement are further elevated by the original song introduced in each episode. Episode 1, “A Royal Adventure,” is available to listen to right now, and episodes release every other Wednesday.
Maggie McGuire shared that the road to creating this podcast wasn’t easy. She was involved in the earliest ideation phases, or as she put it, “cultivating the seed of an idea for the show”: coming up with a firm concept, organizing episode storylines, and brainstorming other elements.
“Once we got the right people in a sort of writer room, like Nerissa Holder Hall, Amy Kraft, Ann Richards, and the creators of the show – Mark, Carly, and Kiersten – I could step back and know that the show was in good hands,” McGuire said.
In non-pandemic times, the creators of the show would have invited the talent to their New York City offices to record. However, this process was a little different; professional-grade microphones and kits with soundproofing, soundboards, headphones, and other items were sent to the voice actors, musicians, and sound designers, all of whom built mini soundproof studios in their homes. The sound designers were live on a Zoom call with the talent, and they guided them through the process.
After the recording process, much work was still to be done. Since the show was aimed at preschoolers (ages three to five), kid testing was a crucial part of the podcast creation process. In kid testing, researchers monitor kids who listen to the pilot episode of the podcast live in school or at camp (or in a virtual space during COVID-19). These researchers look for how kids respond so that companies like Pinna can ensure that kids will actually be motivated to listen to the show (to get up and move the story forward), that they think it’s fun, and that they understand it.
“Kid testing was off the charts; it’s at the top of Pinna’s most-listened-to podcasts,” McGuire said. “The podcast is one of the only ones that breaks the fourth wall, and kids loved being encouraged and activated to help move the story forward. They kept asking to listen to it again and again!”
This new style of podcast could make waves, postulated McGuire. “We at Pinna feel like we’re doing some really fun experimentation in the podcast space at large, and hope that we are setting the stage for lots of innovation. I can’t imagine other entities in the podcast space not wanting to try out their version of getting kids up and moving since Hey Story Go has been so well-received.”
Hey Story Go is available to stream on the Pinna app and at pinna.fm Pinna is available for download on all iOS and Android devices including tablets and smartphones as well as via desktop browsers. After a 30-day free trial, subscriptions are available for $7.99 per month or $79.99 for an annual plan. Visit pinna.fm for more details and promotions.