May 17, 2016 Last Updated 5:11 pm

Kids Discover moves from print magazines to apps, now to a web-based app solution

The educational publisher, who proved a pioneer in digital magazine publishing, transforms again, launching an innovative web portal for the education market

Three and a half years ago, TNM wrote about a fabulous new app that was created by Joe Zeff Design for the educational publisher Kids Discover. Before founding his studio, Zeff had been the former Graphics Director of TIME magazine, and since the launch of the original iPad, had published some amazing apps such as Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz and The Final Hours of Portal 2.

The original Kids Discover app is no longer in the App Store, but the publisher now has 28 other apps there, each an interactive digital magazine version of their 20 page print magazines, and definitely not a PDF replica. Each digital magazine covers one topic such as Geology by KIDS DISCOVER or Galaxies by KIDS DISCOVER.


And if you are familiar with Joe Zeff’s work, you know what to expect: a digital magazine app built with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, and designed in landscape.

The Joe Zeff Design studio is no longer active, as Zeff has moved on to ScrollMotion where he is VP/Executive Creative Director.

“We were a children’s magazine, delivered twelve issues for $20. Each issue was focused on a single topic like the Constitution, or solar systems, or oceans, and it was geared to children 6 to 14,” Ted Levine, President and CEO of Kids Discover told TNM, explaining the journey the company has taken.

“Over time we built up these issues, and many of them end up aligning with what is being taught in elementary and middle schools. We had a lot of parents who subscribed for their children, who were also educators, and started requesting back issues that they could purchase in bulk and use in their classrooms or at the school level.”

“Five years ago we started to get very serious about what we were going to do digitally,” Levine said. “So we started rolling out our best selling titles as really cool, interactive iPad apps. We were working with Joe Zeff and his studio back then.”

“We were happy with what we were able to do with the apps, but all it did was spur more demand from people who don’t have iPads,” Levine said. “When we considered the cost and maintenance of rolling out lots of different applications for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, it became very clear that we needed to create some web-based application that would work on any device. And while we are at it, let’s stop selling topic by topic and create sort of an-access library.”


What followed, Levine said, was about 12 months of talking to customers, getting feedback, and refocusing on the education market.

Kids Discover Online is the solution – launched in September to small portion of the user basis. The new website portal supports both individual accounts and school-wide solutions.

To use the site, one needs an account, and though there is a free tier, the new site’s model is 100 percent paid content, with no advertising.

Print issues are now sold as Units – and since each issue was made up of two-page spreads, each a self-contained subject, these spreads are now converted to Topics. From 150 or so issues published as print magazines, now the new solution provides over 1000 Topics.

“You can still read an entire issue, if you want, but you can now jump around,” Levine pointed out in his demonstration for TNM.


To create the new website solution, Kids Discover used several outside firms, including Brobel Design, which just happens to be a new design firm founded by former Joe Zeff Design staffers Ian Brown (former art director at JZD) and Ed Gabel (VP at JZD).

When the user enters the new site and logs in, they are presented with ten main categories: American History, World History, Historical Figures, Geography, Earth Science, Life Science, Space Science, Physical Science, Human Body and Technology.

The most popular feature, Levine said, is the Discover map.

“As I click and drag each one of these bubbles, which represents a unit, a collection of seven or eight different topics are available,’ Levine demonstrated (and you can see by clicking/tapping the GIF above).

“You are going to see it pull on a bunch of these other bubbles. You can go in here and see the relationship between all these different units. It’s really cool and powerful in terms of education, bridging the gap between science and social studies, showing the inner connections of the world in which we live.”

“Some topics are directly connected, but then you have other topics that are (indirectly) connected – an example being ‘How are the Aztecs connected to the sun?’ There is one called Ancient Sun Worshippers,” Levine said.

Each two-page print spread has been translated into a Topic designed in HTML5, all of it mobile responsive.

Levine says that this approach uses a more modern inquiry-based learning approach.

“The old model is where the teacher is the gatekeeper of the information. This allows kids to learn on their own,” Levine said.

Kids Discover still sells the back issues of its print magazines online, but all the new content is bring produced using this web approach.

The original iPad apps were fantastic, but this new approach allows the company to reach everyone who has a web connection, not just those with a tablet.

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