iHeartMedia is expanding its brand, and they’re doing it for the kids. Today, the company launches iHeartRadio Family, a stand-alone iOS and Android app that is the first-ever extension of its iHeartRadio brand.
iHeartRadio Family features a mix of live and DJ-hosted stations geared towards children ages 4 to 11. It also marks a new partnership with retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop. As part of the deal, Build-A-Bear will get its own radio station.
“We were looking for partners to work with that have strong ties in family and kid content,” says Chris Williams, iHeartRadio’s chief product officer. “And we felt like [Build-A-Bear] was a natural fit. As a brand, we felt like they validated the concept in a great way. They wanted to reach families through music and felt the iHeartRadio Family launch was a way to do that.”
iHeartRadio Family was born from a hackathon earlier this March. A programmer and designer teamed up to create a stand-alone app with a UI catered specifically to kids.
“Everybody got excited about it,” says Williams. “That really was what drove us to create it–the enthusiasm that came out of that hack event.”
For an app designed for kids, who better to beta test it than the intended demographic? About a month prior to launch, Williams and his team held what they called a “Bug Bash,” where 30 kids put the app through its paces.
“We wanted them to play with it and find anything that was broken, but also make recommendations about how we could make the experience a better one,” Williams says. One feature that was tweaked as a result of the “Bug Bash” was to clarify when songs can and cannot be skipped. Since iHeartRadio Family is a mix of live radio and curated playlists, the kids were confused as to why they could skip ahead in one station and not the next. The developers made the distinction clearer by adding a countdown graphic of how many skips a user has left.
”You don’t have to worry about kids being honest with you,” Williams says. “Adults may couch their feedback and soften the blow a little bit–kids don’t do that. They just tell you directly what they think of your product.”