Most app developers targeting teens and their ever-shrinking attention spans fall short of mainstream success — but not Mammoth Media.
Wishbone, a teen polling app, and Yarn, an interactive fictional storytelling app, are part of what the company calls “micro-entertainment,” or bite-sized experiences that can fill the space of a few minutes or even a few seconds.
“It’s anything that can entertain beyond games,” explains CEO Benoit Vatere. “Because of the behaviors we see on mobile, we have to be short, or shorter than short.”
Yarn, the company’s newest app, has been particularly successful. It’s part of an emerging category of reading apps that produce “chat stories,” a format you’ve probably never heard of if you’re over the age of 25.
It’s a bit like reading an e-book, but rather than being organized in chapters, each story is told as if it were a series of text messages. Instead of turning a page, readers tap on their screen to reveal the next message in the conversation.
These “chats,” which also weave in photos and videos, tell the stories not unlike what you’d find elsewhere in the world of young adult fiction. There are stories of hookups, encounters with stalkers, haunted Ouija boards, and even a Slender Man-like tale called Stick Man — all of which are told in short bursts of a few words at a time.
The idea of striping down prose to a few text messages may sound somewhat horrifying to any bookworm, but the format’s incredibly popular with smartphone-addicted teens and younger millennials. The app’s been downloaded more than 11 million times and pulled in more than $15.5 million via in-app subscriptions since its launch last February, according to estimates from marketing firm Sensor Tower.
The Yarn app has been downloaded more than 11 million times
Now, Mammoth is getting a chance to see just how far the format can take them. The company just raised a $13 million Series A round that will go towards investing in more video content for Yarn’s stories. (Yes, even non-traditional media companies can’t escape the “pivot to video” cliché.)
Moving into video will help make yarn’s stories even more immersive, according to Mammoth. It also opens up the opportunity to work with with more traditional entertainment backgrounds. The company just released a new series from the writers behind the Saw moviefranchise starring an influencer from another teen-favorite app: Musical.ly.
There are other reasons why traditional media companies might take notice, though. At a time when publishers are desperately trying to figure out how to sustain themselves once Facebook boots them out of News Feed, Yarn is proof that people will consume content outside of the walled gardens of social media platforms.
“The vision I had when I started Mammoth is that if you want to be a media company on mobile then you have to own your distribution and monetization,” Vatere says (Yarn relies on primarily on subscriptions — not ads).
“People are learning it right now that relying on the Facebook the third parties to acquire and monetize users is very very dangerous”