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Opinion and Insight
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Kidspiration: Independent’s Jani Guest on Creating Smart Content for Kids

Independent, 2 months, 1 week ago

Independent’s newly-launched online channel lets children grill experts like Jane Goodall and Jimmy Wales

Kidspiration: Independent’s Jani Guest on Creating Smart Content for Kids

“I’m the mother of 11-year-old twin girls and as a full time working mother I cannot monitor everything they watch. And the content they are exposed to on YouTube may not be the kind of content that fully nourishes them,” says Independent managing director Jani Guest.

Over the past year, she’s been devoting her time to an incredible project that aims to inspire and empower the YouTube generation. Kidspiration is a channel that sees inquisitive kids interview the world’s leading experts in fields as diverse as primatology, journalism, medicine and technology. And in a world where many kids aspire to be celebrities or sports stars – because that’s largely what they see and who they follow online – she hopes that Kidspiration will cut through and open their eyes to opportunities, career paths and potential life passions. Think of it as a sort of Ted Talk for kids – and the kids are the ones calling the shots. 

“There’s a really wonderful marriage that happens when you see a child interviewing a leading expert in a certain field and they are suddenly exposed to ideas and a profession and an opportunity that they were never exposed to previously,” she says. “I think all of us have a responsibility to offer that kind of content to the next generation. Right now we’re not doing it; that market is incredibly underserved.”

In a world where change is ever-accelerating, it can be difficult for children to navigate the opportunities that lie in the adult world. But when Kidspiration puts young interviewers in front of thought leaders from the likes of Instagram and Facebook, from groundbreaking research centres, from the worlds of art and science… the fizzing synapses light up the screen.

The concept came about following a conversation with John Townshend of the agency Now. Both Jani and John were lamenting the lack of inspiring content for the 8-12 age group, which was particularly frustrating given the staggering volume of online video that today’s children consume. 

But instead of leaving the conversation as an empty grumble, Jani decided to put a plan into action. She got the OK from the Independent chairman and set about bringing Kidspiration to life, recruiting support from the team. She also hooked up with the well-connected media strategist Laura Galloway, who fell in love with the idea instantly and helped recruit the high profile guest interviewees.

These guests were carefully curated, guided by the desire to find amazing people who are truly changing the world. It wasn’t driven by metrics or data – the last thing Jani wanted to do was to feed hungry young minds with more of the same stuff that they already consume. It was about creating content that would take young viewers beyond that with which they were already familiar.

For the brilliant cast of child reporters, the team reached out to schools and youth clubs in the UK and the revolutionary Ron Clark Academy in the US. Hundreds of children were auditioned in order to find inquisitive, open-minded interviewers with a real appetite to learn about the world. 

So far, Kidspiration has around 40 segments ready to feed out on their channel. It was, Jani says, a huge undertaking – and speaking to her the genuine passion shines through.

“When you undertake a project of this scale and nature it does take you by surprise because you are essentially starting a whole new company. I wanted to give the younger staff in the office the opportunity to participate so we took a team and gave them the mantle of Kidspiration,” she says, adding that she attended every interview personally to guide the project through and that the wider Independent team stepped up impressively to support the ambitious project.

And while Kidspiration is primarily about enriching and inspiring children, it’s also helped push and expand the whole Independent team.

“Production companies in the model that we have have incredible directorial talent, incredible producers, and of course incredible staff that provide content to agencies and brands. But what I began to feel a couple of years ago is that if you have that incredible talent there has to be other ways of expanding that beyond just working in the ‘commercials world’. I had been wanting to do something for a long time,” she says. “I think we have to look at work that makes a difference.”

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