Launching a new business led us to an unexpected discovery and has opened our eyes to the influential world of social media. As we thought of various ways to market our e-books, we came across some women who make it their business to be informed about products for their children – mom bloggers. We got to know some of the women who left careers to run websites or write blogs full time and we quickly realized how influential the parents of our target market could be. We want to introduce you to one of these moms, in particular, who gave a good portion of her time to get to know us while we came to understand how she started her website and why she continues to do what she does.
Carisa Kluver is a working mom, who made her website she began as a hobby into her full-time job. Digital-storytime.com launched in December 2010 and is an e-book/app review site. Carisa started the site after trying to find helpful reviews from other sites for the large collection of e-books she kept on her iPad. She quickly realized that the sites that she discovered did not necessarily provide the information that she, as a parent, was looking for. Carisa decided that she could provide that information for other parents and began to create her website with her husband.
Carisa received a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology from UC Berkeley and finished a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Washington. She then began a career working in schools as a counselor and community health educator teaching sex-ed. It may sound like a stretch to go from teaching sex-ed to being an app reviewer, but it seemed a logical transition for Carisa. Because of her education and interaction with educators, Carisa understood the correlation between books in the home and the social effects that has on children. She was already a big reader and spent a lot of time at the library. Carisa also has a five-year-old son who was the inspiration behind her site because she wanted to find reviews for e-books to share with her child.
Carisa is an expert in her career field, having been published in educational journals. However, she is quick to explain that she does not consider herself an expert in app reviews, but considers the task a public service, instead. Despite its relative newness, digital-storytime.com is a very influential review site. Shortly after starting her site, Carisa was interviewed by The Washington Post. Armchair BEA asked her to write a guest post within a week of starting her blog, The Digital Media Diet. She was also highlighted in the School Library Journal blog. Carisa states that the highest praise she receives, however, is when educators find her website useful or when a parent says, “Thank you – I just found this great book.”
Like Grids, many small developers contact Carisa and request reviews for their apps. She reviews most of what she gets requests for, but doesn’t hesitate to let a developer know if their app does not meet her standards for at least a three-star rating on her site. She will always provide feedback as to where she feels the app may be lacking if it falls short on her scale and will give the developer the option to rework the app and resubmit it before she publishes a review. “I’m a teacher. I want everyone to improve and graduate,” Carisa says. E-books are assessed on narration, animation, interactivity, and extras, among other things. Books by large developers that typically land in the top-10 are fair game for Carisa to review and a good or bad rating will stand.
Carisa has approximately 40 books in her queue at any given time and has not had a day off in nine months. She makes it a goal to review at least one book a day. This is no simple task when you understand the work that goes into each review. First, Carisa screens the app she receives. If she thinks it is worthy of at least a three-star rating on her site, she shares it with her son at least four to five times before she composes the review. The review itself takes time to write. Then the information must be posted on the website. An actual review can take anywhere from three to four hours to complete.
Although her website began as a hobby for Carisa, it has turned into well more than that. Carisa is no longer working in her former field, but instead works full time on her site, as well as marketing for other app projects with her husband. Digital-storytime.com now has sufficient traffic to attract advertisers of family-friendly products. Carisa also plans to offer ad space to developers in the fall.
The intention behind digital-storytime.com was to provide information that Carisa, herself, had difficulty finding. She wanted to fill that void for others. Carisa did not expect that communicating with developers, writing reviews, and maintaining the site would be as time-consuming as it has turned out to be, but she seems to genuinely love the new career path she began for herself. We admire Carisa greatly for her perseverance in providing much-needed information about e-books and apps and for helping to promote small publishers like Grids. We sincerely thank her for her time and dedication!
Author: Ande Anderson, Grids Interactive