The digital presentations at Bologna were scaled down this year in favor of focusing on the fair’s new featured event, Kids Want Mobile. Still, the Digital Café at the fair hosted several days of panels. A recurring theme throughout the talks was the shift from paid-to-play children’s apps or apps sold on a freemium model to subscriptions, which are generating steady streams of revenue for education app companies like Edoki Academy, a publisher of Montessori education apps for preschoolers, and Touch Press, which produces apps from Eric Carle, Saban, Warner Bros/DC Comics, Sesame Workshop, Disney and other licenses.

The Fair chose to acknowledge this shift by giving its Digital Ragazzi Award for Content Libraries to Bayard, the French content curator and publisher, on behalf of its Bamam “edutainment platform.” It is part of a “360-degree strategy for publishing, one that reaches families directly,” said Stéphanie Simonin, digital development business manager for Group Bayard, during a showcase for the platform at the Digital Café. The ecosystem from Bayard includes a further 50 apps, 50 blogs, 15 online stores, seven YouTube channels, as well as the company’s affiliated print products. “In all, we produce 800 new children’s books a year and 500 ebooks,” added Damian Giard, digital director for Bayard Group’s Youth department.

This interplay between the physical and the digital publishing worlds is what Neal Hoskins, a digital media consultant who oversaw programming at the Digital Café, dubs “connected publishing.”

“[Bayard] is a perfect example of what we talk about when we talk about the future of digital publishing and how it can work in the context of children’s books,” Hoskins told PW.

To close the Digital Café, PW’s reporter co-moderated a panel discussing connected publishing ended the digital programming at the fair and featured Japhet Asher, digital director of Carlton Publishing, who showed off his own example of the genre: The Ghostkeeper’s Journal, which he dubbed the “first AR-powered novel,” adding, “it’s not just a book, it’s a haunted book.” Readers, Asher explained, use an app to unlock hidden stories and release “ghosts.”

It was then suggested that one area where the fair could help people feel more digitally “connected” would be in fomenting more directly relationships between illustrators and app developers. To that end, Hoskins suggested that the fair add additional matchmaking and sessions between digital publishers and illustrators to the agenda.

PW’s reporter, who also co-moderated the session, asked, “How many people in the audience know what Fortnite is?” One third of the audience raised their hands. “How about BTS?” and just a handful of hands went up. The response: “These are phenomena that generated billions of dollars of revenue last year and were some of the most popular pop-culture products on the planet. Publishers would do well to know what they are and understand them if they hope to compete.”

This article was originally published by Ed Nawotka on Publishers Weekly on April 11 here.