“No more handing over your smartphone or worrying about intrusive ads”: Zuckerberg and McCartney invest in screen-free children’s audio player

Yoto audio player
(Image credit: Yoto)

Mark Zuckerberg and Paul McCartney find themselves as joint investors in a British start up that aims to provide an audio player for children that, crucially, comes without a screen.

The player is called Yoto and it’s a dinky-looking thing that looks more like a Fisher Price toy than a modern high-tech gadget. Its unique selling point is an aperture into which you can slot a card which plays audio versions of popular children’s books, educational material, stories or songs.

Yoto Player | The smart speaker that kids control - YouTube Yoto Player | The smart speaker that kids control - YouTube
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Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan joined in a new funding round for Yoto through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Over $11million (£8.6million) came in from the Facebook founder and other new investors. The deal values the company at $182million.

Macca is one of the company’s existing shareholders and last year the Beatles legend released special Yoto material - condensed junior versions of his old group’s Red and Blue Greatest Hits albums, and Say Hello to Paul McCartney, a card that features kid-friendly highlights from his vast solo back catalogue, including Let ‘Em In, Mull Of Kintyre and We All Stand Together and two new tracks exclusive to the platform.

Zuckerberg is the owner and founder of Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. His current worth, according to Bloomberg, is around $179billion, making his the fourth richest person in the world.

Yoto was founded by Ben Drury and Filip Denker back in 2015. The company says its simple-to-use music players give children as young as three autonomy over what they listen to, putting them “safely in control of their listening”, with “no more handing over your smartphone or worrying about intrusive ads”. 

The player, which currently retails at £90, reported sales of over £22.2 million in 2022, a figure that looks likely to climb given the current debate around the amount of screen time young children are routinely exposed to.

Latest figures from Ofcom showed that a quarter of children aged 7 and under own their own smartphone and that around half of children under the age of 13 use social media, despite there being a nominal ‘ban’ on them using the apps.

In other McCartney news, the ex-Beatle has announced four arena shows for the end of this year, his first UK dates since his triumphant Glastonbury headlining slot in June 2022. Tickets for the shows - two each at the O2 and at Manchester’s new Co-Op Live Arena - go on sale this coming Friday.

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025