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Posted on August 2, 2019 by staff

How ‘Spotify for magazines’ is revolutionising publishing

In uncertain times for the print magazine, analytics has given online publications a clear advantage in the race for eyeballs.

While websites have refined a scientific accuracy over their audience, traditional publishers still rely on sales figures and focus groups.

That is until now. Tech firm Readly provides an unlimited subscription to more than 4,000 magazine titles through its app and hopes to give readers more content while providing publishers with the insight they sorely miss.

Its UK chief content officer Ranj Begley has been with the company since 2014, a year after it was founded.

“We can tell the whole story – when a person clicks on the first page, what they’re reading, how they’re reading and for how long. It is phenomenal, the type of stuff that we can do,” Begley, a self-confessed data nerd, told BusinessCloud.

“We’ve done case studies on whether female covers work better for Psychologies magazine, as opposed to male covers.

“We’ve tried and tested different covers, while the content within the magazine stays exactly the same.”

Begley, who comes from a print background, is part of a nine-strong UK team, part of the 75 international employees of the Swedish-founded firm.

The company’s staff are employed consciously as a mix of people that don’t like magazines as well as people that do “because we want to know what they don’t like about magazine so we can start making them better”.

Like Spotify, Readly’s proposition to its customers is unlimited access to magazines; to publishers, it is more eyeballs and better reader data which can be put back into future magazine designs.

Revenue for the publications is calculated based on ‘dwell time’, the amount of time a reader spends inside a magazine.

“We’re giving publishers additional revenue as part of putting their titles on our platform and growing their brand footprint globally,” said Begley.

The firm recently conducted a case study on Cosmopolitan magazine, during its first issue with plus-sized model Tess Holliday on its cover.

“We were really interested to find out if people were consuming content in the same way that they would with a physical print copy,” she said.

Consuming in the traditional context, Begley explained, meant picking up the magazine and flicking through the issue to find the cover story.

“The top read article was obviously about Tess Holliday, and people went into the magazine to read that article before slowly starting to trickle out of the magazine,” she said of the results, just as they do with the real thing.

But despite near identical reader behaviour, Begley said any concerns that Readly could further hinder print titles look unlikely.

“The overlap between the people that subscribe on the publisher’s platforms and people that are subscribing on Readly is two per cent, and it could even be less than that now.”

Readly is a company interested in increasing readership rather than taking magazine readers away from the stands, Begley says.

The firm has its own portfolio meetings, in which some of the team sit with publishers and bring their expertise to demonstrate what they can do better, and what they shouldn’t do as well.

“Users are reading wider, as opposed to just focusing on what it is that they normally read, so it is about stimulating consumption,” she said.

“[Our users] are people that wanted to read trusted long form or short form curated content. They want a reliable source where they can read it and know that it’s not fake.”

The company is now working on further improvements to user experience, with a focus on mobile, and building out a recomminedation engine, and the ability to search by topic as well as title.

“We must understand how the publishers run their business, and whether their needs and wants are and where we can help them.

“And in the same breath, we need to understand what direction we’re going in as well.”