Riffle Offers a New Take on Social Reading
Neil Baptista hopes that booklovers everywhere are adding another site to their go-to social media bookmarks: Riffle. As founder and CEO of the startup, Baptista wanted to create a website where readers, bloggers, and bookstore owners alike could come together and share their bookshelves -- and thoughts -- with each other.
"It's set up very similar to social networks like Twitter or Pinterest, where you can follow your friends and also follow Riffle experts," says Baptista. Users can customize their Riffle experience to their literary interests -- science nerds can geek out to bloggers writing reviews and recommending new sci-fi books. Or Roald Dahl fans can follow the Riffle editors that cover children's literature.
Baptista's vision for Riffle was partially born from of another startup of his, Odyl, which is a Facebook marketing software used by all the Big 5 publishers. "We had a lot of information and experience with how people responded to items about books in their news feeds," says Baptista. "But there was still a need for another way for people to interact with books." After all, on sites like Facebook and Twitter, posts about books have to compete with posts about Justin Bieber's latest bout of youthful indiscretion and the Kardashians' never-ending familial woes. "We thought, let's do something just about books," says Baptista.
In a social reading landscape littered with other sites -- Goodreads and Bookish come to mind -- Riffle hopes to set itself apart with a minimalist design and expert-curated content. "On other platforms, you have to work to find people who are doing interesting stuff in a category of books you like, whereas we offer those people to you right away," says Baptista.
Riffle's primary revenue stream is its newsletter, which features editors' picks and ebook deals three times a week. These ebook deals, which are paid placements, fulfill a need for authors and publishers. By purchasing a spot in the newsletter, self-published authors can gain exposure to the Riffle mailing list. Big 5 publishers, on the other hand, can experiment with ebook pricing and see what works.
Publishing companies have more to gain from Riffle than insight into new pricing models, however. Riffle's status as a Pinterest for books has made it a discovery tool for publishers, who are clamoring now more than ever for "the next big thing." It's been four years since the last Hunger Games novel dropped, three years since Fifty Shades of Grey, and one year since the conclusion of Veronica Roth's hit Divergent series. Is dystopia dead? Is realistic YA back? Baptista thinks Riffle can provide the answer to some of these questions: "We can see early what kinds of books are trending. It's the space you want to be as an executive because then you can find an emerging author and sign them."
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