Mofibo: Growing Ebook Subscription on a Local Scale
While other ebook subscription services have shuttered, Mofibo a Copenhagen-based subscription service, continues to grow, boasting 15,000 new users every month and over 1 million pages read on its platform daily. The service has achieved sustainable growth and profitability due to its purposeful focus on developing local markets and providing ebooks in local languages, writes Nathan Hull, chief business development officer at Mofibo. He argues that by focusing on a few markets where ebook reading had yet to flourish -- Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands -- his company has been able to grow profits significantly and actually increase ebook reading in these countries. “Since our existence digital's share of the Danish book market has grown from 3% to almost 18%,” says Hull. Here Hull shares how the two-year-old company is looking to expand its services in the future, provide even more data to publishers, and make it easier for readers to discover their favorite books.
What problem are you solving?
In our focus countries there has been little or no digital growth in the ebook market (and the reasons vary from country to country). With audiobooks the market is often non-existent, as it was in Denmark for example. We are successful at growing reading as a habit and as an entertainment format by attracting a new kind of reader. In each market Mofibo commits a large marketing spend to outdoor and TV advertising, which takes books and the concept of reading to the masses. We partner with telecoms to further expand reach and marketing via content deals, and we collaborate with other brands relevant to where people could read or listen. A great example of this is our partnership with the national rail system in Denmark.
We don’t target the places or people the publishers already target. They know how to find their existing readers. We are bringing new readers to the fold and expanding reading, listening, and storytelling as an entertainment form.
An interesting shift for us has been with the audiobook market. The major U.S. audiobook platforms barely exist in our markets so Mofibo has become the go-to service. Within three months of launching audio, 1 million minutes per day are being listened to in Denmark which is a staggering figure considering it’s a country of only 5.5 million people.
How did you come up with this idea?
Our CEO Morten Strunge founded Mofibo. While subscription services proliferated in music, film, and gaming, he identified a European gap in the market for a flat-rate service for books. Strunge crucially identified a business model that was sustainable for Mofibo and publishers, as well as providing publishers with a method of reaching new readers that they seemingly weren’t able to reach themselves.
Of course, we weren’t alone in seeing subscription as a new business model and distribution mechanic. There are many subscription services operating across the world, and although they are often lumped into one big “subscription” bucket, all these services aren’t alike. The actual underpinning business models are different -- and some will succeed and others won’t, as we’re seeing already.
What are the most important trends that you’re seeing in publishing today?
I think that very soon publishing houses -- en masse, not just the big few in each market -- will be able to interrogate, analyze, and act upon data. During the five years I spent as a digital director at Penguin UK, data grew and grew as a topic of importance and the appropriate internal infrastructures were created to handle data, but one thing was missing: data from the retailers. Mofibo is changing that. We supply everything back to the publisher and believe it’s fundamentally important to do so.
Traditionally, publishers have only received information about units sold and revenue back from most retailers. As well as this basic info Mofibo supplies demographic info, where people read, the times of day they read, which devices they read on, what they concurrently read, what they read and listen to, how much of a book they complete, the speed at which they read. The list is endless.
Two years into our relationships with publishers in Denmark, this data is now being used to inform marketing spends, acquisition strategies, and in a few cases even the creative process.
Who is your competition?
It’s a commonplace statement but one that rings very true -- other entertainment services. Our competition isn’t other book retailers. It’s Spotify, Netflix, social networks, Instagram, gaming -- anything that demands a consumer’s attention. In the technological age, how is publishing really advancing to engage a consumer and provide enough reason to not tweet, scroll through reams of photos, or fling angry birds? We believe Mofibo is a reading platform that attracts a different and new kind of reader because it plays to the strengths of mobile portability, it is an excellent customer experience, and we have the books people actually want and can therefore inspire them.
2016 will see Mofibo roll out into a series of new countries starting with the Netherlands. We already have content from Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster and will expand our content offering even further to include a deeper level of English-language content and more content types such as graphic novels and comics to entice new demographics. We will continue to enhance our own technology to improve our product and keep it relevant. Moreover, we will further develop our recommendation engine and look at things like emotive recommendation, which involves analyzing the semantics and context of books in order to recommend a title.
As Chief Business Development Officer at Denmark’s Mofibo, Europe’s success story in the world of ebook and audiobook subscription models, Nathan’s role is to identify the markets in which Mofibo will roll out as well as establishing relationships with media, telco and hardware partners, and negotiating terms with publishers and authors. Mofibo currently operates in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and proudly represents all publishers in all markets.
Previously, Nathan was Penguin Random House’s Digital Product Development Director, with strategic responsibility for its blossoming digital portfolio and a strong focus on product innovation. He sought out and brokered partnerships to bring the best of current and future technologies to projects, and implemented product development across all digital channels and in multiple markets. This range included multiple app platforms and new eBook and web technologies, most notably the global Stephen Fry: YourFry initiative to explore storytelling globally with tech hubs, innovation labs and universities.
Prior to publishing, Nathan managed bands and was also Universal Music’s senior digital marketing manager executing the original partnerships with the likes of Spotify, PlayStation, Nokia, eBay and Sky.