Having brought on board 7,800 magazines and 1.6 million subscribers, Magzter is now looking at the advertising revenue stream seriously. Vijay Radhakrishnan, Co-founder and President of Magzter, spoke with Business Today on the company's plans.
BT: What were the initial hiccups in getting publishers onto Magzter and how did you tide over those?
Radhakrishnan: Back in 2010, publishing on a tablet or smartphone was the buzzword and many of the big publishers wanted to explore it themselves. They thought it made sense for their own tech teams to create apps and publish on app stores and make money for themselves. But they did not understand the nuances of marketing, reaching new customers or adapting to changing technology. Merely building an app does not mean everybody will download it and buy magazine subscription. So, we presented ourselves as the self-service publishing platform with the know-how of marketing. While some showed resistance initially, today we have roped in the big players from around the globe. Indian publishers were easier to convince than those in developed markets like the US.
Publishers log in to the platform and upload their magazine through our patent-pending Orey Click Publishing Technology that converts the magazine text into the digital format in just 60 minutes. We also created a cloud-based platform to publish magazines within the Apple app store. We have created 3000 odd individual magazine apps for publishers free of cost. So, basically we have become their digital partners.
BT: The revenue you earn currently is subscription based. Why haven't you explored the advertising revenue route?
Radhakrishnan: To enable revenue from advertising, you need to have considerable number of users coming to the platform. Magzter now has 28 million downloads, a lot of traffic coming in every day, and over 7,800 magazines. We have premium consumers - ones who own tablets and smartphones - and premium magazines; we will open up this inventory to advertisers. So far, ads in the magazines are uploaded in the digital format. Publishers do not sell digital inventory separately. Now we are talking about full-page, non-intrusive, interactive ads on digital platforms. This is the future. We will go about this through partnerships across regions, instead of setting up a big sales force. For instance, Singapore Press Holdings will manage the ad-sales in Southeast Asian countries. We see bigger growth from advertising. In the next three years, we hope to generate $100 million in revenues.
BT: From offering individual magazine subscriptions to an all-you-can-read model to 'Articles' - how has the transition impacted readership on Magzter?
Radhakrishnan: Converting magazines into digital formats is not an established business. It's a growing business. Magzter doesn't have too many peers because the technology keeps changing, and keeping pace with it and surviving is very difficult.
We realised in the first two years that many users were subscribing to three or more magazines. Magzter Gold, the all-you-can-read model, addressed that. Readers can read as many magazines as they wish for a subscription of Rs 399 per month. Today, 60 per cent of our revenue comes from Gold. 'Articles' is targeted at millennials who are not in the habit of reading magazines. A lot of good stories remain hidden or lost because people are not buying magazines. We have a small editorial team that handpicks short, interesting articles that are repurposed for phones. The experience is unlike that of reading a magazine.
BT: What has been India's contribution to your growth story?
Radhakrishnan: We currently have around 1,800 Indian magazines on board. We feel we have covered enough publishers and magazines in India - almost 99.99 per cent of the magazine market here. About 300 of these are substantial titles, rest of them are add-ons. India contributes around 30 per cent to our subscription revenues currently. Moving forward, the growth will come from advertising revenues, globally.