This article is part of an ongoing series profiling participants in the PubTech Connect conference, presented on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by PW and the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Publishing.
Meet the four workshop leaders of the PubTech Connect 2018 new platform breakout sessions. Thanks to technology, books aren’t just books anymore, or at least they don’t have to be. Innovative companies are bringing book content to new platforms and slicing it in new ways to create new kinds of experiences, ones that are interactive, anticipatory, and social, that go beyond just sitting with an open book in your lap (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Take Hooked for instance: the app describes itself as “an innovative mobile app that makes reading addictive for teens.” It’s chat fiction, short stories presented entirely as text messages. Founder and CEO Prerna Gupta worked as chief product officer at the music app developer Smule after hitting it big with Songify, an app developed at the startup she co-founded with Parag Chordia, her husband. In an article for Vogue, Gupta movingly narrates how the couple dove deep into the Silicon Valley life, which led to a self-reinvention and finally to the idea of “a social fiction app for a smartphone. Storytelling for the Snapchat generation.” With Hooked, they were more than onto something: millions and millions of teenagers read fiction through Hooked.
Charles Dickens’ great books were first serialized in magazines, as were Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Serial Box is taking this (very) old means of book distribution and updating it for the digital age, using the binge-watching model popularized by streaming TV services and applying it to fiction. Serial Box subscribers pay a small fee to receive weekly episodes—available as text and audiobook—of new stories, which run for as many as 16 weeks. Molly Barton co-founded Serial Box after working as global digital director at Penguin Random House; she’s equal parts book biz and tech.
Gimlet is taking podcasting to a whole new level, producing narrative podcasts on a host of topics and in many genres, from mystery and true crime to startup culture. Drawing on the talents of public radio veterans, publishing stalwarts, and new media insiders, Gimlet—which pays its bills by selling advertising, memberships, and sponsored content—is on the vanguard of the current podcasting trend. Matt Lieber co-founded Gimlet after years of producing radio shows and podcasts and working in management consulting.
Book scout Marcy Drogin started Maximum Films Management to bring her experience in management, production and consulting under one umbrella. In a Variety article about the company’s founding in 2008, Drogin described her intention to be “New York eyes and ears, covering books, plays, screenplays and other material” for major film and TV production companies. She negotiated the film rights to Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, among many others.
At PubTech Connect 2018, these four visionaries will host intimate breakout sessions to help participants re-imagine how they bring content to readers as new platforms proliferate.