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Business News/ Companies / News/  Pocket FM to invest $40 mn to expand online reading library
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Pocket FM to invest $40 mn to expand online reading library

The company will leverage its expertise in marketing and monetizing IPs to unlock value for writers whose stories on Pocket Novel can be adapted to audio as well

Pocket Novel offers chapters of novels for purchase via micro-transactions, with prices ranging from ₹9 to ₹100. (Images: Pixabay)Premium
Pocket Novel offers chapters of novels for purchase via micro-transactions, with prices ranging from 9 to 100. (Images: Pixabay)

NEW DELHI:Audio series platform Pocket FM will invest $40 million in its online reading service Pocket Novel to enhance the latter's presence in the literary landscape and develop intellectual properties over the next year, said Rohan Nayak, co-founder and CEO, Pocket Novel.

Pocket Novel, which was launched on Tuesday after undergoing beta testing for a year, allows writers to upload novels and receive compensation in return. For the consumer, it offers chapters of novels for purchase via micro-transactions, with prices ranging from 9 to 100, quite like how Pocket FM operates with audio.

In the beta phase, the reading service built a community of 150,000 writers, Nayak said and a library of around 250,000 novels. Readers made more than 1 million transactions for purchasing entire novels or select chapters in the beta phase.

Pocket Novel aims to grow its writer community to 1 million and expand its novel library to 2 million by 2025, targeting $100 million in annualized revenue.

“The idea is to find great stories to entertain audiences and expand storytelling formats (to novels) so that talented writers can make a living without having to go to gatekeepers like publishers. Each writer can upload their work on the app and if it finds traction, it will gradually be shown to more users," he added.

The company will leverage its expertise in marketing and monetizing IPs to unlock value for writers whose stories on Pocket Novel can be adapted to audio as well.

Although the focus is currently on novels in Hindi language, the idea is to gradually expand to Tamil and Telugu, Nayak said in an interview. Currently, novels available on the platform span genres like suspense thrillers, romantic dramas and science fiction. The novels range from 50 to 100 chapters.

IP ownership is becoming a critical concern for content creating companies, particularly those looking to build a valuable asset base to attract institutional financing, said a producer working across audio and video streaming platforms, declining to be named.

Experts point out that IP ownership by media and entertainment companies lies at the heart of diversification attempts. The concept of copyright took time to evolve in India, primarily because it has been a market dominated by standalone film producers.

The entry of foreign media giants, such as Walt Disney and Sony Pictures, to India in the mid to late-2000s meant that contracts were drawn up better, different rights discussed, and the share of all stakeholders finalized. Indian companies themselves became better aware of monetization opportunities and revenue streams.

Other than Kindle, the e-reader line owned by Amazon, digital reading subscriptions are available across platforms like WIRED and BookBins, besides services by Google Play Books, Pratilipi, and Juggernaut.

The e-book market in India is projected to garner $297.4 million in revenues in 2029 from $236.4 million in 2024, according to data gathering and visualization platform Statista.

“There are a few players in the online literary space in India, but monetization remains the biggest challenge. Writers cannot just be provided reach; they have to be compensated as well. They can’t just pursue writing as a hobby," Nayak said. Besides monetization challenges, the publishing industry is grappling with escalating expenses related to production, distribution, and marketing.

Pocket Novel’s parent Pocket FM, which was launched in 2018, operates as an audio series platform with a total listener community of 130 million worldwide. It saw over 20 million transactions to purchase audio series or parts in 2023. Investors in the company include Lightspeed, Goodwater Capital, Tanglin Venture Partners, Naver, Times Internet, Tencent and others.

 

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata writes about the media and entertainment industry for Mint, focusing on everything from traditional film and TV to newer areas like video and audio streaming, including the business and regulatory aspects of both. She loves movies and spends a lot of her free time in theatres, which makes her job both fun and a bit of a challenge given that entertainment news often just talks about the glamorous side of things. Lata, on the other hand, tries to find and report on themes and trends in the entertainment world that most people don't notice, even though a lot of people in her country are really into movies. She’s a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.
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Published: 20 Feb 2024, 01:23 PM IST
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