Shelfari, Goodreads, Bookish, and showrooming at bricks-and-mortar stores. There are numerous ways to discover books, yet online book discovery continues to be one of the biggest challenges that publishers, authors, and booksellers face. Now the Facebook marketing platform Odyl, which Scholastic turned to for the Hunger Games and which is used by the Big Six, is in the midst of rolling out a new one, Riffle.
A social media tool powered by Odyl, Riffle takes its name from the word for thumbing through a book. And that’s exactly the sense of discovery that Odyl founder and CEO Neil Baptista would like to re-create online. He wants to go beyond the current Internet phase where anybody can write a review. “We’re going to focus on bringing the audience to the table and curating the information. There’s a ton of online expertise, and we want people to push their content through Riffle,” says Baptista, who plans to work with book bloggers, booksellers, authors, and others to create a “distilled single feed” for books.
To do so Baptista will make use of data and insights about readers that Odyl has already gleaned through its marketing work for authors and publishers. And he plans to add new Riffle members slowly. People can’t just sign up, they have to fill out an application. “Pinterest is still invitation only,” he points out. “That made them ensure that they had quality content before you sign in. The first impression is key to inspiring a user. Invitation only is a way to give us an idea of what people want so we can give them great content.”
Initially, Riffle is planning to invite avid readers, who Baptista believe are more likely to look to experts for book recommendations than casual readers. The platform also relies on checklists that convert well in Facebook, such as the 50 books to read before you die or the books you hope your soulmate has read. “Our whole perspective is that content will get people attracted to this,” says Baptista, who is following the Pinterest and Instagram models. “We want to invite people in and be part of its development.” One piece of that could include selling through online retailers.
Baptista got the idea for Riffle at a Facebook developers conference—Odyl is a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer—where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg talked about getting past the first phase of Facebook, which was building a social network and communicating. When he spoke about the next phase, media and sharing, he cited examples for music, Spotify; movies, Netflix; and newspapers, the Washington Post and the Guardian. But he didn’t have one for books. At the same time, Baptista was aware that publishers come to Odyl for audience. “No matter how great their marketing is, they still need audience,” he observes.