When we initially wrote about Riffle this summer, we listed it alongside a host of other sites geared to give readers better book recommendations. Well into fall, Riffle, which is the newest product from the tech company Odyl—hundreds of houses (from the big six to a host of indies) use the Odyl platform to promote and track social media promotions (like book giveaways)—is still in beta. But cofounder Neil Baptista told PW that Riffle is set to launch soon—he said the site will be “coming out of beta in the next few weeks”—and updated us on where he thinks the site fits in the current, some might say crowded, market of sites claiming to have the key to the problem all publishers keep talking about: discoverability.
Currently, the bulk of Riffle’s beta testers are book bloggers. With a layout that is similar to Goodreads—users can join through existing social networks like Facebook and then share details about books they have read, are reading, or would like to read—Riffle is distinguished, in part, by a heavy reliance on imagery. Unlike Goodreads, the Riffle interface sends users predominantly to book jackets, making the comparison to Pinterest—the social network built around photos (and particularly popular among those sharing images of clothing and food)—apropos. Also unlike Goodreads, where recommendations are driven entirely by those in your network, Riffle has an expertise component. That bloggers are the beta testers is no mistake, Baptista said, since the site is aiming to allow readers to find good books through friends as well as “experts.”
“I think a lot of people will use Goodreads and Riffle in the way people use Twitter and Facebook,” Baptista said. “Goodreads is much more focused on browsing and status updates and user-generated reviews. We made the fundamental decision to focus on recommendations.”
While users can indicate their relationship to any title, be it new or old, the bloggers on the site (who users can e-mail directly for recommendations) will largely be working within a pool of new titles, since this is what they’ll be reviewing. Tied to the Facebook platform, Riffle, will be focused on frontlist books and is intended, Baptista said, to “bring the discussion and recommendation of books more prominently to Facebook,” which he noted remains “the most trafficked place on the Internet, in terms of time spent there.”
Once Riffle goes live, it will remain invite-only. How the site will be monetized is also open, Baptista said, noting that it is “not completely clear right now.” Advertising is not Baptista’s first option, as he said he’s interested in “more subtle ways” to bring in money. “If we engage the reader, we know four or five different ways to monetize the content,” he added. “Publishers will be interested, as will authors, when the readers are there.”