In the landgrab among reading apps that aggregate content to make it more accessible on tablets and smartphones, one of the early movers, Pulse, is today announcing a deal with magazine publisher Bonnier that will give its offering a significant boost.
Bonnier is adding 20 titles from its special-interest magazine portfolio to the Pulse reading stream, including titles like Field and Stream, Parenting, Saveur, Scuba Diving, Skiing and Sound + Vision. Pulse, which already had some 300 content partners on its platform, says the Bonnier deal is its biggest yet.
The news comes weeks after rival platform Flipboard expanded in another sense, adding several features to make its newsreading app more Chinese-friendly.
The deal between Pulse and Bonnier comes out of an existing, successful relationship between the two around a single hit: back in July 2011 Pulse and Bonnier signed a deal to include one of Bonnier’s biggest titles, Popular Science, in its stream.
Within six months, Pulse says subscriptions for Popular Science went through the roof, from 60,000 to more than three million as of January 2012. The two aren’t giving out more current numbers but say that “millions” of stories from the magazine have been read to date, and it is one of the most popular magazines on Pulse at the moment.
Whether the more niche titles featured in this latest deal will prove to have as much of a bang for Bonnier’s buck remains to be seen. To date, Pulse has signed on more than 300 partners to its platform, with the content ranging from general interest news providers like the BBC and Businessweek to more specific subjects, such as golf (and, naturally, the best in tech news from TechCrunch).
Scale may not be the priority now, but it will be for the business long-term. Akshay Kothari, the founder and CEO of Pulse, once told me that the company does have plans to monetize content on the app — you can imagine in-stream, pre- and post-roll advertising targeted to a user’s reading preferences — but this will come only when usage grows more. The same goes here: “Bonnier and Pulse do plan to monetize this once we build a significant audience,” he said.
What’s notable about Bonnier’s Pulse push is that it’s giving users another way of accessing that magazine content on smartphones, a platform that the publisher does not seem to have emphasized as much in its app strategy.
At the moment, Bonnier lists 28 iPhone apps compared to 66 for the iPad. Readers who want articles, and no bells and whistles, can use services like Pulse to save some money, too: while apps for titles like Popular Science are free to download, the actual content costs money to read, whereas the Pulse version of the magazine is, for now, free.
“Our iPad apps provide a much more comprehensive brand experience and the ability to read full articles, photos and videos,” says Sean Holzman, the chief brand development officer at Bonnier and the person who brokered the Pulse deal. “Basically our brand experience from our experts.”
He also adds that the company is still in the process of adding more iPhone and Android apps, and mobile web upgrades, to complement the iPad work and Pulse: “We have iPhone apps and mobile sites for some of our titles, [with] much more to come.”
Kothari says that the Bonnier content is not exclusive to Pulse, although it is the first time the publisher has moved to make so many of its titles available on a news app. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that content found its way to Flipboard and other aggregators soon, too. “They are a great tool for discovery and finding new readers,” says Holzman.
On a wider scale, this is not the first move we’ve seen from Bonnier to extend its digital footprint: the publisher earlier in the year signed a deal with AOL (TechCrunch’s owner) to share content and ad sales across Bonnier’s Parenting.com sites and properties within AOL that touch the same subject: those include Huffington Post Parents, the AOL Family channel and AOL.com itself.
The full list of Bonnier titles in Pulse now: