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B.C. ‘Netflix for news’ grows with global media deals

Richmond-based PressReader adds The Economist, USA Today to collection of 7,500 titles
Ruairí Doyle is CEO of PressReader, which has a successful B2B division and is growing its ‘Netflix for news’ B2C business

PressReader, a B.C.-based company that owns an all-you-can-read platform for newspapers and magazines, announced an expanded partnership this month with Gannett – the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. and owner of USA Today.

Earlier this year, PressReader also formed partnerships with The Economist and Axel Springer – owner of Business Insider and Politico, and one of the largest mass-media publishers in the European Union – adding more top-tier publications to its already-sizable digital offering of thousands of titles.

“Gannett is thrilled to grow our partnership with PressReader, leveraging their technology and network to amplify the reach and influence of our publications,” said Caroline Harris, vice-president of partnerships at Gannett.

PressReader was launched in Richmond in 1999 to provide services for printing physical copies of newspapers for travellers who wished to read their home newspaper while staying in a hotel abroad.

Today, the company has grown into a leading subscription-based digital platform provider that offers more than 7,500 newspapers and magazines – including brands such as The Guardian, Bloomberg and BIV – to libraries, hotels, cruise ships, airlines, health-care providers, corporate libraries and other businesses in more than 170 countries.

“I like to refer to the business as one of the hidden gems of the Vancouver tech scene especially because of all the businesses that we work with around the world, and we’ve got a pretty interesting model that we’re proud of,” Ruairí Doyle, CEO of PressReader, told BIV.

“We are seen as a wholesale distributor [of content] and built this unique sales network around the world and relationship with these B2B partners that are trying to inform, educate, and entertain their guests with quality content, and we compensate publishers whenever somebody reads their publication in that environment.”

PressReader has a team of 300 people in Manila in the Philippines who receive content every second from publications all over the world and oversee an automatic process that publishes content on PressReader’s platform.

“Publishers are happy because of the extra reach and revenue we provide, B2B customers are happy for bringing this content in a great user experience to their customers and we are growing as a company and profitable, so the model is working,” said Doyle.

In addition to building and expanding its B2B content platform, PressReader helps media companies build their own digital platforms as they look to monetize their content and source additional revenue in the digital age.

“We have a white-label technology as part of our business. We build iOS applications and Android applications at scale for over 500 publishers around the world,” said Doyle.

“There’s so much consolidation and it’s been hard for some of the smaller media organizations to compete digitally with the resources of people and technology. One of the things that we’re trying to do is to enable them to create their own application and website and monetize that, to help them.”

The company is also growing its B2C platform – where readers can pay $39.99 for a monthly subscription to access all the content on PressReader’s platform. PressReader then pays publications based on a “sophisticated model,” according to Doyle.

“On the consumer side, we’re quite often referred to as the Netflix or Spotify of newspapers and magazines. It’s a smaller part of our business, but it’s growing,” he said.

Despite the many challenges facing the media industry, Doyle said his company’s success shows that there is demand for quality content and people are willing to pay for it.

“When the internet first exploded, there was a race to ‘everything’s free.’ But because of the birth and growth of subscription services such as Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime, it’s consolidating and normalizing now to be this subscription[-based] model,” he said.

“If you have compelling content, people will pay for it. It’s becoming more commonplace now for us as consumers to pay for content.”

Editor's note: Updated Aug. 23, 2023, to clarify PressReader does not have a business relationship with The New York Times as it was described by Doyle in his quote from paragraph 11. Rather than building applications for The New York Times, PressReader develops what it calls ePapers for the publication.


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