DBW Interview with Philip Keezer, CEO, Playster

DBW Interviews in Innovation

Playster, which bills itself as “the all-inclusive, global media and entertainment platform,” came out of beta in December, entering the ever-changing field of ebook subscription services. What distinguishes Playster from similar efforts, though, is that “inclusivity” the company touts: users can bundle ebooks, audiobooks, movies, music and games all under one service.

With Playster having been available for just over a month, we sat down with the company’s CEO, Philip Keezer, to discuss how well the service is faring, the state of current subscription services, and what the future holds for Playster.

So Playster came out of beta a little over a month ago. What has the response been like?

It’s been incredible. We knew it would be a good time to launch, and we’ve really capitalized on Oyster shutting down and Scribd limiting its catalog by providing an offering that matches what their customers were used to while also giving a huge collection of audiobooks that’s truly unlimited. The fact that we’ve been able to provide titles like Alan Dean Foster’s new Star Wars audiobook on the day of their release has gone down extremely well with our members. They love that we’re not limiting their usage whatsoever, even with audiobooks, which is better than what they’re seeing elsewhere.

PlaysterI’m always curious about services like this: what steps did you take to gauge the market before launching Playster? Essentially, after you had the initial idea, how did you confirm that there was an indeed an audience for such varied content?

We wanted to cater to people like ourselves—people who really love entertainment and want a bit of everything. Books, movies, music, games—they’re all huge markets. Subscription services are expensive as it is, and when you start looking at more than one it can quickly become unmanageable. We knew we could offer people better value by bundling it all together, and when we began testing this model against single media type packages we quickly discovered large numbers choosing the all-in-one option. All-in-one subscription is also a lot more convenient, and it’s completely unrivalled as a discovery platform. The fact you can discover content from other media types based on your user profile makes it so much easier to find new things.

Some subscription services work on a credit system that, to some people, ends up not being as good of deal to the consumer as it seems, and others simply don’t have the range and depth of quality content. How do you work to combat that?

We’re always working to give our members a better deal by adding new content regularly and continuing to be generous with our offering—through keeping the service unlimited and even offering free hardware for longer-term subscribers.

What are the biggest obstacles facing subscription services today, for books specifically?

Most book subscriptions are unable to provide a sustainable model while also keeping publishers and authors happy. But we’ve got a foot forward with that.

How do you see them evolving, if at all? In your view, unless they adopt a model similar to Playster’s, do you see subscription services sticking around?

We’ve already seen some of the big players being forced to shut down because they were unable to reach a scale that allowed them to sustain their business, and we’ll see this happening with more book subscriptions. Some will have to be more selective with their offerings and target niche audiences, such as comic books.

What were some of the stumbling blocks Playster faced getting off the ground?

We came into the game later than many subscription services, so it was tougher to make an impact. Building the content has been a journey, but we feel we’ve built up a really exciting product in a short space of time.

Why do you think Playster will succeed where others have failed?

By providing all media types on a truly unlimited basis, we’re able to offer something unique while still operating a sustainable model that benefits anyone. For authors and publishers, we’re able to become an extra revenue stream, and the all-in-one model also helps them to expand their reach to audiences that they wouldn’t have been hitting before. We’re able to innovate in ways that others can’t, and we have great plans to further establish Playster as a full media hub.

Are there any plans you have for Playster going forward that you can discuss?

This year we’ll be investing more in ebooks and audiobooks, as well as putting a great deal into user experience, starting with an update to our members area. We’ll also be launching new hardware, and we have some really exciting partnerships that we have to keep top secret for now.

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