Jorgen Gullbrandson has a long history of working with dynamic companies on the cutting-edge of technology. Gullbrandson first joined his current company, Readly, in 2017. Within less than a year, the hungry entrepreneur became the company’s CEO.
Under Gullbrandson’s leadership, Readly continues the growth journey towards becoming the global platform for digital magazines. The brand helps magazines and publishers that saw their readership in decline reach new readers and grow like never before. Readly’s innovative approach has helped magazines and publishers adapt with the times.
Gullbrandson recently sat down to speak about his career, the Readly brand, and being a CEO in an exciting new company.
Jorgen, you became Readly’s CEO in March 2018, just a few months after joining the company. How did you end up at Readly?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: This is actually a pretty funny story. I was contacted by a recruiter from a company called WES based in Sweden. WES stands for Women Executive Search. They asked if I knew about them, which I did as there’s been a lot of media publicity about them.
They also asked if I had been in contact with them before and my answer was no, as I didn’t think I was quite their target group! However, they convinced me that they always hire the right candidate for the role and apparently 25% of their successful recruits are men. This was my first contact with Readly and I have to admit that I wasn’t a Readly-user before this, but during this process I quickly became one.
What made me want to join Readly is the vast potential I see in our product and the service it provides. It’s a fantastic company that’s come a long way since launch from a small city in the south of Sweden. The market potential is huge, and we’ve only grasped a small piece of it so far.
For those who aren’t familiar with Readly, how would you explain the company and what it offers customers?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: The easiest way to describe Readly is to say that we’re Spotify for magazines.
For a monthly flat-fee we give our users unlimited access to thousands of national and international magazines, all in one app. It doesn’t matter if you have an Apple or Android device, or if you are a mobile user, like me, or even if you prefer to read on your tablet. Once installed, you can choose to download magazines and read them offline, you can also share Readly with your family since one account can be used on up to five devices.
Readly’s app has been downloaded by millions of users. How do magazines stay relevant today, with the Internet being the main source of information for most people?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: In times of fake news, hacking, and reports of tampering with elections, we see that the demand for quality content from trusted sources actually increases. So, to answer your question, magazines and publishers stay relevant because they provide you and me with news and information from a trusted source.
How has the magazine industry changed over the last 20 years and how does Readly improve the loss in readership numbers magazines once had?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: The industry landscape has definitely changed in the last 20 years and the audiences that magazine brands reach has never been bigger. Digital magazines were almost crushed in the early years by the industry’s unrealistic expectations. They were heralded as the digital answer to print’s decline, but they could simply never match that hype. In disappointment, a number of publishers de-prioritised them or dropped them completely. We saw a gap in the market and are successfully bringing digital magazines back into the publishing mainstream as a powerful, predictable, and monetizable platform.
Our approach is all about driving growth and our own experience shows that publishers are using Readly for three key reasons:
Strategic audience development. We reach a new audience and grow the brand footprint. Our own analysis and that of publishers both show that there is minimal overlap between a brand’s existing print readership and the digital reach we provide. Digital readers are new and they are reading in new ways – what we call “dynamic reading.” This means snacking much more than print readers, accessing their digital editions more frequently and they are much more open to experiment and try new titles.
Tactical subscription delivery. We can deliver significant volumes of auditable readers at zero risk and with zero marketing costs. If publishers load the full marketing acquisition costs required to replicate what we do, then the Readly subscription stream is much more financially attractive.
Practical audience insight. We can deliver granular data on how readers engage with both editorial and advertising content. This is based on real usage not just a small sample or in unnatural research conditions. Also, due to our large inventory of magazines, we can set the usage of a single brand in a much broader, competitive context. This allows valuable, practical and actionable data to make the publishers’ operation more effective.
Are magazines making a comeback?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: Yes, magazines are here to stay. However, the big changes are the platforms and formats that publishers use to deliver their content. This is now much more digital than ever before and incorporates video and audio as well as more traditional text and photos. Print is still a key part of the mix, but so are social platforms and live events. The industry now focuses on readers’ “passion points”. As long as people feel passionately about a subject there will always be magazines.
Do you believe there will come a time when reading physical books and magazines won’t exist?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: Our role is to serve the fast-growing digital magazine market. We have a unique business that has a dual purpose, we serve the industry as well as the consumer – not many businesses do that!
As a media-tech business, we recognize that consumer expectations are changing. People will always want to read, but they want a personal experience and this can be in the form of content snacking – reading short form articles or long form, curated content within a niche magazine and that’s where Readly hits the spot. Our job is to provide consumers with a service that is easy to use, low friction, and that is cost effective and this is why we have made such an impact on the market.
How does Readly select the magazines as a part of the subscription services? Are there certain criteria magazines must meet?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: We pride ourselves on the breadth of content that is currently available on the platform. As a general rule, we work with content from as many subject areas as possible, and will work with any publisher who can produce high-quality, interesting and stimulating content that will thrill, entertain and engage our subscribers.
To join Readly, the magazine must be owned by a registered company in good standing, and must also be sold to the consumer independently of the Readly service. We do not currently accept free magazines.
Jorgen, you began your career in 1998 at Beiersdorf. How have as a businessman changed over the years?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: I certainly hope I have changed from the rather inexperienced 26-year-old that entered the business development department of the old Hanseatic company and got a cultural shock! The average age was 55-plus and the directors smoked their cigars behind closed doors. However, since then, the corporate climate has changed and the way we do business has changed too, mostly due to “new” technology and social media platforms. I believe I would be better suited to handle any situation coming my way today than 20 years ago.
What is the key to being a great leader and CEO for a young business?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: I have two key beliefs when leading any team really, and they are transparency and consistency. By being transparent there is no hidden agenda. Everywhere possible all decisions and information should be shared with your immediate reports and where possible with the wider business. I prefer to operate in this manner as it gives the team clarity on what actions have been performed and why, and it also creates a sense of accountability, which is very important when communicating in a start-up environment.
All businesses have their fair set of challenges and this is where I believe that being consistent is a good trait to have. Running a company like Readly is all about being resilient and we are a company on a mission ‘to change the way people read’. So not only do we need to be consistent with our customers with great content, delivery and customer service but we need to be aligned with the same focus and infrastructure internally. Bottom line, it creates trust and staff understand that ‘what they see is what they get.’
When it comes to success there are many key factors that we can measure ourselves on. The biggest one for me is to have a motivated and passionate team and happy, paying customers.
What is Readly working on for the future?
JORGEN GULLBRANDSON: We will continue our global expansion, our latest launch was in Switzerland and the next country will be announced soon. We will also work hard on making our service even better on smartphones and the user experience on all platforms should be outstanding, which is something we continue to improve.
For more information on Jorgen Gullbrandson and Readly, please visit https://us.readly.com