Available on the web and as an app, Paperboy provides easy access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals on a single platform.
With the digital revolution and easy and inexpensive access to the internet, reading ‘on the go’ has almost become the norm. While most newspapers and periodicals are available online, reading them all on a single platform, at your convenience is what Paperboy is all about. Moreover, the app also lets you read them just as they are designed and printed – in the e-paper format, and hence, with all its glorious folds and tidy columns.
Jonna Venkata Karthik Raja (20), the founder of Paperboy got cracking on the idea just 15 months ago – in February 2016 - but there was no particular brainwave that fuelled this plunge. “I love travelling as much as I love reading,” he says, adding, “but every time I travelled to another corner of the world, I missed reading the newspaper. Even for the average reader, the only time they get to read the newspaper is while travelling or during meal schedules. My friends are sometimes clueless during discussions on current affairs because hectic school and college schedules gave them little time to read the newspaper in the morning. So when I asked them whether they would read the paper digitally, they all said yes. This gave me the impetus to start Paperboy,” he says.
In his final year at Bengaluru’s CMS-Jain University, for Karthik, finishing college and getting a job always seemed like the usual ‘stereotype’. “Does age really matter to entrepreneurship? Seeing my dad work on various business projects helped me build my entrepreneurial spirit early on,” he recounts.
“What if they don't take me seriously?” was my biggest fear,” says Karthik.
The doubts and fears did not deter him. He went on to build the app targeting those who prefer print media over digital media, featuring easily readable local and national e-papers of newspapers as well as magazines - accessible from any part of the world. Karthik explains that the interface on both the web page and the app is clean and simple, with no pop-up ads or interference. The app allows one to access news both online and offline.
The cloud-based platform is accessible from any device and lets one subscribe to daily print versions of newspapers online and free of cost, after which, they may also receive notifications for the same. Uniting newspapers into one application, Paperboy also aims to broaden the global readership base of newspapers.
For now, e-papers that charge subscription are not on Paperboy. “Since Paperboy is a free application, one must simply register on the platform, and they can subscribe to all the newspapers on it,” explains Karthik.
Something for everyone
Since regional newspapers are its primary focus, Paperboy mainly targets Tier II and Tier III markets in India, and more specifically, the audience that avidly consumes regional news as well as those who already read and subscribe to e-papers. 3133 cities fall under this category, constituting almost 31.16 percent of India’s internet users.
“We are also targeting the Indian diaspora, who would like to read their preferred local/regional papers,” he adds.
“This was a tedious task as we had to convince established media houses to feature on an app promoted by a (then) 19-year-old. While the idea resonated with many, it was very difficult to actually get publications on board. In fact, for the first six to seven months, there was absolutely no newspaper. Finally, the first newspaper featured on the app was Eesanje,” recounts Karthik.
Their biggest success so far has been the inclusion of Reader’s Digest on Paperboy. Currently, the app features over 300 newspapers and magazines, while the team behind this stellar growth has grown to 50 people.
The young team is aiming for at least one million active daily users in the first quarter of operation. They have not only hit the six lakh user mark but have also started generating revenues. “We work on an ad-revenue model. Our platform has non-intrusive strategic advertisement placements that do not disturb the reader in any way. While every ‘physical’ newspaper has ads, the same can be customised for the digital version too. This will not only increase revenues for both publishers and Paperboy but will give publishers an opportunity to go head-to-head with online news sources to secure advertisers,” Karthik explains.
They claim to receive one lakh unique visitors on the web daily, who spend eight minutes on an average there. Clocking approximately 11 thousand downloads each day, nearly 16.7 million pages are read collectively by this burgeoning user base.
Currently bootstrapped, Karthik is not looking for funding anytime soon. “We have attracted two investment propositions, but Paperboy has recently been launched, and we are yet to map any substantial profitability. I personally wish to focus on serving my customers at the moment,” he says.
While scores of content aggregators exist for online news and every news publication houses their own e-papers on their official websites, Karthik claims that there are no direct competitors for Paperboy, which directly brings all these e-papers on one destination. “There are portals that are primarily news aggregators that allow their subscribers to access news articles available online, or provide snapshots of an online news piece. Paperboy, on the other hand, is a newspaper and magazine aggregator that gives an online – real-time – print newspaper and magazine experience,” he says.
They also want to add as many prominent print newspapers and magazines as possible. In its second phase of development, Paperboy will expand its tie-ups to global newspapers from the United States, the UAE, the UK, and Singapore, before expanding to markets in other countries.
Kathik juggles between college and work. A typical evening is spent brainstorming with his father on prospects for business development. “I dedicate my Sundays to family or to my absolute favourite pastime - flying. I currently have a student pilot licence,” he reveals, adding, “My passion for work, reading, and talking to new people are what keep me going.”