Serial Box, a subscription-based startup that offers serialized stories in both written and audio form, has announced a seed investment round of $1.65 million.
The round was led by Boat Rocker Media, whose recent investments include CAA Creative Labs, The Outline, MarcoPolo Learning and the acquisition of Fremantle Kids & Family. Other investors include Mattias Lundgren, CEO of Word Audio Publishing in Sweden as well as Richard Sarnoff, who was co-chairman of Bertelsmann a director of Audible.
Serial Box emulates TV networks by releasing original, weekly e-book and audio “serials” through apps, its website and third-party retailers. During a three-month season, each week’s episode is a 30-minute read or an hour-long listen. Customers pay $1.59 by the week or $18 for a whole season, which typically consists of 10 to 13 episodes.
Publishers have also taken note — last year, literary agency Janklow & Nesbit made a deal to represent the company’s shows after several major houses pursued originals such as Bookburners and Tremontaine.
While e-books and audio books in some ways are the ultimate on-demand resource, the goal of Serial Box is to leverage the appetite for gradually released story installments. Even when married to cutting-edge digital tools, that distribution strategy with roots dating back to the heyday of Charles Dickens has fueled hit appointment-consumption apps like HQ, YouTube channels like Smosh and podcasts like Serial. (Janklow & Nesbit immediately grasped the potential, having handled Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, which was first published in 24 installments in Rolling Stone in 1984.)
“Serialization has proven to be a powerful storytelling engine in television, podcasts and in comic books, but it has yet to be properly leveraged in modern-day publishing,” Michel Pratte, CRO of Boat Rocker Media. “We see a big opportunity for Serial Box to be a top tier publishing studio of original serial entertainment and look forward to collaborating with their team as they continue to build their platform for readers and listeners.”
Serial Box CEO and co-founder Molly Barton, the former global digital director at Penguin Random House, said the company is“successfully attracting and retaining a loyal premium audience.” The value of the average order, she said, has increased steadily in the past six months. “And we’re seeing the majority of readers enjoy the option to switch over to listening with just a click.”
As it has raised seed money, Serial Box has also formed collaborations with the Associated Press, Adaptive Studios, Hachette Book Group and others. The company was founded by Barton and Julian Yap, who previously served as senior counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice.