BlueToad is a privately-held technology company headquartered in Orlando, Florida and has been on the radar of WNIP since the late Noughties. A pioneer in digital publishing, the company has evolved into a single platform for responsive digital editions and web content. WNIP caught up with Hutch Hicken, President and CTO of BlueToad, to find out more about their latest developments and future plans.
Can you give our readers some background on your company?
BlueToad was launched in 2007 and provides publishers of all types a platform for creating beautifully responsive digital editions and web content. We are a partner of some of the largest printers in the world and trusted to handle the content of thousands of creators across the globe. Our goal is to make it easy for our partners and customers to upload their content for a digital experience that works on all modern phones, tablets, and desktops.
Originally born out of a small publishing company that relied upon print distribution, BlueToad is led by owners who were determined to find an inexpensive way of producing and distributing publications to readers, many of whom lived abroad. Facing rising postage and print costs, and unable to afford the digital providers already in the market, the BlueToad digital publishing system was conceived and developed in 2006 to create digital versions of our own publications. We quickly realized the value of the technology we built and thus publicly launched the company in April of 2007. Since that time, we have grown to handle the content of thousands upon thousands of publishers and have evolved into one of the leading technology providers in the digital publishing industry.
What business problem is your company addressing?
BlueToad helps legitimate content experts reach their audiences with a curated experience amidst the undifferentiated din of today’s web.
Our tools allow publishers to easily disseminate authentic content using the latest technologies on their own terms. We help publishers shape their own online destinies rather than relying solely on fickle algorithmic feeds controlled by indifferent internet behemoths.
What is your core product addressing this problem?
BlueToad’s Lily platform is designed to engage readers with curated, enhanced article content in an easy-to-consume, responsive format. Publishers need only provide a suitable PDF of their content, and BlueToad can deploy content to the mobile web, native apps, and feeds within 3 business days. The LilyPad Pro content delivery platform expands the Lily interface to incorporate publisher newsfeeds, YouTube and Vimeo channels, and other responsive content into a single curated and branded reader experience.
Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?
A large custom publisher specializing in destination publications used Lily to deploy a series of responsive-only and hybrid replica/responsive digital editions focused on the mobile
On-demand pricing is £6/replica page for the Lily responsive platform and £69/month for the LilyPad Pro feature set. There are meaningful breaks from on-demand pricing when a publisher enters into a contract.
What are other people doing in the space and why?
Many of our competitors focus on PDF replica renditions in-app or browser. These simply do not present well in mobile. Of the few others who offer a responsive rendition, they require publishers to undertake ongoing, labor-intensive redesigns of their content or they offer redesign services at significant expense.
BlueToad’s Lily solution reflows existing content from existing PDFs at a low, predictable cost with no publisher intervention required. Additionally, LilyPad Pro uniquely allows publishers to incorporate external content resources like YouTube and newsfeeds into the content delivery platform automatically.
How do you view the future?
Transforming content into a responsive format enables us to reflow that content into many forms. This starts with creating mobile-optimized views through Lily, but it also allows us to drive that content to many other outlets with little or no publisher intervention.
These content outlets include:
• text-to-speech “instant podcasts”
• automated virtual reality experiences
• AI-driven content recommendations for readers
• RSS/Atom/aggregator (e.g., AMP) feeds
Going forward, BlueToad’s responsive content architecture enables us to quickly adopt publisher content to new technologies (voice assistants like Alexa, for example) as they come online. Leveraging our internal analytics engine and reader-declared data, we plan to enhance our existing
personalization engine to tailor the experience even better to the individual reader.
We also see interesting potential in progressive web application (PWA) technologies, allowing us to bring app-like experiences (e.g. push notifications and offline viewing) directly to the web without an
explicit install from an app store.