Over an ice coffee on an unseasonably warm January day, Longform co-founder Aaron Lammer took VentureBeat for a test drive through the startup’s new iPad app, which debuts today at noon. The company, which curates the best long form journalism from around the web, is taking a gamble on an expensive $4.99 app, hoping its passionate audience will pony up for a premium experience.
“Right now our users are spread across Twitter, our website, Instapaper, Readability, and Kindle. The idea behind the app is to help people avoid finding our link on Twitter, following it to the website and then saving the story to Readability. They can do all that just by opening the app,” said Lammer.
The company is still mostly the two co-founders, Lammer and Max Linsky. They built the app with the help of a developer in D.C. and have expanded their editorial staff to a core group of about a half dozen. “We’re profitable now, thanks to ads and sponsorship on the website,” said Lammer. “The last few months have seen around 66% growth in our traffic.”
So far the startup has maintained good relationships with the publishers it relies on for reading material. The iPad app automatically takes users to the publishers web page first, meaning they get all the benefits of a page view for their advertisers. A simple toggle strips those out using the Readability API. “Right now, all we’re focused on is creating the best reading experience possible. But it’s important to us that the app is a great opportunity for publishers, too, and we’re totally up to work with them to make sure their own advertising is effective within Longform,” said Linksy by email.
For now the company isn’t interested in trying to accelerate its organic growth. “We talked to a bunch of venture capitalists and they had some ideas for how we could proceed that they might fund. But what we’re doing right now, that’s kind of exactly the thing we want to do,” said Lammer.