Scribd’s announcement last week that it has passed the one-million subscriber mark is just one indication that the online subscription service has cemented itself as a major player in the distribution of a range of digital content. To surpass the one-million level, Scribd’s subscriber count rose by 300,000 in 2018 over 2017, and the company added more than 300,000 e-books and audiobooks to its catalogue in the year, giving it well over a million titles. In addition, total hours of reading time of all Scribd material rose 50% over 2017, led by a 100% increase in audiobook engagement.

The growth in the popularity of audio was a key factor in Scribd’s overall growth, said company cofounder and CEO Trip Adler, who noted that in 2018, for the first time in Scribd’s history, hours listening to audiobooks overtook time spent reading e-books on the platform. Another sign of the importance of audio to the company: the 10 top “reads” on Scribd in 2018 were all audiobooks.

The growth in subscribers, the addition of more content, and the expansion of reading time all contributed to a 50% increase in revenue at the company last year, to approximately $75 million, and profitability also rose, Adler said. The success of 2018 derived in part from Scribd’s decision early in the year to return to its original subscription model, which offers readers access to an unlimited number of books and audiobooks for $8.99 per month. In 2016, Scribd adjusted its subscription model to limit the titles available to its subscribers, after it had higher-than-expected demand in some areas (such as romance books).

“The return to the unlimited offering was a big driver of growth,” Adler said, noting that it provided a much better user experience. As Scribd’s subscriber count and engagement grows, he continued, publishers have become more interested in adding more titles, which in turn brings in additional subscribers. “I think we’ve hit a sweet spot in terms of being able to scale the business,” he said.

The strong 2018 performance has made 2019 something of a “tipping point,” Adler noted. New initiatives for the year include developing original content. Although Adler wouldn’t discuss details, he said to expect announcements of original content in a number of formats this year. The company is also likely to expand the number of verticals it offers (its current roster features e-books, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, documents, and sheet music).

Scribd also plans to grow its international business. About half of its subscribers are overseas, even though currently Scribd offers a relatively limited range of foreign-language titles, mostly in Spanish. Among Adler’s goals in the international market are adding more local content and recommendations, permitting payment in local currency, and adapting the site for each country. “We are doing a lot of hiring,” he said.

MOST-Read New Releases on Scribd in 2018

Rank Title Imprint Format
1 Becoming Penguin Random House Audio Audio
2 Girl, Wash Your Face Thomas Nelson Audio Audio
3 Fear Simon & Schuster Audio Audio
4 A Higher Loyalty Macmillan Audio Audio
5 The Outsider Simon & Schuster Audio Audio