Reese Witherspoon’s new, free app adds to growing crowd of virtual book clubs

March 4, 2021

“C’mon, get app-y!” the Hello Sunshine website invites us this week. The media company—founded by actress and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon—has introduced a free app for its book club, offering the latest digital meeting place away from the crowds on big social media platforms, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Reese’s Book Club has operated since 2017 on Instagram, where it drew 1.9 million followers. Executives believe it can strengthen its relationship with readers with an app of its own.

“We wanted to build our cozy corner of the internet,” said Cynthia Rupeka, VP at Reese’s Book Club; which is a division of Hello Sunshine, the consumer name for Be Sunshine LLC.

Book club apps are becoming more common, the Journal notes, as people seek to congregate around specific interests in new ways.

Readers have flocked to Amazon’s Goodreads service, which enables users to create groups for a variety of reading interests. The service has more than 120 million members.

Oprah Winfrey has perhaps the most well-known book club, the Journal notes. She revived the club in 2019 with an Apple partnership that includes an Apple TV+ show with author interviews, a dedicated section in Apple’s Books app .and a podcast. The book club also reaches readers via social media and a Goodreads group.

The need is clear: People have felt more isolated during the pandemic, with 34% of U.S. adults saying that social media, video calls, and texting did not help them feel more connected to friends and family, according to data from Forrester Research, a research firm.

Discord, a chat startup popular with gamers that also has channels dedicated to other interests and the audio-only social network Clubhouse each recently raised $100 million from investors.

But users have maintained an appetite for novelty and ways to be entertained, Anjali Lai, senior analyst at Forrester, tells the Journal: “It is a little bit of a perfect storm for this desire to find like-minded consumers in a sort of private space, right behind these digital closed doors, that feels a bit more intimate, and connect with people in that way,” Lai said.

It’s also a profitable niche. Hello Sunshine receives a portion of the revenue from book purchases that result when members click out to e-commerce sites from its app.The company has corporate partnerships as well, such as an in-vehicle app in select Buick models. Drivers can listen to an audiobook via the app as well as podcasts from Hello Sunshine.

Research contact: @WSJ

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