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Why Stripe Created a Book Publishing House

How a FinTech is increasing the internet GDP by writing books.

Hey — It’s Nico.

This is another episode of Behind Tactics 🧠, where I delve into the diverse strategies startups utilize to dominate their markets.

This week’s edition is brought to you by Dofollow.com, the SaaS link-building specialists.

Today, I want to talk about Stripe, the fairy godmother of online payments.

However, I won’t be delving into finance, payments, or investments. Instead, I will talk about books

The reason for this is that, in 2018, Stripe launched Stripe Press, their very own publishing house. Since then, they've published over 15 books and are gearing up to broaden their catalog even further.

Why on earth would a fintech company venture into the world of books?

That’s the question I had last, and that led me to investigate what Stripe Press is, why Stripe is investing in this, and what other companies are doing similar stuff.

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The Strategy

Stripe Books

So, Stripe is publishing books. 

They are publishing new original books, such as last year’s “Scaling People,” and they are also reviving older ones, like Martin Gurri’s “Revolt of the Public.” 

According to their website, their main editorial approach is to publish “Ideas for Progress” focusing on highlighting scientific, technological, and economic progress to inspire and educate builders and entrepreneurs.

Every book focuses on offering unique knowledge to their growing community of entrepreneurs. Most of the books they publish are curated to offer actionable advice, strategic frameworks, or innovative perspectives. Scaling People, for example, has many pages of templates, worksheets, and exercises.

Stripe is also paying very careful attention to the design of each book. All the book covers are sleek, attractive, and meticulously crafted to capture the essence of the content within. From the choice of colors to the placement of graphics, every detail is thoughtfully considered to create a visually captivating experience for the reader.

Just look at some of these covers and tell me you wouldn’t want to put them in your library.

Moreover, Stripe Press is doing other things besides publishing books:

Print Innovation

In the US, five big publishing houses are responsible for 80% of the books published. This has been the state of the publishing industry for a long time, but with the release of the Amazon Kindle in 2007, things have started to change.

With the rise of eBooks, publishing books has become easier than ever before. This has led to the emergence of new and smaller publishers, gradually chipping away at the market dominance of the big five.

However, many of these newcomers struggle and eventually close down.

Yet, Stripe stands out. They have the resources to sustain their printing operations and are committed to releasing new books. This could benefit the publishing industry as a whole, potentially revitalizing innovation in book publishing.

Should I?

Why This Works

In my opinion, there are two main reasons:

1) It Increases the GDP of the Internet

When asked about whether it was prudent for Stripe to spread themselves into areas outside their core business, Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO of Stripe, answered:

“We see our core business as building tools and infrastructure that help grow the online economy. (Increase the GDP of the Internet). When we think about that problem, we see that one of the main limits on Stripe's growth is the number of successful startups in the world. If we can cheaply help increase that number, it makes a lot of business sense for us to do so.”

Stripe applies a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents for each successful card transaction. The more startups that are using Stripe, the more money from fees they get. 

Their growth is directly linked to the number of startups in the market. They have economic incentives to help entrepreneurs create new businesses and do well.

2) It Reaches the Right People

So, you might be thinking: 

“I get the part of educating entrepreneurs, but why books? It is 2024, why not just do podcasts?"

Well, to this, I would say that Stripe has already dabbled into other forms of content like their quarterly magazine about software engineering or their Atlas Guides for running internet companies.

Nevertheless, I think that getting into book publishing is a strategic move. It enables Stripe to connect with people genuinely intrigued by the subjects they want to explore.

In a world flooded with content, where a quick search yields hundreds of articles offering brief explanations on any given topic, books offer a unique proposition. 

They dive deep into topics, giving readers a chance to really dig in and learn. Plus, books have a timeless appeal. So even in our fast-paced digital world, they still hold value. By publishing books, Stripe can tap into this and reach a wider audience who craves in-depth knowledge and insight.

How to Apply It

  • Build or Acquire an Online Media: Starting online is easier. You can create your own online publication like Stripe did with Stripe Atlas or a16z did with Future, or you could also acquire a publication like Stripe did with Indie Hackers.

  • Distribute the Content: With AI, the amount of content has rapidly increased. That’s why it’s important to promote the content. You can distribute the content among current customers, partners, and investors. Stripe also promotes their content using their founder’s profile on social networks. 

  • Go Physical: Once you have a well-established presence online, you can choose to launch a magazine or book. It is a good idea to partner with a publishing house that has experience printing books. Pellegrini Press, for example, creates magazines and pamphlets for businesses that wish to enhance their online presence by having physical copies.

Yes, But

  • It takes time to see the results. Publishing a book won’t make a new founder overnight.

  • It’s hard to evaluate results. What metric can Stripe use to evaluate the success of their Press division?

  • It consumes resources. Patrick Collison has said that only a small number of Stripe employees are working on Stripe Press, but it is still something that is taking resources that could be utilized in other more traditional forms of marketing.

Keep Learning

Others Playing It

  • In recent years many tech companies have been investing resources in producing and circulating their own content. Some examples include Apple Studios and Amazon Studios.

  • A16z launched Future in 2021, aiming to directly influence the tech narrative, particularly with a techno-optimistic perspective. However, Future shut down in 2022.

  • Airbnb briefly entered publishing with Pineapple, a 128-page guidebook featuring stories from hosts. After an uncertain debut, Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Mildenhall cut Pineapple's budget, leading to its discontinuation without further issues.

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