Wattpad is a global community-driven online platform with 80 million online monthly users. The majority of the users are female and under the age of 30. It’s a new destination for teen writers to convene and be discovered. For a new writer, getting a book published or a script read by a publisher presents many obstacles, such as – lack of transparency which poses high barriers to entry and the leveraging power of the literary agents which act as the gate keepers of publishing, media and entertainment industry where they have the power to decide the merits of your work and the decisions are very much intuitive. Therefore, many good writers and great work go completely unnoticed.
Wattpad replaces this agent model by democratizing access between writers and readers. Wattpad seeks to combat the pre-existing network and any biases toward successful outcomes by connecting the writing pieces to the readers/audience directly. This creates an even playing field where writers can share their work. Everyone has the opportunity to portray one’s work and receive comments from the readers for iteration and revision. The collaboration nature pushes the quality of great work into the hands of the readers, which in turns drives community engagement and leads to authenticity and the creation of new voices.
How does Wattpad create value? And to Whom?
Wattpad creates value to multiple stakeholders – the writers, the readers, and the scouters (namely book publishers, producers, and movie streamers).
To the writer, the ability to be in a community that is highly engaged with high viewership helps writers understand their audiences, get feedback and perfect their work, and eventually get discovered.
The power of the discovery via Wattpad is demonstrated by the over 1,000 story deals that have been turned into various media forms, such as. books, television, and films. Most noticeable is the “kissing booth” written by Beth Reekless, a 17-year-old author which gained traction from the Wattpad reader community, and was read 19 million times. In 2011, the story won the “Watty award” for most popular teen fiction. With the visibility, Beth was able to secure a three-books deal with random House, US in 2013, and a few months later, Komixx Media acquired the IP, and in 2016 Netflix adapted the book on screen. The success of this model made a ripple in the industry with more Wattpad books being adapted into films – “Death is my BFF”, acquired by Sony Pictures and “Light as a feather” by Hulu with 9.2 million times, and 2.3 million times reader stats, respectively.
To the scouters, Wattpad has over 400 million stories on the platform and useful information on the quantity of readers on any particular story, which proved to be a valuable predictor of success for the scouters. This is far in contrast to the movie industry where the success of a film is unknown beforehand. In some way, Wattpad can guarantee demand by providing data to the producers on what is most popular and other information on its community of readers. This decreases the cost of production and lowers the failure risk.
To the readers, on the platform Wattpad becomes a source of joy, inspiration, and belonging for the community members at zero cost. The engagement between the readers and the writers create a sense of personal connection which doesn’t occur in the traditional publishing industry.
What motivates the user-engagement?
Overall there seems to exist a good balance of different kind of motivations –
Intrinsic: artistic expressing, gaining a sense of joy and discovery;
Pro-social: removing barrier between readers and writers, and creating a sense of community, belonging, and collaboration;
Extrinsic: recognition and financials rewards
All of the interplay between the three motivation make is possible for Wattpad to attract strong writer and readership, where the pro-social is one that keeps the community engaged.
How does Wattpad sustain it’s innovation?
At a 400-million dollar valuation and an estimated 20 million in revenues, most of Wattpad’s revenue source currently comes from advertisement. The market potential for Wattpad is expansive. The publishing business is valued at 100 billion and the media and entertainment business combined at 720 billion in the US, and 2.6 Trillion globally. The agent market for both is at a 15% rate. There exist revenue opportunities in both thinking about how to better operate in replacement of the agent market taking 15% agent fee or to look at an example as Netflix to start a subscription content curation with free advertisement model, which Wattpad is currently undergoing.
How is Wattpad disrupting the traditional agent model?
Wattpad shows promising signs of a digital innovator, moving into a space of untapped market of teens and young female young adults who are not attracted to the traditional agent models from the publishing and media industry. This industry, which is known as one of the most lucrative, intuitive, non-data driven industry, and extremely high entry barrier where without connection and capital, your chance of making in the industry is dire.
The disruption of Wattpad created a place for untapped consumers who may include the low-end market and where they have a voice in the industry both in the supply side (writers) and also in the demand side (the readers). This is a strong win/win example of how platform technology combined with an open innovation, crowd sourcing content strategy, and a strong community built online can slowly capture a market that was once viewed difficult to penetrate.