Digital publishing is not just about disrupting business models (or saving trees, depending on how you look at it). At the Media App Summit in New York City, Wattpad product marketing manager Amy Martin explained how the new ecosystem makes room for undiscovered writers and experimental works and lets the reader in on the publishing process.
“We see the future like this:” she said. “It’s where readers are sharing stories the same way they would a song or a video.” On the Wattpad platform, which has grown to 11 million monthly active readers, authors can post and share their stories for free in a format that works on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. (The authors retain the rights to their works.)
Reading books might take a lot longer than simply playing a music video, but Martin pointed out that since 75 percent of users are reading the stories on their mobile phones, they tend to read books in chunks.
This has given rise to a “minimum viable publishing” model (borrowed from the Eric Ries school of technology startups) where stories are written in episodes and sometimes published in an unfinished format to see how readers respond.
Because the platform is highly social — Wattpad connects through Facebook — readers can add comments and “like” stories to give the authors feedback in real-time. This way, “authors can build relationships” with their readers, Martin explained.
The platform is similar to YouTube, where television networks and filmmakers share a space with independent artists and regular people uploading videos of their babies or cats. Already, “there are many levels of success” on Wattpad, Martin added, with some authors receiving millions of reads.
The company has raised $20 million in the last year and sees a future in digital native ad revenue models that are not reliant on traditional banner ads. But the focus is on “user growth for now,” Martin said.