By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_AndersonNot since it opened its “Paid Stories” program several years ago has the Toronto-based Wattpad updated its remunerative offer to writers in any substantial way.
Announced this week, “Wattpad Originals” is a newly offered approach, an apparent recognition that some writers are looking for more in return from the platform than readers. The change may reflect the fact that serial writers who like the rhythm, the hustle, and the interactive tenor of online storytelling-and-response have more options, more companies, more platforms available to choose from, especially as graphic-narrative options have expanded from Asia into Western markets.
Tokens, called “coins” and a subscription called “Premium” are familiar brand-terms being offered to Wattpad readers, who make up the vast majority of the current 85 million people who “on average discover and share stories on Wattpad monthly,” according to company figures. (It has always been best thought of as a reading platform, the minority being its many writers, as company officials have stressed in the past.)
Those currently posted numbers state that 92 percent of the audience remains in Gen Z and millennial parts of the populations on which it draws. The main graphical idiom of the company’s online sites has persisted in its youthful appeal. Wattpad remains reliably international in its presence in Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin and North America. As in the past, it today carries content translated into at least 50 languages, according to the company.
Typically attracting far more female users than males, the platform cites an average session spent on Wattpad as lasting 60 minutes. The aggregate usage meter on the system reportedly is 23 billion minutes being spent on the platform monthly.
Founded in 2006, the company did not install its Paid Stories approach until 2019, although its Wattpad Premium subscription offer was announced two years earlier in 2017, when the company reported having a mere 60 million active monthly users. Paid Stories had been piloted by 50 writers on the platform, beginning in October 2018 and at that time was called Next.
The ‘Wattpad Originals’ Option
What’s being described now as the next step in writer revenue delivery, “Wattpad Originals” gives reader several options:
- They can pay to read ahead, using those “coin” tokens or a “Wattpad Premium” subscription.
- Wattpad Premium subscriptions are offered at US$7.49, which opens two Wattpad Originals per month.
- Another Wattpad Premium subscription goes for US$4.99 per month, but does not unlock Wattpad Originals
- Or they can wait for content to become free to read.
- A new chapter added on the front end of a serial means that a previous chapter becomes free, thus incentivizing writers as well as readers to keep moving.
- A maximum of 10 chapters, the most recently published, will be behind the “Originals” paywall. The program also expects to show readers how long they will need to wait for a free chapter to become available–which means that writers are making some sort of commitment to when they’ll be adding something new on the front end.
- When a Wattpad Originals story is finished, a sample of it will be offered free to let readers see some of the content and , with luck, buy the full narrative.
Regular subscribers to television’s streamers will recognize this as not unlike the tactic weighed by consumers of those systems: They can pay for a monthly subscription and see each episode of a show as it rolls out weekly, or they can wait and buy, say, one month’s subscription and binge-watch the entire season of that show after all of its weekly episodes have been released.
This is a model that Wattpad says it has gotten from Webtoon, the comics platform based in Seoul with which Wattpad became closely connected when Webtoon’s parent Naver bought Alan Lau’s Wattpad for a reported US$600 million in 2021. It’s unclear whether Wattpad’s local administration in Canada has opted to adopt the new “Originals” plan or has been directed to do that by the South Korean ownership at parent company Naver. Media messaging simply asserts that Webtoon has used this approach “to great success” and that the new plan “will strike a better balance for readers and authors, creating more opportunities to build fandoms and reading communities while also making money.”
Talking Up the Writers
Wattpad says that “Wattpad Originals” updates for English-language stories started appearing to readers on Tuesday (October 3).
Writers, for their part, may be noticing adamantly supportive declarations by Wattpad for their work and value–something that may reflect the fact that serial writers who like the rhythm and tenor of online storytelling and response have more options, more companies, more platforms available to choose from. Media communications draw attention to a “Story School” program of online videos on topics that the platform’s writers–many if not most are aspirational authors, usually young, and often making their earliest forays into writing. The site on which that “school” program stands, in fact, is the company’s “Creators” site.
In Toronto’s press materials, we read:
- “Writers are the cornerstone of our business: their success is our success.”
- “Supporting authors means helping writers grow in nearly every aspect of their writing careers.”
- “This unwavering commitment to authors has driven us to continually innovate for writers all over the world.”
And the rationale for the new “Originals” plan, per the company’s announcement, is writer-friendly and also representative of the fact that Wattpad has two consumers, writers and readers.
“Paid Stories created a difficult choice for authors,” the company writes, “between quickly growing a free story, or monetizing and accepting the potential of slower audience growth. With Wattpad Originals, we’re launching a new model that can work for every kind of reader and writer on Wattpad.”