From Fanfiction to Film: How Wattpad is Ushering in A New Age of Writing

Wattpad is an online community of authors and readers that hosts stories from typically unpublished authors. The site is unique in combining social media and a reading platform, which allows readers to interact with the books and the author. Wattpad was founded in 2006 by Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen as an e-reading platform where “readers could download an app to read and chat about fiction shared by professional and aspiring writers from around the world.” According to Lau, being mobile was the top priority. This mobility allowed for interaction on the site to skyrocket. Wattpad appeals to up-and-coming writers who wanted to distribute their work without going through a publishing process. 

Writers typically release the book a chapter at a time and readers can make in-line comments on stories, allowing the writer to adjust the book to the reader’s preferences. Wattpad readers are primarily young people who were drawn to the appeal of free books written by their peers instead of older, more established authors. Many of these young authors became success stories through the constructive criticism and praise they received from their fans.

Anna Todd and Happily Ever After

Wattpad has been a powerhouse for undiscovered authors in the past few years. Anna Todd’s After began as a Harry Styles fanfiction in 2013. Written under the name @imaginator1DAfter became an almost overnight success, with the fanbase reaching the hundreds of thousands. Todd wrote the majority of After on her phone, with no outlining or proofreading before she uploaded the chapter to Wattpad. While some may dislike the lack of outline, Todd and her fans equally enjoyed the “social writing” model. Todd would listen to her fans’ feedback and adjust the story to their preferences in real time. Not only did Todd’s fanbase grow, but the relationship between the fan and the author grew as well. Readers felt like they had a say in the story, which increased their loyalty to the author, as well as their willingness to offer financial support. 

With the help of Wattpad, Anna Todd received a book deal with Simon and Schuster in 2014, just one year after she published her first chapter on Wattpad. After was also granted a movie in 2019, with three sequels to follow. Todd’s story is a testament to the power that her fans and Wattpad hold. The first movie currently holds an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, though fans give it a significantly better rating of 66%.

Wattpad to Movie Pipeline

Though Todd’s story is one of the most notable, it is far from the only success story that has come from Wattpad. At seventeen, Beth Reekles became the youngest Wattpad writer to score a book deal for her story, The Kissing Booth. Reekle later went on to earn a movie deal with Netflix, though that movie also did poorly on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite the abysmal critic reviews, The Kissing Booth garnered immense fan support. According to Sara Perez, this disconnect is due to the “built in audience” of Wattpad users. 

Readers don’t just read and watch these stories, they create them. Wattpad utilizes the fan base when adapting stories for film. In an article for Quartz, Adam Epstein discusses Wattpad’s story-to-film process. The fans are integral to the adaptation process, with some “superfans” gaining access to the script to provide feedback before the film hits the box office. This process seems to work well. Epstein writes,

Most books come with a built-in audience, but this one comes with a built-in audience that’s also invested in the development process itself. It not only makes them more inclined to watch the show when it comes out, but leads them to become evangelists for the project on social media, which helps build buzz. 

Adam Epstein, Quartz

Wattpad is unique in that its user base not only reads and shapes the stories on its platform, but also the way the stories transition off the platform. 

Story DNA

According to Aron Levitz, the fans’ engagement is part of the “microtrend,” which allows Wattpad to know what will sell based on the size of the fanbase and reader engagement. Macrotrends are made possible by Story DNA. Story DNA is Wattpad’s deep-learning AI technology, which, according to Ashleigh Gardener, “deconstructs stories into their elemental features, such as sentence structure, word use, and grammar,” This gives Wattpad further insight into what makes a story popular outside of comments, likes, and shares. As a result, up-and-coming stories are given a greater chance at being discovered and transitioning off of Wattpad. The development of this technology is leading to a future of reading that is not just consumed by the reader but also formed by them.

Wattpad is unique in the fact that it is constantly reinventing itself to the benefit of its writers and readers. Wattpad has adapted from merely presenting stories to publishing them and promoting them outside of the digital platform. Wattpad not only publishes for fans but with the fans. The future of reading is driven by the reader, not the author or publisher. 

Fahrenheit 404: Censorship?

While burning books have been a practice going as far back as 213 BC, it is not something that can be done with digitally published works. In that regard, platforms simply remove and ban content that violates community guidelines and ban individuals from posting. Nevertheless, in means of less drastic measures, many states and counties have leaned into banning books from the public education systems that cross their conservative views. Book banning, in this case, has risen in practice over the years. As of this year, there was even a book burning in Tennessee back in February where a pastor burned Harry Potter and Twilight books.

Banned and Censored

To combat this censorship, many digital media platforms like OverDrive and Scribd have taken measures to ensure these banned books are still available. For example, doing events like banned book week. However, as of this year, Hoopla and OverDrive have removed books centering around what can be construed as hateful content and misinformation. Hoopla CEO Jeff Jankowski states, “Due to the hateful nature of these specific titles, I have no regrets about having our team remove them from hoopla.” Then he says, “I must acknowledge that this situation highlights a complex issue that Libraries have always faced in curating their collections — avoiding a culture of censorship.”

OverDrive CEO Steve Potash has not made any comments.

The removal came about through librarian suggestions and assistance from the Library Freedom Project. The demand to remove books on behalf of librarians who found them offensive is a paradoxical and inconsistent practice in digital platforms designed to be unbiased in the variety of curated viewpoints held. This is why Scribd continuously has a wide range of voices as a digital library. Ryan Holiday, who partnered with Trip Adler, CEO of Scribd, to make banned books more available, even says:

“America has a lot of problems but people reading books is not one of them. I’m appalled by this campaign to ban or remove books from school libraries and as a bookseller, it’s my obligation to do something about it.”

It is also why the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) fights to defend the “freedom to speak, the freedom to publish, and the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”

Radical Text

However, as of recent hate crimes like that of the shooting in Buffalo, New York, the shooter allegedly published a manifesto citing the “Great Replacement Theory” that was recently removed from online platforms. While it wasn’t published on any digital publishing platforms or libraries, a new law is emerging out of Texas that could later be used to affect digital American publishing platforms. The law is currently known as H.B. No. 20, it prevents censorship of Texans on prominent social media platforms in spite of the potential to incite violence through radical views.

The law would fall in line with the America Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, where the first three rights are:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

In the future, this could protect books like God is Bigger than Covid by Frances Deanes and A New Nobility of Blood and Soil by Richard Walther Darré. Books that were removed from Hoopla and OverDrive, world distributors of digital content for libraries and schools, due to the nature of their content.

Error Code 404

According to Rebecca Knuth, an author on book burnings and the destruction of libraries, books are targeted because they “are the embodiment of ideas and if you hold extreme beliefs, you cannot tolerate anything that contradicts those beliefs or is in competition with them.” While the books that are being censored aren’t being burned or banned from these platforms because of opposing ideas, they are being censored for promoting radical thought and presumably extremist actions like that of the shooter in Buffalo, N. Y. resulting in missing or deleted webpages—error code 404.

This could signify a new road for rules and regulations in screening works for digital library spaces and platforms in America and for what should be censored on public platforms, affecting all authors alike. Should public digital media platforms adhere to unbiased curated content like Scribd, and soon most major social media platforms, or should certain content be screened for and removed as OverDrive and Hoopla have done?

Success in Serialization

Digital publishing has re-envisioned many of today’s traditional publishing methods, like the serial novel. While serial fiction is a piece of literature released through installments like it is now. Historically, each installment contained its own story loosely connected to an overarching narrative and popularized by The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Outside of Dicken’s writing style and themes, its popularity came from its accessibility. Besides being inexpensive like the traditional publishing texts, the modern serialized story is composed of episodes, or mini-chapters, that actively support a more significant narrative than individual shorts. Therefore, making it vastly different from its predecessor.

As digital publishing grows, many new outlets for serialized fiction develop, allowing more authors to thrive. The popularity of the modern serialized novel could arguably be traced back to websites like Wattpad, a highly interactive platform for digital publishing. Websites like these restructured how a community can create readership and reader retention, especially with the growth of the author’s note, and allow authors like Pepper Pace on Kindle Vella to become successful.

Kindle Vella

Kindle is not a new market in the field of digital publishing or self-publishing. However, Kindle Vella relatively is. While it did a soft launch in 2021, its official launch in 2022 was successful, albeit through marketing and a free set of tokens for new readers. Its success was thanks to the soft launch—ultimately benefiting many authors.

Reader Engagement

Kindle Vella is user-friendly and allows the reader to be as interactive as the author and platform allow. At the end of each episode, readers can like the episode, follow the story, or continue reading. Polls can even be done if the author wills it. Thus, building a community and allowing personability to negate pitfalls that can be faced in choosing to publish serialized novels, like upset readers from infrequent or inconsistent updates, grammatical errors, or what appears to be filler content that doesn’t move the story forward. Therefore, implying that reader engagement is the sole reason for success on Kindle Vella, as the top five promoted stories are stories that are “favorited” by the audience.

The Serialized Cost

As Kindle Vella is a self-publishing platform for serialized novels, authors have complete control over their success. No contracts hold the author to a particular word count, specific release dates, or approved plot arches. As a result, an author, in theory, can actively work on uncompleted stories like they could on platforms such as Wattpad or Inkitt. Except with compensation and, in turn, more options for revenue later as many outlets have strict guidelines for works that were previously available for free.

However, Kindle Vella charges approximately “one token per 100 words,” making word count crucial for pantsers—writers who don’t plot, plan, their novels—on the platform. Other platforms are successful due to regular updates and consistent costs per episode. Not ensuring these terms for readers can be highly detrimental for authors, even when delving into genres garnered towards adult audiences, making Pace’s success on Kindle Vella notable.

Pepper Pace and Audrey Carlan

Ever since the hard launch of Kindle Vella, the first and fifth place positions for the monthly top five favorited novels have stayed the same. Pace’s The Galatian Exchange has remained in fifth place for four consecutive months since January 2022. Her dedicated installment schedule and her personability through her reader engagement led her to this. The Marriage Auction by Audrey Carlan has remained in first thanks to Carlan’s pacing or, on Kindle Vella’s platform, low-cost installments.

While serialized stories are often accessible because they are generally affordable, Kindle Vella has made many readers feel as though they are being extorted by authors. This is one of the significant issues Pace has faced since the beginning, and it is most likely the reason she has not resin above fifth place. However, because of the platform’s emphasis on the author’s note and reader engagement, Pace has retained readership despite fluctuating prices due to word count. Since most users often don’t look for price explanations in publishing guidelines, as they are readers rather than publishers, Pace took it upon herself to explain. However, she only did so after much backlash in later chapters.

Alternatively, Carlan maintained her position arguably solely based on her accessibility. Though readers may complain about infrequent and short installments, Carlan seemingly follows a similar update schedule to Pace—updating twice about a week, negating such claims.

Knowing the main reasons why each author has achieved success, as well as what sets their levels of success apart, is key to understanding how to maintain success in self-publishing a serialized fiction in the digital age.

Content Wars: Rise of the Podcast

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People prefer to receive their daily news in different ways. From radio to television, print to Facebook, news stories fill almost every platform. More and more traditional sources are turning to podcasts, the most recent trend in digital news publishing.

Podcasts: New or Old?

Though David Winer developed the medium, and Adam Curry popularized it, Ben Hammersley coined the actual term “podcast” in 2004. In an article for The GuardianHammersley “rattled off possible names for this booming new medium, the ‘pod‘ of podcast is borrowed from Apple’s ‘iPod‘ digital media player; and the ‘cast‘ portion of podcast is taken from Radio’s ‘broadcast‘ term.” The name and the concept took off.

According to International Podcast Day, a site dedicated to the celebration of podcasts,

“A ‘podcast’ is sort of difficult to explain because there really isn’t anything else like it — but rather, many things that are kind of like it. A good starting point, is to think of a podcast as ‘Internet Radio On-Demand.’ It’s similar in that you can usually listen to it on your computer — but it’s more than that. [However, and not to confuse the issue, podcasting isn’t confined to just audio but can be video as well].”

While podcasting shares many similarities with traditional radio broadcasting, two media’s differences allow podcasts to pave their own way in the digital media world. Contrary to conventional radio, podcasts offer on-demand content that users can access any place, any time. They also have the advantage of being “narrowcast” based on individual, specified content for an identifiable audience.

The New York Times and Podcasting

The New York Times, a newspaper founded in 1851, is known worldwide for its readership and prestige. With over 150 years in the field of journalism, the Times attributes its continued success to its ability to meet readers in their everyday lives. I cover more of the changes it has undergone in “Changing with the Times.”

With the emergence of podcasts, writers at the Times saw a chance to reach readers in a new and more individualized way. According to Ken Doctor, when the Times released its first podcast in 2006, “only 11 percent of U.S. adults listened to any podcast and only 22 percent had even heard the term.”

The New York Times uses the advantage of the medium’s niche nature to its advantage, and its shows branch into topics that may not have made it to print before. With series varying from book reviews to pop culture, even love and sex, the Times has truly embraced the culture of podcasts.

The Daily,” one of the most popular series in the Times’ repertoire, touts the motto “this is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week.” Hosted by political journalist Michael Barbaro, “The Daily” began in early 2017 and became a hit within a few short months.

“The Daily” had reached over 100 million downloads by October of the same year. Sam Dolnick, Barbaro’s assistant, says, “we’ve built a flexible enough frame that I think lots and lots of different things can fit inside of it.”

The New Yorker, a fellow New York-based news company, sent its praises to “The Daily” in an article dedicated to the success of the podcast series. New Yorker journalist Rebecca Mead writes that, through “The Daily,” The New York Times “becomes conversational and intimate, instead of inky and cumbersome. It’s a twenty-minute update murmured in your ear by a well-informed, sensitive, funny, modest friend.”

As of 2018, “The Daily” continued to receive over 1.1 million downloads each weekday. Advertisements pay for the episodes, so listeners get access to the show for free, with new podcasts released every weekday.

The New York Times has another major podcast success under its belt: “Caliphate” the company’s series “following Rukmini Callimachi as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul.” Its first narrative nonfiction podcast, “Caliphate” takes a look at the War on Terror and asks, “who are we really fighting?” Listeners can find the podcast, along with its transcripts, on the Times’ site.

The Podcast Craze

The Times isn’t the only one impressed with podcasts: Hannah King describes the attraction of podcasting in the Trojan Digital Review. Versatility defines the beauty of podcasts; anyone can make one anywhere. In her article “Have We Hit Peak Podcast?” New York Times journalist Jennifer Miller addresses the idea easy entrance to the medium might be what leads to its ultimate downfall.

“Like the blogs of yore, podcasts — with their combination of sleek high tech and cozy, retro low — are today’s de rigueur medium, seemingly adopted by every entrepreneur, freelancer, self-proclaimed marketing guru and even corporation,” Miller writes. She quotes host Jordan Harbinger of “The Jordan Harbinger Show” saying, “I love podcasting, and the more shows in the mix the better, as long as they’re done by someone who actually cares and isn’t just trying to get a piece of pie.”

Harbinger goes on to say that the world of podcasting needs “a real conversation that will benefit the audience, not the host.” Through this logic, the Times’ position in podcasting culture will not fizzle out anytime soon. The New York Times has a great tradition of journalistic excellence, and through branching out into the realm of podcasting, it once again secured its spot among the most read, and now listened to, news companies in the world.

Creative Writing in Video Games

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I first started experimenting with creative writing by inviting a few friends over for a creative writing  session.  The results of our writings led me to believe our method of writing can be capitalized on by video games. Furthermore, the video game medium has many more creative writing applications that encourage writing and may make the writing process more fun for those not particularly driven to write.

What my friends and I did was to have someone come up with a writing prompt. Then, we all took about 10 minutes to write on whatever the person’s idea was. Finally, we arranged everyone’s work together and read our disparate writings as one continuous story. We would come up with transition phrases between our individual pieces to make things flow, or we started with an idea that allowed the pieces to maintain relative cohesion with one another.

Hilarity ensued as our works coincided in the worst ways possible. Video games can cultivate and allow for similar group creative writing processes. The game, Storium, entails a narrator creating an overarching story and guiding players through the scenes. However, players also contribute to the writing and direction of the story.

The tutorial of Storium showcases how the narrator writes out a scene, and the players are then forced to respond. Each player’s character has specific traits and abilities that guide the writing. For example, in the tutorial you are ambushed by wolves. The other players all perform badly due to their character flaws, but your character finds a solution to the situation due to their quick thinking and survival experience. Since you caused a good outcome to occur, you get to write what happens next while also getting to include a positive benefit for your team. Furthermore, each other player’s responses were entirely written out by the players themselves as the situation progressed. The narrator then responds to the player’s decision making and continues to guide the story along.

Storium is an excellent example of how video games can operate as a platform for creative writing that brings people together in a fun and collaborative writing experience. Once the story is done, you and your friends have a complete story made from scratch.

The video game, NieR: AutomataTM developed by Square Enix, PlatinumGames Inc., also provides an example of how games can encourage and provide a space for creative writing. In NieR: AutomataTM you play as an android, and whenever you die your identity can live on by placing you into a different body; however, your dead body is still on the Earth. Upon death, the game allows you to leave a message on your corpse by stringing together a few catalogued words and phrases into an intelligible message.

If you are playing while connected to the internet, then other players online can find and utilize your corpse for loot; furthermore, they also get to read your message which can be quite poetic. For example, one possible death message is: “A vengeful girl was distracted by a flower on a tower smiled upon by angels.” Sometimes, the meanings have absolutely no context, but nonetheless encourage creative thought and poetic writing.

NieR: AutomataTM’s death messages exemplify how video games can operate as a forum, platform, or medium through which players can publish their creative writing online. Furthermore, the creative writing experience of Storium and NieR: AutomataTM always entails a community participating in the creation of your writing or interacting with it in a fun and unique way.

Perhaps the most fun writing experiences I had in video games were through MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games); in particular, World of Warcraft developed by Blizzard Entertainment and Mabinogi developed by NEXON Korea Corps. My experiences in World of Warcraft can hardly be considered writing, but the fun of playing on a role-playing server with a guild full of people resulted in some of the most fantastic and fun to play through stories I have participated in. Games like World of Warcraft that allow players a lot of creative freedom can cultivate a lot of interesting creative writing stories that are fun to play through. 

Mabinogi affords players the experience of being able to compose and play music through the video game. I didn’t understand how to utilize this feature to create my own works, but I could copy-paste other people’s compositions from other websites into my in-game scroll and then play music on whatever instrument my character could get their hands on. Oftentimes, I would end up having a group of fellow players with all our various instruments showing off anime soundtracks we had recreated in the video game. I was always impressed when someone had created their own music.

Experiences like the ones offered in Mabinogi allow players to literally play through the creative writing process, and then share their creations with other people in group sessions where everyone’s avatar gathers, reads, and recites. Oftentimes, MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games can function as forums for the avatars to meet in and discuss their writing among themselves.

My first experience with creative writing in a video game was not from within a game that allowed me to share my work with other players though. I remember playing my Pokémon Sapphire Version – developed by Game Freak – on my Game Boy Advance SP and being prompted to write a short statement by a news crew. After giving them a statement, I could then interact with a T.V. in game where a reporter would regurgitate my lines back at me like I was a celebrity. The ability to modify a game through creative writing was amazing.

I believe that video games that incorporate creative writing in interesting ways can inspire, cultivate, and allow players to even publish their creative works online. Furthermore, video games are a prime medium through which community writing can be experienced. I have not seen many video games that incorporate creative writing by the player’s in-game, but when I do, they’re a blast!  There’s nothing like looting an android corpse and being rewarded with a hilarious quote written by a fellow player.

The Economist gets “Snappy”

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Since 1843, The Economist has released weekly print editions of their magazine-style newspaper. In October of 2016, the publication took a leap towards rejuvenation and began publishing on Snapchat, one of the most popular apps in the world.

The Economist has been on Snapchat’s Discover page for three years and has paved a new way for print publications to reach the “tap generation.” The Snapchat Discover page is “all about keeping you up-to-date on current events, pop culture, and more.”

Snapchat Discover is where users can find stories- short videos or pictures- from their friends, other Snapchat users, TV shows, and publishers. Publisher stories “are Discover content that is from publishers and other media partners that partner with Snapchat.” Some companies that can be found on the Discover page are The Wall Street JournalNational GeographicThe Washington Post, and The Economist.

When The Economist made its Snapchat debut in 2016, reaching out to an audience via Snapchat wasn’t common for such an established and respectable news company. When Lucy Rohr, the Snapchat editor for The Economist, was met with some questioning from her colleagues, she responded:

How does a 173-year-old publication, known for its global analysis and read by every American president since JFK, fit on a messaging app whose unique selling point is bite-sized, disappearing videos? But think about it for a moment. Snapchat Discover’s audience is forward-looking, globally curious and highly engaged with liberal causes. So The Economist is actually pretty well aligned.

So how does a roughly 80-page news magazine convert its material to fit this new medium? To Rohr the answer is quite simple: it doesn’t.  The goal for the Snapchat extension of The Economist was not to put out another digital form of what they’ve already written. Instead, the idea was to hit a themed subject with each new weekly release.

“Themed editions are an ideal way for us to serve up our analysis in a fun and concise package that’s easy to consume anywhere. It’s what The Economist is known for, and we think this sits well on Snapchat Discover,” Rohr says.

Snapchat is an app that relies heavily on the visual aspect of its content, so Rohr and her team work to create a harmony between the youthful and interactive nature of the app and the professionalism of The Economist’s brand. According to Rohr, the perfect blend is achieved through “crisp, clean layouts, a couple of specific fonts.”

The Snapchat editions of The Economist are formed from a script, which is broken down into a minimum of 14 snaps, or 10 second looping videos or animations, and the visuals for each snap are then planned accordingly. Each individual snap is predominantly an image with highlighted text over it. The text often plays as a teaser, which gives the reader enough information to understand what is being addressed, but leaves them wanting more.  

The interactive feature is brought into play when links to find more information pertaining to a particular snap are added through the “swipe up” feature. Then on the final product, users can swipe up on a snap to follow links that will lead to articles that give readers an in-depth analysis that the teasers hinted at.

According to Rohr:

The design team really nailed it. They came up with a visual treatment that really brings our journalism to life, and brings levity to some of the heavier stuff we’re covering. As much as I want our journalism to set us apart, I think our design does too.

Rohr knows that the task of producing Snapchat editions is not an easy one. “Plenty of what we do can’t be readily translated into a ‘Snappy’ format. We have to take the time to really think about each edition and each snap and how to do it best,” she says. An example of what Discover stories from The Economist look like is on their YouTube channel.

When The Economist made the leap into the world of Snapchat, consumers were concerned that it would be detrimental to the prestige of the company. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, “78% of American internet users between the ages of 18 and 24 used Snapchat in 2018.” The statistics of active Snapchat users in the UK are similar to those in America. The age demographic is rarely a concern of The Economist.

Having a young audience does not worry The Economist’s Snapchat team, though. At the Digital Innovators Summit, Rohr addressed the new demographic saying:

We had to translate our very specific editorial voice to the platform, but we did not ‘dumb ourselves down’ – we realised that to underestimate the intellect of the younger audience, and their discernment, is a real mistake.

Rather than fitting their journalism to the demographic, Rohr and her team prep the demographic for their journalism. Rohr referred to Snapchat editions as “the ultimate cheat sheet ” to being able to comprehensibly read full length articles from The Economist. One of the goals is to provide readers with the vocabulary, context, and “toolkit” needed to understand the company’s specific style of journalism.

As of 2017, The Economist had an average of 7.1 million users visiting their Snapchat stories. Deputy editor and head of digital strategy, Tom Standage, claimed the addition of Snapchat to their repertoire was “the biggest step-change in the audience of The Economist since 1843.”

Getting Hooked on Reading

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Hooked entices young people to fall for reading hook, line, and sinker. The company aims to engage teenagers and millennials through a near-voyeuristic experience via fictionalized text message stories. Prerna Gupta, Co-Founder of Hooked, claims:

The way we consume content is changing dramatically, especially in younger generations. For example, a majority of young adult novels are being read digitally now in the U.S., and that’s increasingly happening on mobile. But the way that books are created hasn’t changed in centuries.

Hooked allows readers to select stories presented as a text message conversation between characters through a mobile app.  Anthony Ha from TechCrunch explains that instead of flipping pages, taps summon the next text. The app includes stand-alone stories and chapter series that reach about 1,000 words. Users are offered several free stories along with a charged option for unlimited access of $2.99 for a week, $7.99 for a month, and $39.99 for a year.

The History of Hooked

Prerna Gupta and Parag Chordia previously worked as successful app developers before they founded Hooked, the self-proclaimed “future of storytelling”. After Gupta experienced a panic attack about the uncertainty of their novel and its lack of a typical protagonist, the pair decided to test a selection of their novel on an app and track audience response. They realized that the audience barely finished even the limited best seller excerpts as Gupta explains:

People say that reading is dying. But we refused to believe this. Storytelling is fundamental to humans; some believe it is the essence of humanity. The demand for great stories is ever present. Fiction must evolve with the times.

After attempting various approaches to encourage audience completion, the couple decided to test out text message stories. They discovered that the format appeals to young audiences for several reasons: the text message style ensures brevity, encourages intimacy in storytelling, and feels familiar to an uber tech-literate audience.

What Hooked Has to Offer

Hooked hires college students to write fiction stories for the app. The writers then produce more pieces in the genres that receive the most engagement. Romance and horror top the list of the most popular genres among their teen audience with endless chapters available and an option for subscribers to self-publish.

The success behind the frivolous content centers around young people reading to completion on the app. The content also fits precisely with readers’ parameters for time consumption, tone, and style, which promotes returning readership. Forbes’ Adam Rowe describes the challenge of the text style content: “To keep the audience engaged, you have to be pithy and keep the story moving along at a brisk pace.”

The Market’s Take

Readers are obsessed with Hooked. Gupta claims that “rather than destroy reading, Hooked makes reading engaging for a broad audience. We’ve heard from many teens who say they hate reading books, but they love reading in Hooked. It’s a gateway drug.” Overall, the app boasts 10 million subscribed readers, with over 20 million downloads. Gupta also states that the audience has “collectively reading over 10 billion fictional text messages in the app” and written “a million chat stories of their own, directly from their phones.”

This enterprise offers real-time data about audience interaction along with providing a unique reading experience for their teen readers. Along with the success from their innovation and versatility, the app has also secured substantial investments since its initial conception in 2015.

What Hooked Created

The most business-oriented use results from the app’s original purpose: a/b testing storylines. Gupta told the LA Times, “I think it can push the boundaries for Hollywood in experimenting with new storylines and diverse characters. If you can test stories … you could take out some of the guesswork.”

The app’s analytics resulted in three main conclusions about audience reading patterns that differ from current industry practice. First, the point of view doesn’t matter; readers connect the same with first present as they do third past. Second, readers seldom engage if the piece begins in media res. Third, the race and gender of the protagonist make no difference in engagement, aside from teenage girls actually preferring female leads. Michelle Castillo from CNBC says that Hooked’s audience is “18 and 24, with 69 percent under the age of 25. The average user, however, is 25, and more than half are female.”

This analytic function serves both writers and publishers who are looking to test new material, along with Hollywood execs searching for the latest piece, as David Drake of The Huffington Post writes:

[Gupta’s] team is using this data to transform the content industry and Hollywood is catching on as film studios can test stories in the same way before production. This is the reason why investors, including Greg Silverman, President of Warner Brothers, has invested in the app.

Hooked also creates other avenues of content such as spoiler sites and featured series. One of the spoiler sites, Hooked Stories, publishes complete stories and popular chapters from Hooked free of charge. These sites essentially poach content for readers and capitalize on the app’s paywall.

Featured series, such as “Dark Matter,” are produced for platforms like Snapchat. Todd Spangler describes the series as a “multimedia series [that] blends the chat-fiction format” with voice-overs and illustrations. The featured series last longer than a standard Hooked story and draw massive audiences to the platforms.

Hooked has been enticing readers since 2015 and ranked among the Apple store’s top apps since 2017. The tailored series, which are available in more than seven languages, attracts readers without demanding excessive amounts of the readers’ time. The understanding of readership Hooked provides also proves that audiences, such as the arts, are changing. With an ever-growing audience base, this app has truly transformed fiction reading from flipping through pages to swiping through text messages for a watchers’ perspective.

The Fall of the Facebook Empire

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In the 15 years since its inception in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook simultaneously became the leading social networking site and one of the largest platforms that users no longer trust.

Why the Distrust?

According to the Ezoic article “2019 Digital Publishing Trends that Publishers Care About ,” 55.5% of publishers voted that Facebook was the platform they trusted the least. The article states that, “Facebook has earned their tough reputation with publishers. A non-transparent change in the newsfeed and the reduction of reach for publisher pages has earned Facebook a tarnished image with publishers.”

Facebook also garnered a disreputable image with publishers due to the biased decision making toward their featured news articles. While a certain amount of bias should be anticipated when dealing with large business corporations – and yes, Facebook is a corporation – copious amounts of bias, such as the information presented during the 2016 election is a red flag for publishers looking for a platform to present their work.  

In the Wired article “Of Course Facebook Is Biased. That’s How Tech Works Today,” Izzie Lapowski remarks that during the 2016 election, Facebook was asked by the US Senate Commerce Committee about the allegation that “the company’s news curators have been deliberately suppressing conservative news from surfacing in its Trending Topics.”

This suppression of news comes as no surprise considering that people chose and filtered Facebook’s Trending Topics rather than AI algorithms. Personal bias is impossible to avoid in newsroom situations, and the Gizmodo article that revealed this controversy  quoted one former curator who said, “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

This bias poses problems for consumers and publishers alike while posing the question: what is the benefit of using a specific platform if your content could be ignored or pushed aside based on one curator’s personal opinion?

“The problem is that the people who use Facebook and Google, LinkedIn and Amazon, expect that these services are making decisions independent of human judgment—that the machines can rise above the differences that divide us,” Lapowski said. “When that turns out not to be the case, people feel betrayed.”

Another point of contention between digital publishers and Facebook is Facebook’s constant revisions to the formatting of their platform. According to the What’s New in Publishing article “How Would it Impact Publishers if Facebook Ditches the Like Count?”, Facebook is considering following the lead of Instagram – a social media network owned BY Facebook – to ditch the Like count in order to “bring back the focus on the quality of content shared, rather than only on posting content designed to increase the Like count.”

The Like count will essentially become private to everyone except the publisher, allowing them to concentrate on the content they are producing and not the likes it will receive. While this is positive for consumers who are attempting to discover legitimate, interesting news, this could be detrimental to publishers who acquire new readers based on the popularity of their content.

The reasons behind taking away the Like count are also more self-serving to Facebook’s interests than they would lead consumers to believe. “It could also obscure Facebook’s own potential decline in popularity as users switch to other apps,” said TechCrunch’s Josh Constine in the WNP article.

It’s not just about the Likes themselves, though – it’s frustrating for publishers to believe the platform they are using is set up one way and then find themselves lying on their backs when the rug is ripped out from under them. According to the Ezoic article:   

Facebook does seem to bounce back and forth with publishers. They often offer lifelines with new things like Facebook Watch, but then wipe away all goodwill with major changes to things like the way publishers reach their followers on Facebook’s platform.

And while Facebook seems to create a negative reputation with publishers for the benefit of their consumers, Facebook simply makes the best decisions for their company. However, considering the data-selling scandal of 2018, Facebook’s attempts to help consumers regulate their news has been subpar at best.

In order to change their News Feed to incorporate trustworthy news in their rankings, Facebook created a two-question survey. These two questions were, “Do you recognize the following website?” and “How much do you trust each of these domains?” Though Facebook provided simple questions, consumers complained that this survey was completely unreliable.

“I’ve filled out more robust surveys at fast food restaurants,” said Rani Molla, a journalist for Recode who criticized the survey on her personal Twitter.

The Verge’s article “Why Facebook’s Survey About Trust Won’t Make or Break the Media (Something Else Might Break it First)” expands on the issues surrounding the new survey:

The anxiety here is that survey results could be inaccurate, leading to a mis-ranking of publishers that favors the most partisan sites and exacerbates Facebook’s negative effects on democracy. For journalists, there is a secondary, existential fear: that publishers who fare poorly in the survey will see their traffic collapse, leading to declining revenues and eventually layoffs.

Ultimately, Facebook’s attempts prove ineffective and reveal its desire for self-preservation above content integrity for the consumer.

How Publishers Can Cash in on Facebook’s Failings

Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the sudden algorithm changes that have drastically reduced publishers’ outreach to followers, Facebook’s popularity is at an all-time low. In the opinion of Digital Content Next, now is the time for publishers and other companies to capitalize on Facebook’s free fall.

Jesse Moeinifar, the writer of the DCN article, urges publishers to take this opportunity to create their own platform, where “instead of struggling to build your brand on Facebook,” publishers will gain control over their published content on a personalized domain.  

On this new platform, publishers are encouraged by Moeinifar to “give the people what they want” by providing a safe, easily accessible opportunity for consumers to engage in social interactions with fellow users.

Consider integrating tools directly on your platform that allow your users to discuss your content and chat with one another. By generating engagement on your domains, your visitors will be more inclined to interact on a consistent basis and subscribe.

Thus, publishers who create their own platform can excel by being a legitimate, reliable source with relevant content targeted towards the consumers’ interests.

“If you create valuable content that maintains a consistent tone and is highly relevant to your readers, they will view your brand as a reputable source for trusted media,” said Moeinifar.

Publishers need to produce relevant, reliable content that builds trust with their consumers. In a time where Facebook is less trusted than ever by consumers and publishers alike, it’s time for new platforms to arise from the ashes of a Harvard student’s once great media conglomerate.

Publishing Engaging Facebook Content

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Content creators must know how to publish effective content on Facebook in order to engage an audience. According to “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2018” by Elisa Shearer and Katerina Eva Matsa, “Facebook is still far and away the site Americans most commonly use for news, with little change since 2017. About four-in-ten Americans (43%) get news on Facebook.”

How you write your content, what you include in your message, and when you post are critical in ensuring your Facebook audience likes, shares, and reads your posts.

How You Write

Your posts should be roughly 111 characters, according to CoScheduleCoSchedule’s Social Message Optimizer is a free tool you can utilize to gauge whether your content is designed well for social media.

Write a positive message to maximize potential audience engagement. According to Scott Ayers, “The items that get the most shares on Facebook tend to be those things that are positive, inspirational and/or funny. People might agree with your negative sentiments—but they will hold back the Likes, Comments and Shares because they don’t want to be perceived as negative.”

Use an emoji  🙂 in your content. After I typed in a test post in CoSchedule’s Social Message Optimizer it explained that using one emoji would have made my post stronger. Ayer’s conducted an experiment on emoji use and found that posts had increased “engagement 23.78% higher with emojis” and also had “clicks 28.87% higher with emojis.”

What to Include

A call to action is a sign of a strong post. Ayer’s writes that “my experience is that if you give people a little push and some clear direction, you will see results.” For example, if you want people to sign your petition you shared on Facebook, tell them to click the link and what to do from there.

Include a link to engage more people on Facebook. CoSchedule’s Social Message Optimizer states that a link “is the best-performing message type for Facebook.”

When You Post

According to CoSchedule, posting on Saturday and Sunday typically increases a post’s engagement by 32%; furthermore, Thursday and Friday can increase a post’s engagement by 18%.

“More upbeat content does best on Friday” according to data explained in Mark Schenker’s “7 Facebook Engagement Strategies to Get You More Customers.”

9:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM are the best times to publish your content on Facebook. These times are both explicitly stated in Schenker’s article and on CoSchedule.

According to Schenker: “1 pm posts receive the most shares,” “3 pm posts get the most clicks,” and “the most engagement occurs later in the week and on weekends from 1 to 4 pm.

To publish powerful and engaging content on Facebook:

  • Keep your post around 111 characters.
  • Write something positive, and/or write positively.
  • Use an emoji, but keep them under control.
  • Tell your audience what to do, give them direction, and encourage participation.
  • Include a link.
  • Post around 9:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM.
  • Post later in the week.

Is Kindle worth it for Authors?

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Authors who have preferred traditional print publication in the past are now turning to digital publishing to catapult their careers. Kindle publishing is the pathway for allowing authors expansion with their audience and more control over their books. New authors and established authors are using Kindle to break through the barriers that traditional publishing places their authors.

Benefits of using Kindle Publishing

According to Benefits of Kindle Publishing for New Authors , “Through the Kindle publishing system, you can sell your eBooks on Amazon’s websites around the world, and you can earn up to 70% per sale! There are some basic requirements to achieve the 70% payouts, such as a minimum price of $2.99”. Kindle publishing is giving authors the potential of having a massive audience worldwide.

The pros & cons of Traditional Publishingexplains, “Writers can face dozens, even hundreds of rejections from both agents and publishing houses before their book makes to print”. Authors that use traditional publishing lose more than they gain. Through traditional publishing, an author is not able to easily make changes to their books because they have to go through editors and publishers. Authors lose their creativity control when it comes to their craft. Publishing houses have the final say in the book’s title, cover, and pricing. However, this leaves authors at the mercy of the publishing houses powers.

 Meanwhile, authors who use Kindle publishing have the advantage of quickly making adjustments. Creators that use Kindle have more authority and creative control over their books. Authors can make changes to their book quickly and efficiently. Kindle can also update the price of preexisting e-books in the market.

Feedback for Authors

Kindle allows authors to get direct feedback from their audience. The readers can leave comments about how they felt about the book. Many readers do not suppress their feelings on the changes they think the author should make or their writing style. The feedback from readers will show the author if they are targeting the right genre or audience. An author’s primary focus is to appeal to their audience, and if they are not, then their failing.

Kindle Authors

John Locke is the eighth independent author to sell a million on the Kindle book store. He saw Kindle publishing as a platform for authors who were not given a chance to show their work to the world. According to John Locke Becomes the First Independently Published Author to Join the “Kindle Million Club” ,

“Kindle Direct Publishing has provided an opportunity for independent authors to compete on a level playing field with the giants of the bookselling industry,” said John Locke. “Not only did KDP give me a chance, but they also helped at every turn. Quite simply, KDP is the greatest friend an author can have.”

Locke struggled to sell his books early in his career, but as he began to promote his book through twitter and other cites, consistently his sells began to pick grow. As a result, he has had multiple bestsellers as his career progresses.

Amanda Hocking’s is the  26 –years-old “Kindle Millionaire” who sold over a million electronic copies of her self-published paranormal romance book. Multiple agents and publishing companies had denied Hockings, but Kindle publishing became the way she could achieve her dreams. According to Steven Spatz’s “Amanda Hocking Made Millions By Selling 99-cent Books — And You Can, Too,

 “Hocking had written a series of novels over the preceding nine years, each of which had been rejected by countless agents and publishing houses. She decided, sitting in her apartment, to put them up for sale on Amazon. She listed the first at 99 cents.”(Writing Cooperative ). 

Through Kindle, she has been able to make a living out of her writing. She has been able to call all the shots. Hocking has created a stable career for herself without having to spend as much money as traditional writers.

 The authors who choose to use Kindle publishing have more advantages of getting more money and opportunities through their writings. Kindle publishing has become the pathway for established and new authors to have the chance of becoming a bestseller without an agent or traditional publishing company.