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The following article may not completely apply to you as an author, however, there are many attributes in the article you should read to get a better sense of our future readers. This, as a marketing concept, will prove valuable.

Originally printed Publisher Perspective by Porter Anderson on December 13, 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, Canadian reading and writing platform Wattpad has produced a series of readership trends based on its users behavior. These trends offer publishers some insights into the interests of Wattpad’s 60 million monthly users.

In terms of tech, for example, Wattpad Studios’ partnership chief Ashleigh Gardner says the second-screen phenomenon—in which television viewers simultaneously use mobile or other devices to share and interact with the content their are watching on TV—is becoming more influential.

“Even in binge-watching,” Gardner says, “people are going through content so fast. We see people wanting more” of a show they’re sharing. That’s the point at which fan-fiction writing kicks in and the writers and their readers on Wattpad basically keep the party going, extending and embellishing storylines, generating new action for characters and plot points. The second screen of choice, then, becomes the Wattpad app on which the viewers are searching out new work that appears almost as fast as they can search for it.

“They’re coming to Wattpad,” Gardner says, “to stay within the worlds of Riverdale [the CBS-Warner Bros. show based on Archie Comics] or Stranger Things [the Duffer Brothers’ show on Netflix]. Every show we see on TV, we find fan fiction about on Wattpad.”

It’s Riverdale that’s had the biggest response this year in Wattpad’s tracking of the action on the platform. Content based on that series peaked in terms of reading minutes by users in October, when the system recorded 7.9 million minutes on Riverdale-related material. Some 54,000 story uploads related to the show were counted throughout the year. Also in October, Stranger Things drew almost as many users, recording its own high of 7 million reading minutes in material related to that series.

But it would be a mistake to think that all is entertainment and TV gossip among the more-than 60 million readers and writers at Wattpad.

“It’s been great to see how our users are responding to social movements,” Gardner says, referring to a particularly strong uptake on the #NoMoreBullying movement. One example of this is a paranormal tale called #FatGirlMagic by the writer known as @ClaireKann and responding to the #BodyPositivity theme. Gardner’s team has seen as many as 8 million reading minutes per month going into material based in such widely hashtagged topics and interests.

A related such focus, for example, could be seen in #FreeTheLGBT, a push to increase the number of prominent LGBTQ characters in fiction, and this was a big one, with an average 13 million reading minutes monthly. As many as 2,500 new story uploads were made with the tag following the pride activities of June.

The writer known on the site as @Vapid_Ink scored big in 2017 with Vigilante rising to massive popularity in the action category: the story pulled more than 2 million reads. The #MeToo movement in sexual harassment awareness has been a major trend on Wattpad this year, but it’s so far been harder to track because the hashtag is applied less precisely than some others are. #MeToo can refer to many things, in other words, and not always to issues related to sexual harrassment.

Diversity interests in wider terms drove 4.8 million reading minutes a month to a “person of color” tag (#PoC) . The system tracked an 84-percent growth level during the year for genre stories with diverse characters, too. If publishers have needed any evidence to support a readership’s interest in more diverse character sets, look no farther than Toronto where they could see more than 30 million reading minutes monthly going into tags including #DiverseLit, #Diversity, and #LGBTQ+.

In 2018, Try Werewolf K-Pop Killer Clowns

Here are several more trends that Wattpad’s staffers are reporting tracking this year. Gardner confirms that some 70 percent of the platform’s active user base is female and remember that roughly 90 percent accesses the content on mobile devices.

• K-Pop has been especially popular among Spanish-language users of the platform, which supports some 50 languages. In January of this year, Latin American users shared 12,000 K-Pop story uploads and by July, that trend had increased to 21,000 story uploads. • English-language readers seem to love Korean music, too, hitting more than 50 million monthly minutes of K-Pop reading time for the first time in 2017.

• Zombies are an abiding passion for the mostly-millennial crowd of readers and writers at Wattpads, with the writer @CrystalScherer pulling in more than 600,000 reads since January for her The Virus Within.

• Werewolves, however, seem to be another unholy grail of popularity among horror and sci-fi fans on the platform. Some 196 million minutes each month went to werewolf stories–that’s more than 136,000 days of time–and that’s over a measly (by comparison) 13 million monthly minutes going to zombies.

• The preponderance of women’s readership on the platform can lead some to think that the whole picture there is romance, but in 2017, but in fact, romance-and-something combinations in terms of genre interests have gained grace this year among Wattpadders. Romance and action seems to have been a favored combo, with romance readers gravitating toward mafia stories and bad-boy bikers. As do we all, surely.

• As long as we’re in the neighborhood, material relating to the boy band Why Don’t We was attracting almost 20 million reading minutes (13,888 days) per month by August. This one is an especially global attraction according to the sites’ officials, who say they expect WDW fandom to reach even more feverish heights on the big platform in 2018.

• And as we’ve mentioned in earlier coverage, cannibals seem to have taken on special meaning for many Wattpad regulars. They and killer clowns were two surprise quick gainers on the site, rising in the stats to 9,000 story uploads in September and October.

‘They Want To Participate’

If any over-arching message is inherent in all the data coming in from Canada at the end of this year, it’s engagement.

Gardner was at the FutureBook conference in London on the first of December, shortlisted for this year’s Disruptor of the Year FutureBook Award sponsored by the Frankfurter Buchmesse. She heard Eliza Filby’s closing keynote, as covered by Publishing Perspectives, on the rising influence of Generation Z and listened carefully, of course, as that group’s readers now are moving into range of Wattpad’s offerings—the minimum age for participation on the site is 13.

“While we’re extremely popular with millennials,” Gardner says, “we’re seeing more and more of the younger group on the platform, too. The 13-to-16 group is a flourishing community online, and that ties into a lot of what Eliza was talking about.

“They’re not just consumers,” she says, “they want to participate, they want to write their own stories. We see readers who want to write their own stories. They want to be heard. They want to consume the art their friends are creating. They don’t want celebrities to be out of reach, they want to be able to reach out to them,” as readers at Wattpad interact with their authors.

And there’s one more thing that publishers might do well to mull along with the wine over the holidays: speed to market. One of the most striking elements of success at Wattpad is how quickly new content arrives for readers on the platform in reaction to real-world events. Much as we see in the second-screen dynamic, the readers and writers of Wattpad are working far, far faster than much of trade publishing is used to working.

“They’re not just consumers. They want to participate, they want to write their own stories. They want to be heard. They want to consume the art their friends are creating.”Ashleigh Gardner

Gardner recalls #AlexFromTarget, the cashier whose photo went viral. “Its fascinating to see how quickly people will start to write stories about news stories or memes” for the platform. “A girl had secretly taken a photo of her checkout guy at Target, and he became a teen-heartthrob. The amount of fan fiction we saw about #AlexFromTarget immediately spiked in the next 24 hours, and you still see stories written about him today,” more than two years later. “Some were so inspired by that moment that they wrote the meta-fiction about him, and what it must have been like for him to have people so in love with him. “When it comes to reactions, the creativity and the speed happens as soon as the inspiration hits.” And this presents a challenge to traditional publishing.

“That lag to market,” as Gardner puts it, has also meant that the startup of some partnerships with publishers have taken awhile to put into action. But more of these deals will be introduced in 2018, she says.

“I’d like to see the industry get to a point where the trends” tracked in real-time on Wattpad “are being listened to. No one in the industry has as much of a direct reader connection as we do.” The potential, she says, is “to be able to show them, ‘This is what people want,'” to capture new market energy on the way up.

 

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson in Publishing Perspective on December 8, 2017

At Bonnier Publishing, “We decided we were going to stand for something. (1) We publish for everyone. (2) We recruit for everyone.”

That woke everyone right up. Richard Johnson, the CEO of Bonnier Publishing, gave an opening keynote titled “How Bonnier Publishing Became a Major Force in UK Publishing.” No nation’s industry necessarily runs to meet another country’s newcomer at the docks, and the UK’s publishing community is tight-knit, even while it competes internally. The success of Sweden’s Bonnier, Johnson had arrived to tell everyone, is because it’s not as snobbish—his word—as the overall industry in place.

“Books have the power to enrich everyone’s lives,” Johnson said, “particularly the youngsters that we sell to, the ones who need education and have got no money. We should be selling to those people. And we do, but the industry should as well. The industry is too snobbish still.”

He’s not wrong that his company’s focus on inclusivity has been on display to all. The fun caricatures of its staffers in all their diversity have been on the site for years, and some of us have written about this. As it turns out, these are the faces with which Johnson feels he was able to get ahead of the current acute need for egalitarianism in publishing, and he sees this as having set him and his company way ahead. He may not be wrong.

He took it farther, too, urging the business to think of itself as “an entertainment business, not the literary business. Sometimes we create literary masterpieces which is fantastic,” he said, “but we have to entertain people to attract people.

For years, Bonnier Publishing has pictured its multicultural staffers in fun caricatures

“And let’s not be afraid to say that: We are in the entertainment business.”

This goes, of course, to the imperative of the digital reality now gripping an industry that in many ways has responded well and profitably to the potential but still can be myopic when it comes to recognizing just how much of the wider world of culture—Johnson wants you to say “entertainment”—is now publishing’s competition.

Johnson’s commentary was particularly good when he talked of arriving at Bonnier to find the Swedish family-owned business culture in place to be built around silos “and old ways of thinking.” He asserted that in 2012, he guided the company to define the change it would generate in itself: “We decided we were going to stand for something. (1) We publish for everyone. (2) We recruit for everyone.”

And while he defined publishing as “an industry like no other,” Johnson had come to warn his colleagues that all other industries, in the media world, at least, are prepared to eat the book world’s collective lunch unless the kind of recognition of a multicultural reality he enabled isn’t taken up.

Having delivered himself of a decidedly boastful presentation, Johnson followed up with a funny video in which he was the butt of many jokes, apparent Bonnier staffers shrugging as if they’d never heard of him, and one viewer on screen asking, “Do you think he knows he’s an ass?” The fact that the reception among FutureBook conferees was rather muted indicated that, for all his swagger, Richard Johnson had hit the nerve he’d intended.

 

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson in Publishing Perspective on December 8, 2017.

Eliza Filby: ‘An Attention Span of Eight Seconds’ While the energy of that “Big Ideas” session was lacking at the end of the day, historian and “millennials expert” Eliza Filby’s closing keynote tied well into the day’s initial call from Richard Johnson for audience awareness, understanding of the entertainment dynamic’s importance in publishing.

Filby’s task was to describe “Generation Z,” represented by her in some instances as a 16-year-old today named Zoe: publishing’s next incoming young adults, in other words. A litany of contrasts and comparisons washed over the audience as Filby called out one characterization after another. Generation Z, for example, she said:

• Has no idea what its generation “stands for”

• Comprises “our most entrepreneurial people”

• Is a “recession generation,” more realistic than the optimistic millennials

• Truly believes in diversity, as the most racially and sexually diverse in history”

• “Understands data protection” and loves Snapchat because the transmission disappears

• Uses social media platforms to broadcast

• Has a better (than millennials) sense of themselves as a collective

• Suffers issues in mental health more than in physical health

• Sees itself as experts because the world’s information is at their fintertips

• “Looks up and unplugs,” not as tied as millennials to screens

“The novelty” of books for Generation Z, Filby said, is that books get them off those screens into a less noisy, safer context for reading.

But publishing, she warned, in what would be the last contrarian, cautionary comment of the day, is going to have to make the reading space “more invigorating” in order to capture Generation Z as readers. Why? Because, Eliza Filby said, millennials have 12-second attention spans while Generation Z has “an attention span of eight seconds.”