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The publishing world has seen its share of changes over the last couple of decades. Thanks to things like online journals and blogs to other self-publishing trends, traditional routes of content publishing are clearly things of the past. And these changes have opened the door for many aspiring authors to share their talents (or lack thereof) with others. Yes, I’m talking about Wattpad, which offers not only a publishing platform, but a vehicle for connecting with other writers, and… possible compensation.

With Wattpad, user-generated content can now be enjoyed by millions of readers on a global web-based platform. The publisher has 80 million users from around the world and allows user-generated content to be shared with a vibrant literary community. In short, the site is a social story-telling community where four million monthly writers share Wattpad stories for entertainment and feedback. And increasingly, this same user-generated content allows previously unknown talent to gain not only recognition but some income as well.

a photo quote from Allen Lau in relation to the site, Wattpad, and its Wattpad Stories
Wattpad CEO and co-founder Allen Lau has 20/20 hindsight, but no real regrets.

Wattpad’s Challenging Journey Toward Success

The co-founders of Wattpad launched the company in 2006—a time that was well before smartphones and advanced mobile devices. Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen wanted to create a digital platform where reading materials could be shared on a mobile device. But then, the most advanced mobile device was the Motorola Razr, which was hardly conducive to easy texting or reading. So, they acquired several public domain books for users to access and used their site as a social e-reader. After a year, Wattpad had only 1,000 customers regularly on the site without anyone providing new user-generated content.

Fortunately, positive change came in 2008 by way of Apple and its iPhone and App store. With the introduction of smartphones, mobility and texting became quickly in vogue. Wattpad stories from original content writers began to appear on the site. And readers progressively began to flock to user-generated stories identifying their favorites through better customer engagement. By 2011, Wattpad had over a million users and was seeing exponential growth. Despite having struggled for the platform’s first several years, Wattpad stories were now a real thing with a real following.

a photo quote from Allen Lau in relation to Wattpad Stories
Wattpad Co-founders Lau and Yuen wanted writers to receive monetary compensation from the start.

Monetizing Wattpad Stories and Rewarding User-Generated Content

Having had public domain or open-access books only for its first couple of years, Wattpad was thankful to have original user-generated content. But while the presence of readership encouraged original writings and Wattpad stories, additional incentives were being considered. Specifically, Lau and Yuen wanted writers to receive monetary compensation for their efforts and turn their hobby into a profession. This objective, as well as the need for Wattpad stories to generate income for the company, led the co-founders to develop several monetization routes. To a large extent, these strategies have led to the tremendous growth that the site has experienced in the last decade.

In essence, writers have more than one potential way to monetize their user-generated content. The primary route is by getting readers to pay for additional content from the writers they enjoy the most. Other Wattpad stories by a specific author can be accessed if a reader chooses to pay a small amount. Also, writers can receive compensation for branded work by companies that promote writing projects on the Wattpad site. And on occasion, top-rated writers “hit it big” and receive large publishing contracts and other media opportunities. Several Wattpad writers are now well-recognized internationally for their initial user-generated content on the platform.

As for Wattpad, the company also has developed effective digital monetization approaches (Want more on digital monetization? Check out this Bold Business story!) approaches. Naturally, ads placed alongside Wattpad stories are used to generate income for the company. Likewise, users may pay a monthly subscription fee for a premium service with enhanced access to user-generated content. And writers can also pay for their own branding or sponsored materials as a means to increase reader outreach. These monetization strategies, along with the company’s own publishing and media projects, allow a revenue turnover of $24 million annually.

Invested in a True Community Centered on Wattpad Stories

Notably, the challenge for many businesses is to create a model that not only permits financial success but also gives back at the same time. By supporting its users and by providing customers what they want, Wattpad has been successful in this regard. The monetization opportunities for user-generated content keeps active writers contributing to Wattpad stories. Likewise, tying reader preferences and inputs to these monetizing rewards empowers readers while ensuring that the right content is promoted.

In addition to these strategies, Wattpad also employs data analytics and artificial intelligence in its platform. In doing so, the company can track reader responses and preferences related to Wattpad stories. In turn, this information is used to enhance user-generated content and enhance its TV and movie work with Wattpad’s partners. Here too, Wattpad is committed to creating win-win scenarios from which their entire web-based community can benefit. This formula has worked exceptionally well for Wattpad in its other endeavors. And it will likely continue to serve the company well in the future.

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