Social Reading Gains Major Traction with Millennials, Canadian Tech Company Wattpad

By: Lee Rickwood

January 10, 2014

Reading stories and long-form narrative online is not what one might expect in a Tweeted and Keeked and Snapchatted world, but the folks at Wattpad are not that surprised.

Wattpad, the online community of social readers and writers, more than doubled in popularity and activity last year.

wattpad app for tablets and smartphones

Wattpad is a new mobile app and online community for social reading and writing.

The technology platform that supports all that engagement mashes together social media networking, e-book applications and online publishing tools to create something called social reading.

Wattpad was developed and launched in Toronto, and its reach has now extended globally, embracing millions of people in dozens of different languages around the world, all part of a growing online community of e-readers and e-writers.

Co-founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen and their team developed a Web platform and mobile application that lets people read books and stories for free, or write and share their own. There is a huge library, and millions of people visit each month from around the world, using their PCs, phones and tablets.

Yes, they can pick from among 20 million freely accessible books & stories: sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, thrillers and more.

There are the classics, with authors like Conan Doyle and Shakespeare, titles like Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

What’s more, the site connects fans with popular contemporary writers like Canadian author and literary icon Margaret Atwood, and Brazilian novelist and lyricist Paulo Coelho, who themselves are part of the Wattpad community.

But in its release of 2013 activity data, the company describes a user community that spent more than 41 billion minutes on the platform – an average of 30 minutes with Wattpad per person per session – not just reading but writing.

Wattpad has thousands of aspiring writers from Canada and around the world, and they added 20 million new story uploads last year.

They are a content creation machine, and they have a ravenous appetite: not just for the user stories submitted and shared – more than 90,000 new stories every day – but the social media responses and reactions that are triggered.

Last year, Wattpad sparked over 300 million messages and comments, connections and interactions. Readers also created more than four million artistic story covers and YouTube trailers to support their favourite stories and writers.

Allen Lau, Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO, is of course thrilled with the year’s report and findings. “We’ve seen major growth in 2013 thanks to the incredibly active Wattpad community. We expect an even bigger year ahead, and a future where millions of original stories are created every day.”

But he also speaks of “redefining what it means to be a reader”, referring not only to the power of interactive social media for sharing and shaping new kinds of reading material, but also his platform’s ability to provide a new online channel that gives users anonymity without sacrificing the ability to make personal connections with others.

The growth or activity on other social networks that require real identity may have plateaued, Lau points out, while Wattpad continues to see year-over-year growth, especially among the majority of users under 25 who account for most of the time spent on Wattpad.

Lau, a graduate from University of Toronto Electrical Engineering, started working on a prototype mobile e-reader app back in 2002.

A couple of years later, he hooked up with Ivan Yuen, out of the technology generator that is the University of Waterloo, who also shared a passion for reading and writing and the connectivity that technology could bring among other people so inclined.

Now, Wattpad is into its eight year of operation. The company sponsors an annual writing awards festival, the Watties, and its stable of ‘homegrown’ authors and contributors is garnering global attention and acclaim.

Teen author Beth Reekles

Beth Reekles became a literary sensation with her first novel, a teen romance penned in her bedroom and published online at the social reading site Wattpad. She’s pictured in a YouTube video.

After sharing Nothing Left to Lose on Wattpad, Kirsty Moseley gains 148,000 followers on Wattpad and was named Breakout Author on iBooks for 2013; then Beth Reekles, who racked up some 19 million reads of her Wattpad story The Kissing Booth, was named one of TIME Magazine’s Most Influential Teens of 2013.

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submitted by Lee Rickwood






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