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The Most Literate Generation: Wattpad & the Power of Social Reading

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The next time you hear someone say "no one reads anymore," show them Wattpad. With more than 20 million users, Wattpad is the world's largest community for readers and writers, and to the consternation of traditional publishing -- entirely free. To those naysayers who claim reading is the pastime of a bygone era, the numbers don't lie -- in 2013 alone, users spent 41 billion minutes on Wattpad with a new chapter uploaded every second. The platform lets users contribute cover art for their favorite stories and become collaborators alongside their favorite authors.

In our latest episode of A TOTAL DISRUPTION, we sat down with Wattpad to discuss how their platform is radically disrupting the publishing business. We also talk with two authors - a teenager who left Facebook behind for Wattpad (the first book she wrote at thirteen had over 1 million reads) and another who has secured a book publishing deal due to her popularity on Wattpad. With this technology, teenagers are sneaking their mobile devices into school, not just to watch videos, but to read and write. If you've ever had a dream of becoming an author watch this new FUTURE IS NOW episode for a look into how pulling the the veil back on your process, and sharing as you go, can help you accomplish that goal.

A lot has been said about generation Y & Z. Depending on who's doing the talking, it's probably a comment along the lines of, "self-obsessed youth addicted to their phones." Candice Faktor, General Manager of Wattpad, argues those phones are the very reason "this is going to be the most literate generation, because they are used to writing, and they're used to creating."

Founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen are looking far beyond just American teenagers. "We don't believe people are reading and writing less, we just have to make sure reading and writing can adapt to the current culture," say Lau. With attention spans becoming shorter, and a growing desire to follow stories as they unfold, Wattpad is ideally positioned as Lau notes, "making long form content bite size is more digestible in today's culture."

"Storytelling is universal, across different cultures, different countries," continues Lau, and Wattpad's analytics bear this out. With users in almost every country, Wattpad stories are available in more than 50 languages. But perhaps the most striking statistic of all: 85 percent of all activity on Wattpad is mobile.

Global estimates say about 3 billion people worldwide can read or write, but Wattpad is approaching the market from a technological angle. "There will be five billion phones, all internet enabled, in the next two, three years," says Lau, with a grin on his face. "The addressable market is billions of people. We're at barely one percent of where we want to be."

In 1837, Charles Dickens rose to fame, by publishing serial installments of THE PICKWICK PAPERS. Readers could hardly wait to read the next chapter, and now Wattpad not only offers this ability for any writer, but the social reading component allows fans to communicate with the authors directly. If you watched our last episode with CEA Austin Kleon, you know just how powerful this relationship can be, both in distributing work, and also in creating it.

Scrolling through the news feed and messages on Wattpad, I'm reminded of one of Dicken's most famous characters Oliver Twist, eager and hungry, waiting for another helping. It seems every user on Wattpad echoes some version of one of Oliver's most famous lines, "Please, Sir, can I have some more?"

 
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