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What are millennials reading on Wattpad India?

Wattpad has over 80 million users across the world

Wattpad has over 80 million users across the world   | Photo Credit: monkeybusinessimages

How millennial writers are rushing to Wattpad India to develop a strong readership community and build their brand

“Writers either write for ads or are looking to publish their content,” says Devashish Sharma, Country Head of Wattpad India, an online social platform where anyone can become an author. No, he wasn’t taking a dig at me when he says “writers write for ads”, but was merely addressing the elephant in the room. “Community-driven” is a word that Devashish tends to use throughout our conversation, when I call him to discuss the structure of the publishing platform, designed to encourage and support a community of readers and writers.

But how different is Wattpad from other storytelling platforms such as WordPress, Medium and Storify? “They focus more on non-fiction content, but our community is primarily driven on fiction,” he says, “Our writers are creating an imaginary world and we are finding an audience for them.”

Storytelling made easy

There are no major restrictions on Wattpad India, a sister concern of the global player Wattpad. But there is a “layered filtering” that happens in the larger framework of the platform. It does not censor your content, but the filtering is done only to reform the language that is used, to make sure that the material getting published meets all guidelines. “We don’t encourage the usage of the ‘F’ word, for instance. We do, however, allow writers to use certain words if it is necessary and helps in the character or plot building,” he tells me, adding that the decisions are made solely based on the content and not the type of content.

Devashish Sharma believes Wattpad is ideal for long-form narratives

Devashish Sharma believes Wattpad is ideal for long-form narratives   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Writing on the platform is not an exercise in brand-building, but in connecting with the readers. It enables what is called a line-by-line comment option, where readers are allowed to express their thoughts on what they felt about a particular paragraph or sentence. Romance, fantasy and horror are some of the popular genres that writers seem to be flirting with. “In romance for instance, people are exploring themes such as religious and class differences and forbidden tales of desire,” he says, “Anthology is another genre that is catching up. Since we don’t have a character limit, we encourage more long-form stories.”

Wattpad does not recommend topics for writers, even if they have a sizable readership. When you are promoted to Wattpad Stars, the editorial teamoffers insights on how to write effectively.

Immersive writing

When compared to the global Wattpad community, the trend that is emerging in India, is the diversification of writers and the themes they write on. Wattpad India, Devashish observes, has been gaining more visibility in Tier-2 and 3 cities. “The pop culture references are regional, which we don’t see globally. In that sense, it is safe to say that people are expressing themselves in a more hybrid form in India.”

The numbers game
  • Wattpad has over 80 million active users across the world. The average time spent is around 37 minutes, according to a statement released by the company.
  • The demographic of the audience averages between 13 and 34, of which 75% are female. And 45% of Wattpad India’s community is from non-metro cities.
  • Wattpadders, as they are called, have uploaded more than four million stories till date. Silhouette, written by Hermyne Khaling, is the most popular story on the platform, with over 18.7 million reads.

Half a million stories in 50 languages are uploaded on the website daily. Optimising the volume of data published on the platform continues to be a challenge, given that Wattpad is primarily an open-source platform where anyone can publish their content. But the social platform boasts of a built-in algorithm that identifies the right content for the right audience, giving an overall estimate on what the users are consuming. “When you read stories on our platform, our algorithm helps you discover stories of similar themes, which, in turn, gives us a picture on the readers’ taste and sensibility,” he says, “We are always on the lookout for hidden gems, even if people don’t find themselves organically. If we think a story has potential and deserves more love, we recommend it to users.”

By this mechanism, Devashish tells me, they are able to identify what the Indian millennials are reading. He cites the example of a romance, After, written by Anna Todd, which was published on Wattpad in 2013 and registered over a billion reads. “We have about four million story uploads on Wattpad India. We notice that people who visit our platform are hooked on to stories, spending over 30 minutes on average,” he says, “Some of our readers prefer binge-reading and finish off five to seven chapters in one sitting.”

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 7:37:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/long-story-short-about-wattpad/article30849682.ece

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