Hi there, before kicking off this discussion, a little background on myself. I, Renoe_K, am an author and reader on Wattpad. I joined Wattpad as far back as 2010 on my old account @Ralphy94, which I later scrapped and switched to @Renoe_K in 2012. I’ve successfully written one fantasy story which dominated the charts during its time, and am currently on Vol.4 of a sci-fi series that regularly competes for the top spot in science fiction (when I’m active).
The reason I listed this stats despite the danger of coming off as an arrogant asshat is to highlight the fact that what I’m going to talk about comes from the mind of a 9-years long reader, and writer, who has more or less understood how to attract readers to my works and also knows what can cause a reader to move away from a reading site.
LET’S TALK ABOUT COINAGE
Watty Coins, if you do not know about them already, is Wattpad’s latest experiment to try and make a sustainable profit through the books on its site, as well as encourage its authors to write more through monetization. The basic premise is simple. Readers buy a stack of coins from Wattpad directly, then give some of those coins to authors in order to unlock stories.
The value of the coins given to the author are calculated, and the author receives a percentage amount of the profit. Are we following? Let me bullet point it:
- Step 1: Reader pays for a bunch of coins (assume 66 coins for 4 dollars)
- Step 2: User redeems all 66 coins on one author (assumption for the purposes of clarity)
- Step 3: Wattpad calculates that the author receives 4 dollars worth of coins
- Step 4: Wattpad splits 4 dollars with the author, giving the author a share of the profit
I have no clue what the wattpad-author split is, but, assuming a ridiculously generous 50-50 split between, Wattpad would get 2 dollars, while the author gets 2 dollars.
Now, this, at first sight, seems like an in-house Patreon for authors… that is, until you consider that the coins are used to unlock chapters. Key word is unlock. Authors who are part of Wattpad-Next currently have a bunch of their chapters permanently locked behind these coins. The only way for readers to access these chapters is then through the use of coins.
THE ISSUE WITH COINS
Before I go any further, I would be remiss to not point out that Wattpad is not the first online reading site to try out this format. Another mega-popular reading site (albeit for mostly eastern fiction), Webnovel is currently implementing this current model in their stories.
Unfortunately, Webnovel’s forceful method of making readers pay in excess for their novels has led to many casual readers either abandoning the site or sticking only to a very few handful of novels. This has greatly stifled the growth of new authors looking to join the site. For full disclaimer, I must also state that from a profits standpoint, the company is actually making more money than ever before, because just like the current gaming industry, their business model is geared towards the top 5% who have all the money and time in the world. Those guys would pay whatever it took to read their books, common readers be damned.
If Wattpad is also seeking a pure-profits approach, then sure, the coinage system would definitely work. However, it will almost definitely rub common users the wrong way, as they have limited funds and would be forced to pick a single book to stick to.
Also, despite the fact that Wattpad is certainly not a non-profit company, and has never claimed to be one, the common conception of Wattpad is ‘A free site to read free books.’ Unlike Webnovel, which came out of the gates greedy, and slowly upped their greediness, Wattpad has always had a saintly brand image which is in danger of being stained by this issue.
If you’ve read this far… Congratulations! It’s not all doom and gloom. I feel there is a solution to this problem that benefits both users and Wattpad alike without tampering with the Wattpad-next program.
THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE AND THE CORNERED RAT
I can’t remember where I first heard the phrase, “Illusion of Choice.” But the phenomenon is one that I feel can be applied to this situation.
For those who don’t know, Illusion of Choice is a phenomenon when someone is fooled or tricked into thinking they have multiple options when in reality they are just picking the lesser of two evils, both of which benefit the provider of the choices. This is in stark contrast to the ‘cornered rat’ that is backed away into a corner and sees no other choice to live other than fight to the death.
In Wattpad’s current situation, a good portion of their userbase will certainly feel like cornered rats when all the excellent stories join Wattpad-Next and they are forced to pay out of pocket to read these books. Faced with this situation, some will rage, some will quit the site altogether, and some will reluctantly give in and stick to only one or a handful of books, all the while holding a grudge against the site from that moment.
It is imperative the userbase is turned from ‘cornered rats’ to ‘having choices.’
What do I mean by that? Simple, offer an alternative to paying coins!
I’ve heard that Premium users can currently read all coinage stories for free. This is EXCELLENT as it provides a choice for readers who can’t afford to individually pay for all the stories. However, assuming this feature is not rolled out when Next goes live (It renders the coins completely irrelevant afterall, but it would be like Netflix vs Blockbuster. We know who win in the end. Keep Premium!), then there is another option.
WATCH ADS TO READ
Now this won’t make sense at all. Watch ads to read? Users hate ads! No one wants to watch ads. That is all true, but when the alternative is coinage, as someone who once read on Webnovel when some of its novels utilized ‘Watch Ad to unlock chapter’, I can testify that almost all users happily watched the ads to unlock the chapters.
How would this work?
Well, just like users have the option of paying a certain amount of coins to unlock chapters, readers get the option to watch an ad to unlock chapters. These ads will be unskippable, and last about 30s --60s (I find 30s to be the sweet spot) ensuring you get full revenue from them (before the bonus from clicking on the ad).
Ads are annoying. So, if someone is willing to watch 30-60s ads continuously over a 30-chapter book, then it means that person is most likely strapped for cash and would have never paid for coinage anyway. People (like me) who hate ads will either pay Premium, or buy coins to unlock chapters without seeing ads.
This method (from a cynical standpoint) ensures Wattpad as a business, is earning the maximum amount of money from all tiers of readers: Poor, Well-to-do, and rich.
From a less cynical, and reader standpoint, it ensures that no reader feels gated off from content regardless of their wealth class.
This also plays into the illusion of choice phenomena. Rather than being pissed off because they don’t have coins, readers now see they have three choices: Coins, Premium or Ads. All of a sudden, the readers are not being backed into a corner, but making a conscious decision to pick one of the above three!
Remember, Wattpad’s greatest strength over every other reading is that it is for EVERYBODY. Keep it that way, and watch the profits fly in and the userbase happy.
As an aside, Youtube is moving to a similar model, now that it has Premium. In recent weeks, the number of unskippable ads has skyrocketed, but nobody’s complaining because, if you don’t want ads, buy premium! The choice is present to every user so no one feels left out. This is also why Youtube Red never really kicked off until Youtube starting producing their own content with Youtube Originals, which is the only reason a few people are now going premium.
So, anyway, I have rambled on for far too long! Do you agree, disagree. Share your thoughts. I’m available to clarify any part of this long-ass article you might not have understood.
“You know the drill by now. Get the coinage!” - Sensei (i-Ninja PS2)