Let's Talk About WattCoins and Premium!

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#1

@nick @Wattpad
“You know the drill by now. Get the Coinage!” - Sensei, i-ninja (PS2)

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.

illusionofchoice_jennabresnahan
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).

Benefits?
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.

Thanks,

Renoe_K.

“You know the drill by now. Get the coinage!” - Sensei (i-Ninja PS2)


LOL35 Chat-thread for women writers aged 35+ (read 1st post before joining)
#2

ALL OF THIS


#3

You have well thought out points. It makes me wonder if wattpad is really playing the game of cat and mouse.

Now I’m going to take a seat because it’s about to get messy in here.


#4

A Pose .gif for all the wins!!


#5

Nowadays, Facebook seems to be the ideal income model for free sites. Ad revenue and individual purchase don’t seem to make as much money today as selling user trends and personal user information.

Obviously, I’m not accusing WP of this. It’s a small company. But for other larger companies, it seems the way to go to be truly profitable.


#6

I’m not personally thrilled with the idea because by my calculations, I wouldn’t generate hardly enough income to be considered “sustainable” by industry terms. (Let alone planning for my eventual retirement in about 22 years.)

Not when you’re competing against so many millions of writers who don’t exactly have full command or control of their writing talents yet. And given my experiences on this site, I’m not fully convinced people will actually stay around this time to actually finish the (cowbell!) book!

On top of that, 90% of this site is run for teens with teens in mind (not adults) and the overpowering demographic is female.

So I’m not sure what Wattpad’s overall game plan is, but I don’t see anyone who is serious about their work and wanting to make some actual money beyond Wattpad will want to stay connected with the site for those very reasons at any rate.

For the cost of those coins and the meager profit margins being “discussed” by various users on here, I would stand a far better chance making real money as an indie author than I would staying on Wattpad for the foreseeable future. (The irony of this new roll out is that everyone here wants me GONE forever (like two weeks ago), so I wouldn’t benefit from this move anyways.)

Not since people here only read three chapters of any of my given novels in the past 5 years and dropped them soon after like the plague. (I’m sorry everyone, but I just don’t write “The QB Bad Boy and Me” type stories that get 24.6 million reads.)

That’s not a realistic career move for someone like me–betting the farm on readers doing just that and nothing else.

Not since I am always planning long term with realistic goals in mind. It’s just unfortunate that writing sites like Wattpad couldn’t further them into something more sustainable and worthwhile to be considered a “sound investment” for serious writers like myself.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m about to leave soon and not come back.


#7

WOW.

All of this.

WOW


#8

I’m a NEXT writer and I am serious about my work. I publish on all platforms and see wattpad being part of my publishing plan, not the end-all, be-all.


#9

How do these ads work with adblockers? I assume the work like every other?


#10

I definitely agree with having more options to generate Wattpad, and authors, more revenue than just “coins” to unlock stories.

I love the idea of watching ads to get past to the other chapter. I’ve done this before and would easily do it again.

I also would like to tip authors that deserve it.

I also love the idea of Wattpad Next in a way. I wouldn’t mind it if it wasn’t so sneaky about. Labeling it “Sponsored” makes it sound like the stories are far superior. Simultaneously, placing Next books adjacent to the free books reminds me that these are not completely professionally edited novels and I am not paying for a well-rounded piece of work, but rather it’s still a donation. A forced donation.

I personally would love it if Wattpad Next books had their entirely own section of Wattpad. I am also fine with Wattpad advertising them. I just want to see a clear distinction. Kind of like on Amazon where there are Amazon books and Amazon Kindle books.

The issue is these stories are appearing to not be paid for by just being “Sponsored” and are overshadowing other works. Which is why I want to see it in a different space on Wattpad. I would like to be able to cruise all of those works, knowing I have to pay for them.

I support Wattpad Next overall. It’s the next logical step for the website. I just think it fails when those stories are so integrated into the free ones. They need to be separated a bit more, in my opinion.

Personally I am fine with authors wanting money for their work. I just wish it didn’t appear so “forced”. I’d rather it be obvious that I have to pay for these stories, so when I click on them, I realize I am being generous by giving the author money. It feels like an advanced form of tipping that way for me. I’d love to support others. I just want it to be organized differently.


#11

I knew wattpad would become more like this after they introduced premium. They’re just like YouTube now.

I mean, after a while, you kinda get used to the ads, but what if they take the entire app away and make us have to pay for every book we read. And this doesn’t encourage other writers to keep writing, it does the complete opposite. Only some will get paid with the new program from what I understand. We know wattpad isn’t fair to all. And why would the site want to make profit off of someone else?


#12

what a well-structured post, love it! great points! i do prefer the idea of tipping to the paywall in general, but if wattpad seems set on the coin system, this is a great alternative idea.


#13

First of all, that i-ninja reference is way too deep. That’s pulling from the depths of the PS2 catalogue right there. Dark.

Second, why was I tagged?

Also I was tagged before Wattpad was even tagged, personal win I’m taking there


#14

lol, don’t blame me. I literally only really know two ‘real faces’ of Wattpad. First is you, the other is Orangutan-san. (I definitely misspelled that.) Figured it’d be nice to know what someone at Watty thinks of this.

Also, yeah that’s one from the depths of PS2. Popped up in my head just as I was about to start writing. Never had a quote fit so nicely before! :joy:


#15

Given you’ve mentioned an Orangutan there, I’m not sure I constitute a ‘real’ face, but I’ll take the compliment.


#16

I’m not sure about the illusion of choice argument you can make though in that it makes a huge assumption that can’t be proved, treats it as true, and then continues the argument from there, namely:

All “good” content will be paid (and that no new good free content will appear).

There’s nothing that says this is what has currently happened or even what will happen in the future. The current sample size is less than 20 English stories, which is very, very far from all the “good” stories. We’ve made no claims to say we want all the best content behind a paywall and that everything else will be on the sidelines. This is certainly a fear one can have and explore but I wouldn’t classify it as a truth to start making counter-arguments or solutions for. It doesn’t factor three main things:

  1. Wattpad doesn’t have internal limits on how many people could join and on how many would we want to join (as in we can’t hire infinite people and we also have a mandate here that Wattpad is and must be free and that we thus could not lock all the most popular content).

  2. That no new content would be created of any quality that wouldn’t immediately be placed in the program or that no new authors will come to create content anymore.

  3. Most important, it neglects author choice! No author is forced into the program or required to be a part of it for being on Wattpad. If someone wrote an awesome story they love giving away for free (like me), then they can reject the opportunity and just keep giving away their story for free. Wattpad doesn’t own content here so we couldn’t lock it away without the right to distribute it, which each individual author has.

Otherwise, I’ll say what I say about all the other options mentioned or any of the solutions, which is that all of them are still very much on the table. We’ve mentioned it many times, this is just one part of many possible solutions to this problem. Unfortunately Wattpad is a monolithic entity that is very slow moving. Just adding the US to the system taxed it heavily, so we have to creep along and move all these pieces into place without just turning off Wattpad for a week or month. Which means that our designs for many alternatives to payment, from tipping to just waiting to pay for early access to earning coins in other ways to promotions and on and on and on are definitely going to be there and are very likely to be explored in some capacity.

Just takes a lot of time.


#17

I agree with all of this.

BUT.

Wattpad already put ads in everyone’s stories. I get them after every chapter. I’m not sure how much more aggressive they could get. (If you’re following the YouTube model.)


#18

Cue the ambassadors saying, “This is only a fraction of the stories. Millions will still be free to read.”


#19

“This is only a fraction of the stories. Millions will still be free to read.” - there you go.


#20

Sorry, being facetious. But Nick’s comments above are very much worth reading and thinking through. We’re very early days here. There are many possible futures, solutions, and outcomes.