I’m Muniba, Product Marketing Manager at Wattpad - here to give you a breakdown of what’s happening with offline reading, a subject that has stirred a lot of conversation among Wattpaders around the world.
Testing is an integral part of Wattpad product discovery, and so, over the last few weeks, we were experimenting with a few versions of the Library management experience, including offline reading - which explains why some of you saw a different offline limit than your friends’. We needed to test your real behaviour on our platform, meaning we couldn’t spell out that this was a test, without compromising the integrity of the experiment or creating a bias in the results.
So we chose to stay (mostly) quiet and absorb the feedback. We’re sorry if that gave off the wrong impression and made you feel ignored. In fact, we’re very grateful you took to multiple avenues to share your opinions.
Between the data we captured through your behaviour on the platform, and your many theories (ranging from whether it was a heartless Analyst or cold-blooded Finance bloke who made this decision, to speculation on whether or not Wattpad’s revenue is sufficient to cover the cost of its servers and salaries of its engineers, apparently the only two expenses a multi-platform entertainment company incurs) - we learned a lot. And now that the experiment is over, we’re in the clear to get on with a detailed explanation.
What some of you might not know is that the Library has had offline limits placed on it due to data storage and bandwidth reasons for a long time now - since 2014 or so. This is true for Android, in particular, as having unlimited offline stories for everyone was not doing anyone any favours by crashing apps. It wasn’t great because people had different limits depending on their Operating System, and the feature itself wasn’t refined in that it would auto-download stories at random by prioritizing what you last read and throwing in a couple of guesses. Far from ideal.
The new experience launches officially today, for all users on iOS, with a limit of 2 offline stories. The release on Android will follow in a few weeks’ time. It provides for an interface change to enable you to select which stories you want to save for offline reading, thus handing the control back to you - in terms of the choice of stories you want to read offline, managing your device storage (many readers don’t have 32GB+ mobile phones), and internet consumption (by NOT using your internet connection to automatically download a hefty list of stories in your Library). This should also significantly reduce Library syncing issues, crashes, and hopefully eliminate some bugs where stories were thought to be saved offline but didn’t indicate that they’re online. The new offline/online icon on the interface makes sure you’re always in the know about the state of a story.
We also hope you will appreciate how quick and seamless it is to add and remove stories from your Offline list. Paid Stories don’t count towards the limit and can always be read offline - because we understand that as you have chosen to support a particular writer, you should be able to access their work wherever you go. Premium subscribers are unaffected by the limit and can add unlimited stories to their Offline list.
Some of you have asked why device storage and data usage aren’t considered a concern for Premium subscribers. Great question.
At a baseline level, ALL users can choose which stories to add and remove from their Offline list for free, and as many times as they want - which means ALL users have control over how they manage their device storage and data usage. Premium subscribers simply have additional flexibility in this regard, by way of not having a limit on the volume of stories in that list. It’s important for us to keep creating additional value for our Premium subscribers, and yes, unlimited offline reading is a great perk that will also attract some new readers to sign up to enjoy a supercharged Wattpad experience. But do we expect everyone to suddenly become a Premium subscriber? No. Which is why everyone gets to enjoy Offline reading without having to pay for it, and why we’re also not concerned about syncing and glitches because 100% of our user-base does not and will never have Premium.
Lastly, it was amazing to see how much concern some of you, who are actually unaffected by this change, have shared over the plight of limited connectivity that some of our other users experience in certain parts of the world by advocating for them on this platform. We understand that users in different parts of the world experience different constraints when it comes to connectivity and have not ruled out the possibility that we may need to accommodate some flexibility in the experience over time - please bear with us as we learn what the optimal experience looks like for everyone.
Before you comment on this post, or this change, I encourage you to try to understand our approach in designing it as thoughtfully as possible to benefit all types of users without losing sight of our strategy as a business. We look forward to hearing your constructive feedback.