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Wattpad scraps ‘Paid Stories’ for better balanced freemium model

The community storytelling platform has decided to scrap its paywall feature in favour of a new freemium model. ‘Wattpad Originals’ aims to strike a better balance for authors in terms of monetisation and growing their readership through non-paying users.

If this is the first you’re hearing of Wattpad, you’re welcome.

The bustling online community is brimming with literary talent that may have otherwise never been discovered and a constantly growing library of content.

Whether you’re a first-time author wanting eyes on your work, an experienced writer dreaming of commercial success, or an avid reader wanting to expand your horizons, Wattpad provides an abundance of great opportunities. Check out our detailed overview from 2020.

Since launching in 2006, over 1 billion original literary pieces have been uploaded, feature films have been created for streaming services, and an average of 85 million users reportedly visit the app each month to create and consume – 80% of whom are millennials or Gen Z.

Over the last five years, $10 million has been paid out to Wattpad authors through a feature called ‘Paid Stories’, according to TechCrunch.

Billed as a revolutionary way to create revenue streams for its contributors, the 2019 change basically introduced a paywall to view content that could be unlocked through spending in-app currency called ‘coins’.

Packs for these – beginning at $0.99 for nine coins and maxing out at $7.99 for 230 coins – allowed the company to pay creators while taking a cut of the redirected cashflow.

Alternatively, users could pay a monthly subscription fee of $7.99 to unlock all content and the system worked relatively well.

In lieu of taking Wattpad to the next level, however, seniors at the company have now decided to scrap Paid Stories entirely and implement a freemium model with more immediate benefits for authors and readers dubbed ‘Wattpad Originals’.

On the former, the update is intended to give authors the best of both worlds regarding monetisation and growing their audience, instead of focusing on one to the detriment of the other.

‘It was harder for a story to go viral or suddenly pick up new readers at the same rate as a free story. So, for some authors, the program created a difficult choice between quickly growing the readership for a free story or monetising and accepting the potential of slower audience growth,’ said head of content Nick Uskoski.

In order to eliminate this disparity, after a story is uploaded (whether in full or a rolling chapter basis) authors can now choose specific points at which to add a paywall. While previously, readers would be blocked off as the default, they can now try before they buy.

Alternatively, readers can choose to wait out incremental periods to unlock content for free. Whenever a new chapter is added to a live story, for instance, the previous one will instantly become available to view for no charge.

‘For the most recent story in a series, only the most recent ten chapters will ever be behind a paywall,’ Wattpad explains. ‘Readers will be able to see how long they need to wait until the next part will be available for free.’

Provided we see the changes actioned without any surprise caveats, it sounds like Wattpad is on it’s way to becoming less restrictive and more inclusive. At it’s core, the site recommends that the creatives be supported for their endeavours, but further agency is given to the user.

Hopefully authors and bookworms alike take to the changes.