Monday, March 24, 2014

Wattpad: Brilliant insight? Luckly? Or...what?

It should be stating the obvious that there has been a tight connection between technology and the media. It goes back to Gutenberg and his moveable type, starting the process of replacing scribes; the steam driven rotary press lowering the costs and thus expanding the reach of the media; motion pictures, to radio and then television broadcasting then satellites further lowering the cost of distribution and now the Internet, disinter-mediating both downstream (from creator to user) and upstream content flows.

Social networking is really about the confluence of upstream and downstream communication: It's not just about others telling us something but us being able to respond in near real time--or much later. Unlike the telephone, the process is in documentary form. That is, it is archival.

All this is preamble to yet another innovative media model that has been technology enabled. I am referring to the new story telling platforms, of which Wattpad may be the most popular. With this, writing of fiction, heretofore thought of as perhaps the most solitary form of writing is being transformed into an activity nearly the opposite. An article in the New York Times today indicated that fiction writing can become social, informal and intimate, "with the results not only consumed but often composed on the fly."

Wattspad claims to have 2 million writers producing 100,000 pieces of material a day for 20 million readers around the world. While some pessimists are already lamenting that this will be the end of the novel, Charles Melcher, a publishing consultant contends that the novel is "simply evolving."

It's only deep in the article that the author tells us about the founding and evolution of Wattpad:

Wattpad might seem an overnight success, but it struggled for years to break through. Mr. Lau and Ivan Yuen were Canadian tech entrepreneurs interested in mobile reading. They released an app in 2006, but this was before the Kindle and the iPhone, and it struggled to gain momentum. Adding 17,000 public domain books did not do much. But then writers began to post original works, and the site caught the mobile wave.
What is your take-away from this story--about the business as opposed to the future of the novel? What is--or could be--its business model?

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