Wattpad is an online community where readers and writers can create and discover new user-generated stories spanning across multiple genres including classics, general fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, poetry, spiritual, and teen fiction. More than 400 million uploads have been shared on the platform, which has a total monthly audience of over 60 million people.
Aron Levitz is head of Wattpad Studios, a division of the company that helps connect the entertainment and publishing industries with original content created by Wattpad Stars, the biggest influencers on the platform. In recent months, Levitz has helped close content deals with Lionsgate, Entertainment One, and Fullscreen Media. Previously, Levitz was head of business development at the company where helped establish the company’s monetization strategy and launched Wattpad Brand Stories, a native advertising solution. He was also instrumental in launching the Wattpad Stars program that gives top influencers access to a variety of paid and promotional opportunities.
This week Levitz discusses utilizing data in storytelling, the type of content that publishers are most eager to work with, and the next big trend that is buzzing in the Wattpad community.
What do you see as the most valuable piece of data Wattpad can give insight on and why?
There is no one piece of data that is the most valuable. The most valuable thing you get from data is precisely what you don’t know right now. It’s the information that exists, but can only be uncovered by Machine Learning and AI technology. That’s what we offer.
Having helped build the bridge between the Wattpad community and big name players like Paramount studios and Lionsgate, what genre of content are entertainment and publishing executives most eager to work with?
Studios want something new and they want something with a built-in audience. As more and more entertainment players are making big bets on content, they want to know that whatever they genre they’re working with, they are bringing audiences something they are already excited about. Many of the most exciting stories now offer a mixture of genres. Everything from horror comedy or romance with action. Because regardless of the genre, great storytelling resonates.
You have said in the past that Wattpad can almost predict when a trend in entertainment — like Vampires or Zombies– will rise or fall. What’s the next big trend you see coming and what’s on its way out?
True to their name, zombies never die. And on Wattpad they are always popular, this year included. In recent years, mermaids have been a consistent trend. And while they saw continued popularity this year, there was an important difference: in 2017, mermaids became evil! Dark mermaids rose in popularity. An unexpected trend this year was the rise of cannibal stories, which exploded with millions of reading hours.
An important development this year involved stories about diversity and inclusion. Stories and tags that include people of colour and members of the LGBTQ community were immensely popular in 2017. This is a great example of how audience insights work: the Wattpad community is invested in producing and consuming stories that feature diverse characters. Industry executives should take note.
How does the payout work when a creator on the platform sells their story to a studio v.s. them maintaining a consistent following on the platform? Will Wattpad ever be a place creators can turn to as their sole source of income, as some creators have done with YouTube?
Wattpad is a place that empowers and rewards writers. This is true when they are solely writing for a Wattpad audience or when we are working with them to license their stories to studios and publishers.
Right now our focus is on making Wattpad the best place for any writer to share their voice and build a community of followers. A big part of this is finding the best writers on Wattpad and helping them make money from their stories. This includes helping them find publishing, TV and film deals. But we also help emerging writers, sharing in advertising revenue or connecting them with brands. As Wattpad continues to grow and evolve, we’ll introduce more ways to reward more writers.
Wattpad writers are writers first and foremost. Will there be more opportunities for our writers to write full time in the future? Absolutely.
VideoInk: How can an executive utilize the data given through Wattpad insights?
Aron Levitz: All across the industry, projects fail. Shows are cancelled and films bomb. Why? Because executives make decisions based on what they think will work. People rely on their experience to rationalize intuitive decision-making. We’re coming to the end of that era. Working with Wattpad’s data means access to the trends, interactions and insights that are generated by a global community of more than 60 million people enjoying more than 400 million story uploads.
Entertainment executives can use these insights to make better decisions and, ultimately, succeed more often. Everyone pours a lot into projects in this industry. People spend a lot of time, money and creativity. Working with data means a better chance of success and a higher return on your investment.