Anti-bullying and LGBTQ: what Wattpad’s data tells us about what readers want now

Anti-bullying and LGBTQ: what Wattpad’s data tells us about what readers want now

Technology has changed many things, not least of which is the way we can--or perhaps should--make decisions. Every company, in publishing or any other industry, needs to become a technology company. Not every company will want or need to employ an army of engineers, but the overall ethos and embrace of data-based decision making is an evolution everyone needs to embrace.

That’s where we come in. At Wattpad we’re helping the entire publishing industry make this transition, bridging the traditional publishing model and the new ways of making decisions based on data. As is often the case, innovation plus scale provides new opportunities to understand how people interact with our products. As Wattpad has grown to a community of more than 60 million people who spend over 15 billion minutes a month engaged in original stories, we’ve been able to see trends on a larger scale than anyone else in the publishing industry. This has enabled us to find new voices and understand what readers and writers are passionate about.

In 2017 we noticed a number of trends that stood out. These trends don’t just reflect what people want to read or write about. They reflect what people really care about, and the real world topics that drive people to create and consume content in the first place. Some of the most compelling and important trends we saw reflected many of the wider social conversations that dominated politics and publishing on traditional and social media.

Diversity in publishing was an important industry conversation this year and an important trend on Wattpad. In 2017 there was an increase in Fantasy and Science Fiction stories featuring a diverse main cast. Fantasy and Science Fiction stories tagged #PoC had an average of 4.8 million reading reading minutes each month in 2017, and over the course of the year there an 84% growth in reading time for genre stories with diverse characters.

Readers and writers on Wattpad also mobilized to increase the number of prominent LGBTQ characters in fiction. Writers used the tag #FreetheLGBT to indicate a story that features LGBTQ characters in the main cast, while readers spent an average of 13 million minutes reading these stories. There was a surge of these stories after Pride Month as Wattpad writers took up the cause of LGBTQ representation in fiction. The global community added 2,500 new story uploads in July, doubling the number of monthly uploads from earlier in the year.

In addition to championing representation for minority groups, themes around anti-bullying and body positivity were important trends this year. Stories tagged with #NoMoreBullying, #BodyPositivity, and related themes racked up an average monthly reading time of 8 million minutes, powered by thousands of story uploads throughout the year.

Many of these macro trends crystallized in stories that stood out in popularity and as representatives of the causes that motivated them. @Vapid_Ink’s Vigilante is an LGBTQ-led superhero story, and was among the top stories in Action this year, with more than 2 million reading minutes. Similarly, @ClaireKann’s #FatGirl Magic was a community favourite among stories championing #BodyPositivity. The story, which set out to create more space in YA to celebrate people of color and every body type, currently has more than 1 million reads. 

Each of these trends towards diversity, inclusion and minority representation in storytelling generated a massive amount of reading time this year. Stories with diversity tags that included #PoC, #Diversity, #DiverseLit, #FreetheLGBT and #LGBTQ+ reach an average of 30 million reading minutes each month.

These aren’t just trends for 2017. These are movements that will define the future of fiction, both on Wattpad and for traditional publishers. Access to data and scale are what reveal these trends, helping us understand not just the calls for diversity, but the fact that people are actively seeking out diverse content and creating it when they aren’t satisfied with what’s available.

This is the type of insight that should fuel decisions across the industry. One prediction I’m certain will come true in the coming years is that everyone will pay more attention to data. And as publishers partner with technology companies like Wattpad, we’ll all be able to work together to mine insights about what reader and writers want, creating a more equitable industry for creators and dreamers alike.