The value of free

Allen Lau on how Wattpad leverages free content.


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We’ve been talking about pricing in July, and how could the conversation be complete without coverage of the free content model? Wattpad is a fairly new company that’s built completely upon free content. In the following interview, I talk with Wattpad CEO and co-founder Allen Lau about how they’re leveraging free content and how you might be able to as well.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Sharing and discovery — The numbers are impressive, as Wattpad serves almost 10 million unique visitors every month who post their own content as well as read submissions from other community members. [Discussed at the 0:48 mark.]
  • Connecting readers and writers — Publishers need to establish a direct relationship with their customers, and this is something Wattpad excels at. [Discussed at 1:34.]
  • Paid content is not on the horizon — Allen doesn’t want to rule anything out, but at this point, Wattpad is more focused on creating reader/writer connections, not charging for content. [Discussed at 2:10.]
  • How can “free” benefit authors? Visibility and discoverability on Wattpad lead to a number of other benefits, including monetization elsewhere. [Discussed at 2:58.]
  • How can a sustainable company be built on “free”? — Allen is a bit coy with his answer to this one, but it’s clear Wattpad’s goal is to build an enormous content platform first and the revenue will follow. [Discussed at 6:43.]
  • The Margaret Atwood deal — Ms. Atwood clearly understands the rules of publishing are changing, and she appreciates the community benefits Wattpad has to offer. [Discussed at 8:30.]
  • Wattpad’s customer base is evolving — Like many new online services, Wattpad has its roots in the teen market, but that is rapidly changing. [Discussed at 10:12.]
  • Don’t fear “free” — Wattpad isn’t some outlier the publishing industry can ignore. There are plenty of opportunities for any publisher to experiment with free and freemium content. Don’t forget that we’re competing for people’s time, and much of that time is currently spent reading free content. [Discussed at 11:19.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

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