As I’m sure the majority of Wattpad users are now aware, the site has recently introduced a video-advertising scheme, also known as Wattpad Futures.
Being a member of the Wattpad Stars, I was offered the opportunity to trial the adverts in my stories, and had two very contrasting thoughts about it:
1 – it’s great that I’ll have the opportunity to make money from writing
2 – are these ads going to interfere with the reading experience and annoy other users?
I’ve been lucky enough to gain a following of some truly wonderful readers. They’re loyal, kind and eager to support me. Although I’m sure some of it is luck, I’ve always tried to do my part in treating readers with a great deal of respect. As much as possible, I send lengthy responses to anyone who leaves me a detailed comment or message, as well as acknowledging the shorter posts, too. I enjoy promoting undiscovered writers to my followers and always take the time to offer tips or advice to those who ask for it.
So whilst I was keen not to damage the strong relationship I have with my readers by “forcing” them to watch ads, I didn’t consider it having the opposite effect: my followers wanted to watch the adverts because they wanted to support me. They were happy—excited, even—for me. It was incredibly heart-warming, and I’ve since received messages from people saying they flicked through all my books to find adverts, just so they could click on them in the hope it’d contribute towards me earning money.
Of course, I’ve also received some negativity regarding it, but 99% of that turns into understanding, and then support, once you explain the purpose of ads.
Wattpad can’t remain free forever. It’s a growing site and, with that, comes increasing costs to run it. The alterative to ads would be charging users to read and write on there, and I can’t imagine that would go down well, either.
Nowadays, you’d struggle to find any free online platform that isn’t funded by advertising. If you want to listen to free music on Spotify, you have to listen to ads. If you want to watch videos on YouTube, you have to watch ads.
The biggest argument I’ve seen, and one which I understand to a certain extent, is people claiming it’s not fair that only some users have the ads—as if it’s some kind of exclusive club. Having seen the amount of work that the Wattpad staff are putting into this scheme, I realised how unrealistic it would be for every user to have adverts at this early point in time (there are over 2 million writers on the site). It’s still new; they’re continuing to iron out the kinks and optimise the adverts so they’re not as disruptive. It’s almost contradictory for users to complain about the intrusive nature of ads, but then say that every user should have them.
Unfortunately, it does seem like a lot of the negativity is fuelled by jealousy, and that makes me sad when I know what a supportive platform Wattpad is. Writers put hours’, days’ and weeks’ worth of effort into creating a chapter that will take a reader just minutes to consume. Most of the adverts I’ve seen on Wattpad have the option to skip after just five seconds. It’s such a short amount of time—and effort—for the reader in the grand scheme of things.
In the past, I’ve taken down a story because I couldn’t handle the intense pressure of uploading due to rude and abusive messages telling me I was being “selfish” by not writing quickly enough. Writing had stopped being an enjoyable hobby and had instead become a chore where I was putting myself under unhealthy pressure just to please the people who were attacking me.
Then there were different readers on a different story who told me I deserved to lose followers because I hadn’t updated in two weeks.
It’d be ironic if these were the same readers who condemn writers having adverts in their stories. After all, if you’re enjoying a book to the extent that you’re seeing multiple adverts—which only show up every 20-30 minutes—then surely you should want to support the writer who has created the story that you’re so engrossed in?
Like with many things today, it’s often those with a negative viewpoint who shout the loudest and get their voices heard. And, as the program is only open to limited writers at the moment, it’s easy for other users to band together and take out their frustrations not only on the site, but also on the writers who’ve been selected to take part—as if they don’t have the right to want to earn money for their writing.
All in all, though, I definitely think the video advertising scheme shows promise for the future. Wattpad is always keen to reward its writers, and I’m sure this is just a small step towards even bigger things.