When WeBook was launched at 2007, the publishing world couldn’t stop talking about it, and for a good reason. In fact, many reasons. The platform offered, for the first time (and almost never again since then) a true solution for artist writers to explore the meaning of social community without giving up their literal standards.
Unfortunately, the site was sold in 2012 to a medium communication corporate. Itai Kohavi, the founder and the CEO said in 2014 that it was premature, and I tend to agree with that. For few reasons:
1. WeBook was launched before the true potential of social platform discovered;
2. The 2008 economic crisis impacted brutally on the publishing industry, which was a key element in the “new publishing world” and because of it they weren’t ready to take a chance with a thing called a “social book”;
3. People were just in the beginning of exploring reading digital books on book readers. In those days many people used to claim that the flourish of eBooks will create a lot of junk literature that wouldn’t even be considered at “traditional” publishers. This huge conversation was a big obstacle to the platform and therefore it couldn’t reach higher numbers of users that could attract big investors (like Facebook and Twitter did from basically same “concept” of social storytelling).
There are many more reasons, but you get the point: WeBook was premature. Today, with better technology (mobile apps), perfect design (even with HTML), and much more liberal atmosphere (culturally and financially) — WeBook could be located as a central social platform, that could have been somewhere between Wattpad, Flipboard, Scribed and Medium.
However, none of the above ever attempted to be a platform of literal stories.
“CEO’s would tell you at conferences that people don’t read like they’ve used to. What they fail to understand is it doesn’t mean those people have stopped reading.”
This is why I think there is a chance for another social platform that would offer a new way of publishing — for the writers, as much as for the readers.
After interviewing thousands of social readers about their online and offline reading habits, I’ve learned that there are millions of readers who are constantly searching for the next best story. And when I say “story” I mean a story, like we used to read, or to be read, before we went to sleep, under the blanket.
Those social readers (40% of them, by the way, don’t read books almost at all) — are looking for a place that they could read a good story, that it won’t take forever to find, and that it would be easy to read on-the-go. Most of the social content platforms fail to do so. Their CEO’s would tell you at conferences that people don’t read like they’ve used to. What they fail to understand is it doesn’t mean those people have stopped reading.
The next social/content/publishing platform should adopt these key expectations from this audience:
1. To define what is a “story”. Unlike every platform today, many people are looking for a story, not a post;
2. To carefully select the writers. Social is democracy. Don’t be a democracy. Good writers (who write good stories) usually contribute better to places where there are true good writers among them;
3. To charge money (at least for premium content): Readers pay for content they like to read. Even if they look for the best sale/offer/bargain, they’d still pay for something they appreciate its work. If you are looking for a “big number” platform, this audience of readers and writers are not for you;
4. To establish intimacy and privacy. Reading for fun is something that is done alone. This is the most anti-social thing there is. However, social readers like to share quality content among their peers and recommend it. The next platform which will know to balance those needs — will win the stories’ seekers hearts;
5. No pre-settings. Today’s technology and algorithms allow you to be smart enough not to bother your readers to pre-set their reading preferences. You don’t pre-set a book, you test if it’s adjusted to you.
I’m already working on that kind of platform, and I hope more platforms will address this type of audience. There is a huge potential of social impact, business opportunities, and revenue models that all sides, including the writers, could benefit from.
Will it be the next best thing? Will yours?