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Startup

WatStory is a publishing platform and multilingual community for writing in English and Indian local languages

Hello Rodinhooders,

Hope the New Year has been really exciting and full of new possibilities. I have been working on WatStory over the last few months and we had been conducting a public beta since September’2015. I would love to get your feedback on WatStory. Some information on who we are below:

What is WatStory?

WatStory , is a Multilingual Community for Writing and Reading. It has a native content editor and currently supports content writing and blogging in English, Hindi and Bengali. It easily extendible to other Indian and Global languages as well. We offer users a seamless and immersive transition across content creation and reading in different languages by just clicking a “Change Language” button, which changes the site copy, the content shown and even the language used for writing.

WatStory is for people who are at various stages of writing ability to create without limitations, encourage each other and grow together as a community.  Many people using WatStory are new to writing and enjoy writing and reading. There is no limitation on kind of content people write. It could be fiction or non-fiction, long form or short form, prose or poetry etc.  People can read and share content without registering or logging in. Content creators own the copyright to the content they create. Both reading and writing are free. We have no ads shown on site.

How the idea came about

WatStory was started as we as co-founders wanted to write stories and share our experiences about travel, about other things. We looked at a lot of blogging platforms and writing focused sites on the internet and did not find what we were looking for such as support for writing in Indian languages. Even the largest writing communities and blogging platforms, including the ones with a big Indian audience provide no to limited support for Indian languages.  

While going through a few existing platforms we observed the following: many people would create a blog for example but then not publish anything, many people stopped publishing after a few times perhaps due to lack of engagement and even those people who were publishing regularly had limited to no engagement. The situation was worse if you are creating in a language other than English.

Also while looking for Hindi and Bengali content on many digital publishing and e-commerce sites a major portion of the content listed was from pre-independence, the stories by Prem Chand, Rabindra Nath Tagore. The lack of regional language content has been cited as one the biggest hurdles in Internet adoption in India as per a joint report by IMRB and IAMAI report (Financial Express). The sheer lack of regional language content can also be seen by comparing the number of Wikipedia articles in Hindi versus say Swedish (100,000 in Hindi versus 2 Million+ in Swedish) (Wikipedia), particularly considering the huge difference in number of people who use Hindi as native language versus Swedish (260 Million in Hindi vs. 9 Million for Swedish; Data from Ethnologue).

Problems solved, what the users get

For the experienced and new writers, WatStory provides a seamless content creation interface to write great stories and articles comfortably in English and local languages. WatStory offers a platform to test new stories, experiment with creative process, engage with a highly encouraging group of readers, gauge reader interest in new ideas and build an audience.

As per our own experience and talking to new writers we understand that even if after lot of effort you end up writing something substantial a book for example, it is hard to get published. WatStory helps people to test the concept, build an audience and by the time they finish or are ready to publish, the story has been crowd-curated and can be used to market the book if you decide to publish it in print or digital. Also the writer’s current audience on WatStory can help evangelize the book, considering they have been with the writer in the entire journey of writing. 

For the readers, WatStory offers free reading access to an extensive collection of stories and ideas in English and local languages. Plus readers themselves are getting encouraged and inspired to write and share their stories and ideas.

WatStory Current Status

We already have 140+ content pieces (stories, poetry…) across English, Hindi, Bengali.

How WatStory has helped its current users

Over the last few months, we observed the following about the people using WatStory:

  • They are writing and reading more regularly because of the encouragement they are receiving on WatStory
  • Their ability to communicate and write is improving as they progress to write longer content and stories
  • They are getting introduced to new ideas and content forms all the time. I, for example, learnt about Bizarro Fiction, a new emerging genre by reading stories of a WatStory user
  • Their attention span is increasing as they spend more time reading and are not shown ads at all
  • They are experimenting across languages by writing not only in English but also in Hindi and Bengali

Equally important is that the content people create in Indian languages has been useful for a lot of people who are multilingual or like reading in Indian languages.

Useful Links and WatStory’s Social Media Co-ordinates

I look forward to your feedback.

My email address (varunchawla@watstory.com)

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10 Comments

  1. hey varun,

    so i like how you’ve positioned watstory (what’s the story behind the name, btw??) – the write magical stories…. orange box stuff. resonates.

    how different are you from pratilipi? is the only difference of the community?

    http://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/you-become-what-you-read-www-pratilipi-com

    i went to your community page – does one have to sign up and then be able to see how the community works (for trh can see everything but can’t post or interact unless you’re a member)

    and the run-of-the-mill q – how do you plan to make money?

  2. Hi Asha, 

    The name came about as “WAT” in WatStory stands for “Work and Travel”. Also as the current short lingo Wat being used often instead of What. Fun fact the domain Whatstory.com is very expensive unlike WatStory.com.

    As per my understanding Pratilipi’s aim is to build a reading habit in India. As per my conversation with multiple people across our userbase, through our personal networks, through a user survey we did and also talking to new writers people do already read a lot. What we find and people agree is that there is lack of long meaningful content in India particularly in non-English languages. Even, in English the published books are very constrained in narrow genres which are considered marketable right now. The content we often see on social media like Facebook is listicles or journalistic. As you highlighted Pratilipi, I understand a lot of traffic that comes to their site is to read works of Prem Chand and Rabindranath Tagore showing people do read and could do with new content in local languages. Add to this getting published by mailing Penguin and Random House is a hard thing for a newbie writers, again based on personal experience of founding team and conversations with new writers who are in the process of getting published. So all in all we are let us say helping the writing talent, identifying them, encouraging them and will work to connect them to opportunities to monetize. More like YouTube of multilingual long form content to help our users make money. This is reflected in the site design with “Write Story” on the top bar, the ability to follow writers so that they can build following, we will add features to follow stories as we already see people are graduating to write serialized/chapter wise stories.

    On WatStory you can read content, share content without signing up. To write, post comments, like stories, follow writers you need to sign up and login. 

    On the money making part, we have some models in the works which we will test as we go along but not keen generate revenue through ads as we find that kills the user experience. We could for instance connect the writer base to publishing houses once we can help them build a following, connect them to other writing assignments. Considering the content is going to be original, copyrighted the content itself will become valuable.

  3. Are you in conflict with WatConsult which has been operating Wat X businesses for a long time!

    https://www.watconsult.com/

  4. Hello Alok Sir,

    Old time user of Contest2win, thanks for creating it. Also thanks for the LinkedIn tip around asking question along with the company name right in the beginning of a conference, I am definitely going to use it.

    So I just checked out WATConsult and we do not currently provide or intend to provide Digital Marketing, SEO, Mobile Marketing etc. which form their portfolio. 

    The WAT part of our name comes from the fact that we use “Wat” instead of What in our IM exchanges, WAT also stands for Work and Travel and that is where a lot of our story ideas have come from. 

    We are trying to identify and groom new and young writing talent in India and also fill the gap for local language content by providing new and experienced writers a good interface to write on across languages. We and the community are working to help the writers build a following and encouraging them to write  without limitations on genre etc.  We, the co-founders ourselves use the WatStory platform to write and want to be identified by the content we create on the site, just like any other person using WatStory.

    The closest to us right now will be something like WattPad from Canada. They have some presence in India as well. But, in terms of difference from them we support Indian languages now, plus our editor is extendible to Global languages very easily. The WatStory experience is completely in the language chosen by the user as in if Hindi is chosen as language all site copy will be in Hindi, writing can be done in Hindi and only Hindi content being shown. Also WattPad is for  fiction content and we are open to all kinds of interesting content fiction and non-fiction and will build more tools for readers to discover content ( we already have search and tags for content discovery). 

    Some time back I was on Blogger and saw the below advert by them, it really resonated with us.

    Why not blog in Hindi?  With over 500 million speakers around the world, and a rapidly growing online audience, Hindi content could be the next opportunity to get you new readers. You can now use your existing AdSense account to monetize your Hindi content or just create a new one. Get started now.”

  5. LOve this story and definitely going to checkout your platform..its so true about non english bloggers leaving their blogger porfile dead after few days of struggling with typing in english font….

  6. Hello Akshaya,

    Makes us very happy that you like this story. What you say is really true about non-English bloggers. But, having gone through a lot of blogs on Blogger/Blogspot (definitely still a go to blog platform), I was surprised by the fact that even most English language blogs have no content on blog, have very few posts as there is no engagement. I was the first person to comment on quite a few blogs which had been in existence for many years and had really interesting content. Anything we can do to help the cause of writers/bloggers across languages/ genre will make us feel very good.

    Please feel free to mail (varunchawla@watstory.com) if you need help getting started or have feedback. We would love to hear your thoughts post checking WatStory.

  7. What’s the long term revenue model?

  8. Hi Alok,

    Sorry for the delayed reply. In the long term we will use flavors of connecting the writing talent to opportunities in various forms.

    We do have revenue models in mind, but are still some distance away from testing and validating them. 

  9. May be you can share your google analytic screen shots for Advertisers

    Very much interested to know the space  you have acquired till now in bilingual platform 
    Just a Suggestion : As rural India is more connected on Mobile I hope site is mobile user friendly too. 🙂

  10. Hello Jack,

    Thanks for your suggestion, it is very relevant. And not only rural India but even young urban India is mobile and “Android”. This is something which is big on our to do list right now. Definitely something we need to do quite quickly. Current focus is on creating some new forms of content creation options for users, we should have this live in a few weeks. Small team woes, so much to do 🙂

    On the analytics part not ready to share the data so far. Focus is on making a distraction free, minimalist platform and specifically attracting high quality young writing talent. I don’t see us being suitable for traditional advertising (think page view driven models), we could explore theme/language driven sponsored competitions in near future and custom native content later which relies on deeper consumer engagement and immersive story telling.We are more keen on users spending more time on page than driving page views, we see this as a better metric for ourselves.

    As an example though the content form in this is a video, I have been seeing this Chevrolet Ad on Youtube while listening to some music, this is good storytelling and probably the only time I let an ad run its full course 🙂

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