Generation Z… Snapchat using, Instagram sharing and Twitter posting teenagers who spend hours sharing, following and chatting to their favourite influencers and friends. For them, social media is king and a recent report into Snapchat revealed it’s worth $25 billion and has well over 150 million daily users.
But what does this mean for the printed word? Prerna Gupta, CEO and co-founder of social reading app Hooked saw a gap in this market and developed an app with co-founder Parag Chordia to make reading “addictive” for teens. We chatted to Prerna to get the low-down on Hooked and find out if this spells the end for the traditional paperback.
Lovely to meet you – let’s get started with a simple question, what is Hooked?
Hooked is an innovative storytelling app with over 20 million readers – it’s fiction for the Snapchat generation. By presenting stories as text message conversations, Hooked makes reading fiction as engaging for teens as using social media.
What inspired you to start this project?
We believe there’s an opportunity to create a new form of narrative story telling that, in the words of Biz Carson (technology reporter at Business Insider), is “native to mobile and designed to capture a person’s short attention span.” We started Hooked with the goal of rethinking storytelling from the ground up for the younger generations.
What makes Hooked stand out, are there others out there like you?
Hooked was the first app to launch with chat-style fiction as its primary mode of storytelling. There are copycat competitors out there, but we are the leaders in this space.
Some of your stories are commissioned but most are user generated, how many stories are submitted per month?
With commissioned and user generated stories combined, we have millions of stories written and submitted to the app each month.
There must be a huge range of quality of stories, so how do you choose which make it onto Hooked?
The majority of the stories we feature have been commissioned by us and written by professional authors. Although a contrary example to this is how we discovered one of our more recent top authors – Caroline Renee Mills – through a story she had written and submitted via the app itself.
What do you think to claims the paperback is dead?
Reader behaviour is changing rapidly and dramatically, especially in younger generations. If you look at books, 80% of young adults who read are reading on digital devices, and the first touch point for almost any piece of media is increasingly happening on mobile.
Behaviour is changing, but the way we think about the novel format hasn’t really changed in hundreds of years. Traditional novels are broken into chapters that can take up to an hour to read. But the average mobile session length is 2.5 to five minutes. I don’t believe the demand for reading is dying, I just think that reading has to change, and the way we’re creating stories has to make sense for how we live our lives today. We started Hooked with the goal of rethinking storytelling from the ground up for the younger generations.
What’s next for Hooked?
Our goal is to build the next Netflix. We want to be a mobile first destination for truly great stories in every medium. My personal goal with all of that is to not just discover, but really to help create the next Harry Potter. Everyone is chasing the billion-dollar unicorn status, but that’s supposed to be a result of building something real — not the goal. It’s hard to not get caught up in that. It helps remembering we are just a quirky couple building an art app. Because ultimately, this all started with a novel.
What has been your proudest moment since launch?
Each time we’ve reached #1 – in the U.S. and abroad – it’s felt surreal. The biggest ongoing challenge is being able to produce enough high-quality stories fast enough for our voracious readers!
What tips would you give to other innovators hoping to break the mould?