Back in 2014, Pocket Gems, a leader in the mobile games space, launched Episode, their interactive mobile story platform. In this platform, which is available on Apple, Google Play, and Amazon, users can interact with animated stories and make decisions to shape their plots.
The platform has grown in the past two years, and has become a great place for new writers to get their work noticed. I had the opportunity to interview head of studio Michael Dawson, who talked about the current and future state of Episode.
S.R.: Episode is now a little over two years old. How has the platform evolved? And what are the plans for the future?
M.D.: In two years, Episode has grown from a belief that storytelling on mobile could be the next wave of entertainment to the world’s largest community of mobile storytellers. Since launching, we’ve evolved everything from the art style to the scripting tools. Today, Episode is almost unrecognizable from what we debuted in 2014.
Looking to the future, we want to keep bringing great stories to the world. We’ll do this by continuing to support our community with expanded art libraries, improved storytelling tools and new ways to promote stories. We’ve also been talking a lot with Hollywood and plan to bring more great properties to Episode. We’ll have more to share there soon.
S.R.: In its first few months, Episode’s Mean Girls story had over 15 million unique readers who read over 100 million episodes (approximately 20 million total hours spent inside the story). How many readers does Episode have and how many episodes have been read in total by Episode’s community?
M.D.: Episode has millions of readers who are really active story consumers. To date, our audience has viewed more than 1.5 billion episodes across all of our stories. This accounts for people who read stories from us, like Mean Girls: Senior Year or Demi Lovato: Path to Fame, and stories made by our audience. We think that some of the top stories on Episode will eventually come from our users and we’re always looking for new ways to help them create.
S.R.: Approximately how many new stories are created for Episode each day (or week)?
M.D.: To date, there have been over 20,000 stories created on Episode. We don’t really track how many are made in a given week, but it’s a pretty sizable amount. This has made some interesting challenges for us in finding the best ways to make sure all good stories get in front of our audience.
S.R.: How are stories curated? What’s the process for figuring out which stories readers want and promoting them?
M.D.: Our interface was designed to give our audience the best stories both from our users and from professionals. One way is by audience reaction—our user story section has a trending feature where popular stories are pushed to the top.
Additionally, we curate user stories to make sure readers see the best content at any moment. We also hand pick stories from all over Episode and rotate them in our Featured section. Ideally, both the casual reader looking for a quick story recommendation and the dedicated reader searching for something specific can get what they’re looking for.
S.R.: What’s the most popular genre on Episode?
M.D.: Stories with great characters that have themes of friendship and romance tend to perform the best on Episode. Our ultimate goal, however, is to be the best source for mobile stories, regardless of your tastes.
S.R.: Episode is popular with younger mobile readers. What’s the platform’s biggest demographic?
M.D.: Currently, our audience is largely female and over two-thirds of them are between 13 and 25 years old. This gives us a direct and immediate understanding about what kinds of entertainment young mobile users are interested in. For example, it’s incredibly important to our audience that they have a choice in how the story they’re reading unfolds, even if that choice doesn’t have real consequences to the narrative.
S.R.: How does Episode differ from other content writing platforms, such as Wattpad, which also has a young audience?
M.D.: Episode is the first platform to really adapt storytelling for a mobile audience in a few key areas. We have visual stories with animated characters that appeal to generations raised on TV and YouTube. Additionally, our stories are easy to enjoy in bite-sized moments when phones are used, letting our audience easily dip in and out as they want. Finally, Episode’s interactive nature allows readers to step into their story, making choices that shape the narrative.
Episode is an ideal fit for a generation who grew up being the center of their own stories through social media and who haven’t know life without the agency that a touch screen provides.
S.R.: How does one become a writer for Episode?
M.D.: Anyone can become a writer for Episode. All you have to do is sign up through our writer portal and start creating.
S.R.: Are writers compensated for their work on the platform?
M.D.: Yep! We recently launched a payment portal where every writer who reaches a certain audience threshold gets compensated for their stories. We want to allow great storytellers to do well on Episode, both by finding new audiences and by making money.
S.R.: Has anyone who has written for Episode been published in other ways? Maybe their story has been picked up for a show or a traditionally published book deal?
M.D.: There’s nothing specific we can share publicly yet, but we’ve seen storytellers from Episode get hired as professional writers just as we’ve seen published authors from other platforms come write on Episode. What’s really interesting is the potential exposure that can come from writing for Episode. There are many cases of someone writing for the first time on Episode and getting millions of fans. It’s really an incredible thing to watch happen.
For more information, check out Episode on Pocket Gems.