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New Wattpad Publishing Imprint Will Use Artificial Intelligence to Examine Stories’ Popularity

Last week, popular online publishing site Wattpad announced its entry into the world of physical books. The new publishing imprint, Wattpad Books, already has its starting lineup of new releases: six YA novels across popular genres, a decision which officials believe should appeal to the site’s Millenial and Gen-Z reader base. Despite the stigma surrounding self-publishing, these stories have had mass market appeal. Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, the most popular story among these picks, has racked up over 40 million reads during its time on the site.

But the selection process for these books is more than just a numbers game—it’s more like a numbers science. Going forward, Wattpad will use new artificial intelligence technology to help ensure the success of its publications.

 

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Don’t misread this information—robots will not be deciding what art is. Instead, Wattpad’s Story DNA Machine Learning Technology, an AI program, will analyze Wattpad’s content for insights into certain stories’ successes. While other programs might analyze the number of comments and shares a story has earned, the AI breaks a story down to its most elemental features: grammar, diction, and sentence structure. From there, the AI will compare each story not only to works published on Wattpad, but also to books in the public domain. And, Wattpad representative Ashleigh Gardner stresses, “our human content and editorial experts are just as important.”

 

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The website has long been popular for its accessibility. While traditional publishing has not always addressed diverse stories and difficult topics the way it’s working towards today, online publishing subverts outdated (if often unspoken) rules about what sells. Wattpad will continue to choose its stories based on what appeals to its readers—in particular, LGBT+ content, strong women, and thoughtful depictions of mental illness. The AI technology won’t change this truth: the stories that appeal to a diverse body of readers are so often their own.

 

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