Beyond the Bookstore - Gen Z is Reading in New Ways and Seeking More Diversity in Fiction
New Data from Wattpad shows that Gen Z is making reading and writing more inclusive, embracing a wider array of genres and happily reading on their phones.
Four out of five Gen Z readers look to online sources for diverse stories.
Gen Z isn’t waiting around for a more diverse publishing industry, they’re seeking out diverse authors and stories online, and reading in new ways. New data from Wattpad, the global entertainment company for original stories and leading webnovel platform, and Wakefield Research shows that Gen Z readers are going online to find the representation they can’t find in bookstores, with more than four out of five (83%) Gen Z readers (aged 18 - 25) turning to online sources like webnovels, e-books, and webcomics for diverse stories. The findings shed new light on Gen Z reading behaviors and how they differ from previous generations.
The data signals a generational shift in consumption and attitudes towards fiction. With the rise of webnovels, e-books, webcomics, and other digital formats, Gen Z is normalizing reading on their phones. Today, 67% of Gen Z respondents say they read on their phones, compared to 51% of older generations who say they still prefer turning the page manually on a physical book, magazine or newspaper.
Diversity and access to a wider range of voices in stories they consume is a key consideration for Gen Z overall, across all media. Seventy-nine percent of Gen Z respondents said diversity and representation is important to them when choosing books, movies or other forms of entertainment - significantly more than other generations including Millennials (66%), Gen X (53%) and Boomers (34%). In fact, 60% of Gen Z readers reported looking for books, stories or comics that highlight marginalized groups, much higher than other generations at just 40%.
Not only does Gen Z want more diverse stories, they are celebrating and elevating a wider range of stories overall, embracing more genres than other generations. While older generations are happy to consume genre fare in TV and film, helping to drive massive box office returns on superhero adaptations, they are still less likely than Gen Z to consume genre fiction. Compared to Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers, Gen Z readers are embracing more of every genre, including more Fantasy & Sci-fi (42% vs. 30%), Horror (38% vs. 20%), and Superhero/Action (34% vs. 18%). Gen Z also reads more romance compared to other generations, at 43% vs 30%. Unsurprisingly, Gen Z also loves YA, with 50% enjoying the category, compared to only 15% of other generations.
“Wattpad has redefined who gets to tell their story. Writers can find their voice, build a global audience, and make money from their craft,” said Sue Johnson, Chief Content Officer, Wattpad. “This is possible because Gen Z is demanding more from fiction, whether its representation of a much wider range of voices and perspectives or accessibility and new formats. Supporting Gen Z readers and writers who are changing the world is what drives us at Wattpad. More diversity in fiction is about more possibility in the world. I’m incredibly proud to be part of a platform that is making more authors, stories, and perspectives accessible to people around the world.”
This combination of embracing new voices and a wider range of genres has resulted in new forms of genre mixing and creative innovation online. On storytelling tech platforms and webnovel communities like Wattpad, genre-mixing has enabled innovation and creativity, allowing a new generation of authors to build fandoms for their work. Stories like Sondi Warner’s supernatural polyamorous romance Lead Me Astray (266K reads), Nandi Taylor’s Afro-Caribbean-inspired fantasy romance Given (1.3M reads), and Claudia Tan’s kick-boxing romance Perfect Addiction (85.6M reads) are just a few of the global Wattpad sensations that mix and reimagine genres to tell an incredible story.
Importantly, Gen Z aren’t just reading more of every genre, they are also reading more or at the same levels as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Among Gen Z surveyed, 35% say they read more today than they did two years ago, while 33% read about the same amount as before. In fact, with so many genres to explore and so much fiction to consume across various on and offline formats, Gen Z maintains strong and regular reading habits with nearly 40% reading daily or a few days each week, and 55% still reading once a week or more.
Wattpad has long been home to some of the most exciting new voices in fiction. Authors on the platform are transforming entire genres by adding new voices and perspectives that haven’t been historically represented. In 2020, the company found that readers were spending millions of minutes each year reading fantasy and paranormal stories featuring diverse characters, adding much-needed representation into these genres.
With a global community of 90 million people, Wattpad is a leading destination for Gen Z readers seeking diverse stories, characters, and genres from around the world. In the last year alone, stories tagged #Diversity saw an 18% increase in reading time on Wattpad, with users spending an average of 500,000 minutes a day reading stories with the tag.
“I’ve loved reading my entire life but before joining Wattpad, I had never come across a story that I could see myself in,” said Loridee De Villa, Wattpad creator of the Watty Award-winning How to Be the Best Third Wheel. “Wattpad gave me a place to build a character that reflected my experience growing up in an immigrant Filipino family, and with over 2.7 million reads on the platform, it’s clear the representation in my story is something that was missing for others as well.”
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