With the explosion of digital platforms and social media, the boundaries of ‘major recognition’ have been dramatically altered. Social influencers now hold arguably more power than traditional celebrities and people of interest, and high sales figures from a traditional book series are no longer the only indicators of successful IP. As producers, we often seek inspiration from a variety of sources, but how we identify valuable IP is changing.
This is most relevant for young adult adaptations. Generation Z is an audience made up of digital natives, having grown up with social media networks. So, how do we identify IP with the potential to excite this thrill-seeking young generation?
Finding IP to appeal to the young adult (YA) generation
Gen Z is defined by its use of social media. They’re producers in their own rights, curating content and contributing heavily to user-generated content (UGC). Capitalising on this trend, social publishing platforms are rich hunting grounds for savvy producers.
This content has a huge, engaged following of young consumers but would be relatively unknown to a wider audience. It taps into some of the many elements that producers already look for in a traditional book to adapt, such as familiar themes, relatable characters, and an engaging but relatively simple narrative structure.
What online platforms like Wattpad can offer content creators
As with any IP, you need to find the right writers to make it successful. At Komixx, we’re currently producing a Netflix Original commission of The Kissing Booth (top photo); a young adult novel by teen sensation Beth Reekles originally published on (online literary platform) Wattpad, which has received more than 19 million reads. This was a story written by a teenager for teenagers. At the time, Beth could relate first-hand to the audience and understand what that audience wants to consume. It all comes down to authenticity and credibility among the target audience. Gen Z can spot when something isn’t natural.
Universal Cable Productions’ agreement with Wattpad also demonstrates the huge potential for growth and the high quality content that self-publishing platforms can offer. The IP comes with real-time data – what’s trending, what’s being shared and which stories resonate the most – that give producers valuable insights.
Another benefit is of course that less recognisable IP from non-traditional sources is generally less expensive and has the potential to offer incredible financial returns, but naturally comes with greater risk than an established household name.
Fanbases’ role in identifying valuable online IP
Self-publishing sites have fantastic engagement amongst a loyal community. Readers often spend an average of 30 minutes reading chapters of manuscripts. The hidden benefits for working with online IP is that you can immediately identify where this fan base prefers to spend its time. If your audience is on online, why would you transition it too far away?
Every time you ask loyal fans to move away from where they go to consume this material, you run the risk of losing half of them. So, partnerships with online content platforms and SVOD platforms can seem like a logical connection.
However there’s still room for traditional sources of material for the YA audience. Books are a timeless art form which transcend generations, capturing audiences and gaining loyal followers in the process. Adapting books for TV is a tried and tested formula and helps to manage the risk – think of Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracey Beaker, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events or even Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series that have stood the test of time.
Komixx is currently working on developing Robert Muchamore’s teen spy thriller series CHERUB, which has sold more than 13 million copies worldwide. The appeal of such series spans audiences young and old, ranging from those who used to read the books when they were first published to teens re-discovering that gritty thriller element.
YA drama is more sophisticated than it’s ever been, with new sources of IP emerging from non-traditional sources. It’s also an exciting time to be a producer in this space, and while the way we identify IP might be changing, the one thing we know is that the common themes about stories with heart and great characters will always prevail.