The mobile reading space is witnessing a new trend set forth by Hooked, an app that delivers fictional stories to readers' smartphones via text messages. This new storytelling format has been proven addictive, particularly among teenagers that the app specifically targets.
According to Sensor Tower's Store Intelligence, between October 2016 and March 2017, downloads for Hooked on the App Store and Google Play worldwide grew an impressive 560 percent, from approximately 336,400 to 2.22 million downloads. Not only is Hooked growing in readership, but a number of direct competitors on mobile have also emerged, vying for a portion of the growing "chat stories" market.
Hooked was originally launched in 2015, but its rapid growth didn't occur until last fall. The following chart illustrates the app's monthly downloads on the App Store and Google Play worldwide between October 2016 to March 2017:
Showing an overall upward trajectory since last October, Hooked's downloads have grown about 60 percent on average month-over-month. Most drastically, downloads grew about 131 percent between November and December 2016, from approximately 597,000 to 1.38 million. On December 2, 2016, Hooked became the most downloaded iPhone app on the U.S. App Store.
Leveraging the $3 million seed funding it received in early December, Hooked increased investment into user acquisition, garnered extensive press attention throughout the month, and furthered its momentum in the new year. Worldwide downloads exceeded 1.5 million in February and two million in March, surpassing traditional top Books category apps such as Amazon's Audible and Kindle in both months.
Hooked's surge in popularity has prompted competition in the "chat stories" apps space. Tap and Yarn are two major competitors that have been gaining traction since their releases in February 2017. The chart below illustrates all three apps' daily downloads between March 15 and March 31, 2017 in the United States.
Yarn in particular has shown continuous growth. Its downloads on both stores increased by 350 percent between March 15 and 31, from approximately 5,000 to about 22,500.
Chat stories apps have hooked millions of mobile readers by successfully leveraging smartphone functionality—the simple text message. This new storytelling format is challenging traditional mobile eBook consumption and enabling competition. Even Amazon launched Amazon Rapids last November, a standalone app for kids featuring the exact same text-message-style reading format.
As publishers large and small continue to follow this new trend in the mobile reading space, we'll be monitoring the growth of and competition among chat stories apps closely.