Random House Children’s Books has acquired Figment, an online writing community for teens founded by Jacob Lewis and Dana Goodyear in 2010 that has attracted more than 300,000 users. The site allows teens to develop as writers and since its launch has shown itself to be an effective marketing and promotional platform for the YA marketplace.
Figment will be managed by Random House Children’s Books and the site will continue under the same name and with the same focus on “curating content that covers the wide range of young adult titles published today,” emphasizing that the site will continue to be open to titles from other publishers, according to Barbara Marcus, president and publisher, Random House Children’s Books.
“Random House Children’s Books’ new relationship with Figment supports our ongoing strategy and increasingly important efforts to communicate and engage directly with our readers,” Marcus said. “The team who founded Figment created a dynamic community that we will continue to grow and expand, and we are so pleased for the opportunity to continue the conversations with this audience of teens that love young adult books.”
Figment cofounder Jacob Lewis, a former managing editor at The New Yorker who joined Random House this past summer as v-p, publishing director of Crown/Broadway/Hogarth, told PW that talks with Random House to acquire Figment had been “going on for a while” before he joined Random House and that he had continued to run Figment even after joining RH. Lewis said that neither he nor his cofounder will be involved in running Figment. “I’m around if they want some advice, but it's not part of my duties,” he said.
Lewis said the site has generated nearly a million original stories and members create and post “hundreds if not thousands of stories every day. It’s a very active and robust social network.”
Figment attracts users between the ages of 13-18 and offers members the ability to follow each other as well as providing author interviews, contests, discussion forums and blogging for its members. Users can post their writing and receive comments and feedback. The site also offers book recommendations and has more than 20,000 discussion groups and forums. On the business side, Figment offers publishers an active community of YA readers/writers, and partners with publishers to release excerpts of new and prepublication titles; publishers can monitor the site for new readers and reading trends among teens. In 2012, Figment acquired InkPop, a similar teen-oriented online writing community, and integrated its members and content into the Figment platform.
Lewis said the site shows “the power of community building beyond the writing,” and offers “potential and insight for Random House. It’s a powerful tool – people come to Figment because they want to write and publishers can use that effectively. We used it as a marketing platform and its overarching value is the access it provides to real consumers and real data.”
"Online community building is tricky and smart players know that maintaining a successful online culture is the key. People feel ownership," Lewis said. Indeed, he emphasized that Random House had reassured him that their plan is to “keep Figment as it is. That was attractive to us. We plan to reassure the site’s community that it’s not going to change.”