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How Mobile App Captivated 20 Million with SMS Stories

A mobile reading app called Hooked is keeping millions of people engaged by using a fresh storytelling format—text messages.

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Stories have been with us since the dawn of human history, and you can bet they’ll stick around till the dusk of human history.

Who knows, maybe even later. 🙂

But the way stories are shared and soaked up—that is, the storytelling format itself—is always changing as humans find new ways to create and relate.

An app called Hooked presents us with a fresh format that’s captured the attention of millions of readers.

About 20 million of them so far, in fact.

Get Hooked

Screenshot of the Where Is She story as viewed in the Hooked app

On Hooked, stories appear as text message conversations between two or more characters. To read, you just tap the screen and the story advances, one text message at a time.

You can choose from nine genres, including the likes of sci-fi, thriller, horror, and comedy.

There’s also a “popular” category for works like Where Is She?! by Kayla Parent and The Watcher by Sean Dunne—both of which have racked up millions of reads.

No long, impenetrable paragraphs here. Just text after short text.

They call it chat fiction.

Testing 1, 2, 3 …

“We love reading, just like you, but we know it can get BORING when stories are too long. So we created this app to make reading snappy, spooky, and fun.” – iTunes Preview

Hooked was built by Prerna Gupta and Parag Chordia, the wife-and-husband tech entrepreneurs behind successful music apps like Khush and Songify.

It was their own frustrated effort to write a sci-fi fantasy novel during a downsize-and-simplify spree that led them to try A/B testing on … books.

Recognizing that stories are here to stay, but the way people consume them is changing, Gupta and Chordia set up a mobile reader to test how people engaged with the first 1,000 words of the top 50 young adult novels.

Completion rates were low, usually around 5–15%, even though these were short 5-minute excerpts from the hottest sellers.

But then they had an idea. Why not ditch the mobile reader format for something different and see what happens?

So they tested the novels with a text message format.

The completion rates shot up to almost 100%.

And now we have Hooked. 🙂

Hoots and Superhoots

Hooked is free to use, but after a bit of reading you’ll run into a paywall:

Screenshot of Hooked paywall with red-caped owl mascot and countdown timer

In Hookedspeak, a “hoot” is a single text message in the story flow.

Once you’ve tapped your way through your allotted hoots/messages, you have to either patiently wait for them to “recharge” … or just upgrade to unlimited hoots.

Click Speed Up Time to go to the payment screen and upgrade:

Screenshot showing the weekly, monthly, and annual payment options for Hooked unlimited use

Once you’re a paying Superhoot, you can read as much as you like!

Don’t read everything in one sitting, now. 😉

Try Texting for Yourself

Hooked is popular in part because text messaging itself is so popular.

Over 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes, and nearly 100% of them are read eventually.

With open rates like that, text message marketing is almost a no-brainer. Plus, people like receiving promotional texts.

SimpleTexting offers a free 14-day trial if you’d like to try texting for yourself.

No credit card, no contract, just two weeks inside a top-notch SMS marketing platform with plenty of bells and whistles.

Try us out— we think you’ll like us!


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