The New Trending Algorithm Sucks - From Someone Winning the Algorithm

This morning, I did the same thing I do every morning. I woke up, got dressed, brushed my teeth, worked for two hours (yay for working from home during a pandemic!), and then ate breakfast. Over yogurt, I opened up the Episode app like I always do, and started browsing. And then I checked the Adventure genre and saw this:

Wait, what? My story that’s been finished for four months, clocking in at 16 chapters with mediocre directing and a fun but shallow plot with ~15,000 reads is trending #1 in Adventure?

I was excited, but also very confused. All Aboard! tends to trend pretty consistently, but more around the #40-#80 mark. The highest it had ever trended before was #8, and that was when my other, much better written and directed story, Ghost of a Chance, was being featured as an Editor’s Pick. Outside of that, it’s never cracked the top 20.

Getting back to my laptop, I pulled up my stats:
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And then I scanned my eyes across the statistics and saw this:
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Like most community authors, I had never had any gem choices in my stories until mid-last month. Then the algorithm was changed to heavily favour authors who included gem choices, so reluctantly, I threw a 5💎optional Support the Author choice on the end of each chapter. Seeing as how it’s only the 6th day of the month and I knew for a fact that when I last checked my stats yesterday I only had 5 gems this month, overnight someone(s) spent 195💎 on my story. And that’s why I was trending #1.

The new algorithm wasn’t created to help community authors. It was created to bring more money into Episode. And it’s working! I’ve been playing featured stories (which I haven’t done in YEARS) so I would have gems to support my friends. I know other community members have been doing that, too, as well as buying gems. And hey, I get it. Episode is a business and they need to make money to stay afloat. But doing that at the expense of your community? Of your authors who spend hundreds, in some cases (including mine) thousands of hours contributing to your app? It’s not the right move.

I personally think that having gems somewhat contribute to the ranking is fine. There are plenty of things that go into the algorithm, such as reads, retention, scores, etc. I don’t see why gems can’t be a part of that. But when spending a few gems is enough to skew your ranking this severely, you’ve missed the mark.

My other story was on the Editor’s Pick shelf the same week the new algorithm was put in place. The first 3-4 days of it being shelved, I got over 5,000 reads and was trending #6 in Mystery, which was amazing! Then the new algorithm came in, and it immediately dropped to #44. That’s a massive difference, especially when I was still getting about a thousand reads a day, every day. I read one of my friend’s stories that hadn’t gotten any reads in a week or two, dropped 5💎 on a Support choice, and her story jumped to #52 in the trending. The algorithm so heavily favours gems now that we’re not even trending on our own merits.

That’s why even though this is a victory for me, it feels a bit hollow. I didn’t get here because my story is that good (trust me, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not!), I got here because someone spent a ton of gems to support me. And as good as it feels to know there is someone(s) out there who enjoyed my story enough to do something so generous and kind, it would feel a lot better knowing that the success I saw from this story was because I deserved it.

Anyways, thank you for reading my rant! Let me know your thoughts on the new algorithm, and how it has affected your stories.

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PS. If you do happen to be the person who spent 195💎 on my story overnight, pls DM me, I need to thank you personally!

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Like you, I agree that it is okay for gems to have a slightly larger impact on the trending. Keyword, slightly.
I don’t think it should affect a story this heavily. That’s really insane and completely unfair to those who don’t want to use gem choices.

I also think that gems having a larger impact wouldn’t even be that big of a deal if they actually gave us more ways to earn gems (like after every episode, not just limited to Originals/Featured), or more gems per Original/Featured read. Especially when Episode Originals/Featured gem choices are upwards of 15💎. That’s MORE than most of Episode Originals completed stories!!
On top of that, the new lowest gem choice is 5. I think they should’ve kept 2, because of the whole “it’s not easy to get gems unless you buy” reasoning.

I understand they’re a company and they need to make money. Totally get!! I think they went about it the wrong way though. Prices are too steep, and not enough ways to earn a little more for free. I won’t leave the community over it, but it’s pretty sad and very frustrating🤷🏼‍♀️

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@Makayla.Reed Your comment disappeared on me, girl!

Congrats on publishing your first story, and congratulations on trending! It’s still an accomplishment, even if the rules are different now than when I first started publishing on here. Hopefully Episode will be able to see how this is weakening the community and make some adjustments.

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This is exactly what I was getting at, thank you! I agree completely - if they want us spending gems on community episodes, we need to be given gems for reading community episodes in kind. I also think that getting rid of $9.99 unlimited passed for all stories, and replacing it with $3.99/week passes for featured stories (ie. you’re paying more money for less content) was one of the weirdest business decisions I’ve ever seen.

I also won’t leave the community over it. My stories will do fine, largely in part because I am an adult writing stories about 20+ year old adults for a primarily adult audience. That is the community who can afford to buy gems. For everyone writing to the more teenage audience (ie. most of the Episode community), they are the ones who will suffer.

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I can’t afford to buy those packs (stay at home mom w/ 2 kids) but I agree that it makes literally NO SENSE and I was upset for the people who did like purchasing it because that was a huge blow.:slightly_frowning_face:

I hope Episode will listen and at least make some changes since a lot of us seem to share the same opinion, but otherwise I suspect we’ll have to just deal with it or leave, more or less.

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I didn’t initially think that the gems issue would be as drastic as it seems to be. But since it was announced, I’ve seen and heard many people saying that their trending has gone massively either up or down, purely due to their inclusion, or lack of, gems.

As someone who tends to avoid gem stories, I never intended to add them to my own when they are published. Yet now this is becoming such a major role in how well your story is going to do on the app, that I’m having to consider adding them in some way, like many others, and think how it could be added to make it worth while for readers to spend gems, and not have those who can’t, miss out.
I understand episode’s wish to make gems have an impact, but the sheer scale that they are having, is where it ends up missing the target for me.

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I am in complete agreement! I have no issue with it being a factor in how your story ranks, in fact I’m surprised to find out it wasn’t before! But with the way it’s set up right now, it might as well be the only factor. When my story was an Editor’s Pick and was getting 1,000+ reads a day but wasn’t cracking Top 40, it was pretty clear to me that there were massive issues with this new algorithm.

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Definitely. I think it’s going to make it even harder for some stories to break through when more people add the gem choice option too.

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Honestly. I SADLY have to add gem choices in order to unlock my payment as I’m broke college student and it HURTS my soul to do that, LITERALLY. My story is in first 30 and first 10 in drama but it doesn’t bring me the same happiness as OG ranks did. This algorithm sucks.

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Yes, this exactly! I never feel as fulfilled as I used to when I see my story in the top 20-ish because I know instead of the story’s quality and reads getting it there, it’s probably just one person who supported me a couple episodes in a row. It isn’t very motivating to be honest, especially when you’re an author like myself who isn’t going to hit the payment program so the rank was always purely an incentive to work harder!

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What’s irritated me the most about this situation is that (for me and several others) even if this system rewards you with a trending spot it doesn’t help any. I had one story manage (due to gem choices literally bumping me up 100+ spots) to get in the top 100 of drama and romance and then proceed to get like…5-10 reads in an hour. It’s a 21 episode story with decent directing and I have another story with 700k+ reads that’s been in trending for months now, so it’s not like I’m unknown. You don’t get into the top 100 of the two hardest genres to trend in and then get 5 reads in an hour so while aesthetically it’s cool to say “oh yeah I got to 44 in drama” when I look at how badly it was effecting my numbers for this one story (Perfectly Aligned) it’s more frustrating than anything. I actually reached out to Episode in support and they let me know they knew it was an issue and that they were looking into it and I sincerely hope they are as it’s made me and several others very hesitant to update as there doesn’t seem to be a point. I mean what’s the point of doing an update to get into trending if trending is going to reward you with 10 reads and screw you over? It’s been very frustrating. :grimacing::upside_down_face::unamused:

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It’s definitely disheartening to hear that even authors with a sizeable audience like yourself are feeling the effects of this, too. And I would imagine it’s authors with a following who would actually have people willing to pay gems for their stories, too! Getting into trending for romance and drama used to be a guaranteed read spike, but I can imagine it’s very meh now. Even when my story was trending first in Adventure (which is admittedly a less competitive genre), it only got another hundred reads or so. I’ve only updated once since the update because I honestly just don’t have the motivation to do it, and the only reason I even uploaded that single time is because I was still on the shelf and trying to capitalize on the publicity.

Getting in contact with the Episode is a good idea and worth doing, I’ll send them an email as well.

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I’m speaking for myself when I say this, but like many people, I was so against the idea of gems and gem choices; I couldn’t stand it. I felt like it was unfair to charge gems for a choice on a platform that is geared to a 12+ audience (even younger than that). A lot of kids and young teens don’t have a source of income to buy gems and things of that nature. I just wanted to get that out the way. Back on topic. I don’t like that the number of gems affect your story’s rank and popularity. The number of gems spent on an author’s story should not determine their story’s popularity when it comes to the trending shelves. Personally, I think the trending algorithm is somewhat rigged and unfair because it only favors one group of authors. (I think you know what I mean by that). And I don’t have anything against those authors who have a lot of gems spent on their stories. They’re basically getting popular based on gems which isn’t fair at all. Those gems don’t determine how good or well written a story is :woman_shrugging:t4:

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That’s another very good point I had never even thought about! You’re completely right. If one author puts a 5 gem support choice at the end (no bonus scenes), and another does the same but it’s 15 gems, literally no one is to say who has the better story, but the 15 gem author will be probably 50+ ranks higher than the 5 gem person. I wish every community story was set to 2 or 5 gems, we don’t really need the ability to make it higher than that, especially since readers don’t earn gems for reading our stories.

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