So it's a matter of contention seen time and time again brought up on the forums, particularly whenever Tapas rolls around a new update.
As a creator that's been using Tapas/Tapastic since 2015, I've seen a LOT of changes. Though I will admit I wasn't around from its wee years when it was just starting, I've still experienced very much of its growth from the launch of its app, to starting the novels section, to acquiring international titles and offering premium content, to the support program that eventually evolved into ink, and all the fiascoes and meltdowns in between.
The following will just be my own personal observations and thoughts, feel free to opine your own and discuss below!
Okay. I'll play a bit of devil's advocate: I believe that the support for the visibility of smaller creators is not as cut and dry or easily remedied by simply showcasing more titles.
Yes. It was much easier to get featured and grow an audience years ago, but that was because there was simply less competition and a smaller pool of work to promote. With any platform's growth, the content library will experience large influxes that will inevitably bury some titles, particularly those that don't update on the regular. Like I remember a time when my two top series would regularly land in popular when they updated. But time moves on, new creators come with the hot content, I rarely scrape what was the second page of popular now with my series even with what many people here might think is a sizable audience. Vying for attention in the creative world is fuckin' tough.
Back in the day, it was also much easier for community projects to take hold, for example the Winter Fest of 2015. It is also of note this community collab was spearheaded and organized by experienced and very involved comic creators, like Potoo Gryphon of Oops Comic Adventure. Unfortunately life does get in the way or things change, and a lot of the involved creators like her have had to move on, go on hiatus, or spend less time on the site overall. A community is only as strong as the ones who lead it, and it's really a labor of love built on the backs of volunteers. While the staff can certainly be a part of it, their priority isn't leading. They can't be around every day to lead discussion or events, they have jobs to do and families to support.
With a bigger site comes bigger responsibilities. As the Tapas staff has remained relatively small since 2015, I believe they are often stretched thin and don't have a dedicated team to finding new hidden gems or cool rocks. As Michael explained in the pinned thread, there are over 70,000 stories on the Tapas platform. An equal algorithm to showcase each one would be ineffective without weeding out the series that have been abandoned or are non-series like galleries. There has to be smarter algorithms or a human approach, like the New and Noteworthy/Staff Picks section. And let's face it, and I may get some flak here but—there should be some standard as to what gets featured or put into one of those lists. We can't have "Sanic" or "Sonichu" levels of stories to represent the site. No one will take it seriously. I'll just quote what Michael had to say here.
From my own experience, even landing a front page feature is not going to be a divine boost for your series. After years of plodding along with only two daily snack features for my part in the Winter Fest collabs and one daily snack for my third series, my audience was built mostly from natural growth and promotion outside of Tapas. Only in 2019 did I have a creator spotlight, but I did not see a significant increase in numbers from that. Full disclosure, I produced a game with Tapas' help and a third-party-developer, and the creator feature was in part to promote that, but even so I have not seen the numbers of the top earners on this platform and I doubt I ever will. And I don't believe that is from a lack of exposure, I believe it is mostly dictated by audience whims. I just don't think I would ever be that popular with my art. (speaking of audience whims, I've been uploading my completed series Demon House to WT once a week in multi-page uploads since Feb 10, and have only accrued 88 subs).
Ah, premium stories. You know what was dominating the front pages before these came along? The same popular comics week to week like A Matter of Life and Death and I hate you, and they were there because the audience voted with their engagement. No shade to their creators, the audience wants what it wants (though to note I haven't seen those around as much as they aren't updating as regularly as they used to). Anyway, what I'm trying to say is yes, premium titles do take up a lot of real estate on the front page, and I def understand that it's important for Tapas to promote them to keep the lights on and investor interest, but even if they weren't there, some other popular free to read series would take their place. And it's likely people would still argue for more visibility for their stories.
And let's not forget, some of the premium creators were born from our community pool! And as regular users keep voicing for visibility, I believe it's also creating a divide between them and premium creators. I know a few community creators who have gone premium and who now post less frequently on the forums here. Of course I assume they are busy with work, but I can't help but wonder if the general sentiment put them off as well. I can only infer, and cannot speak on their behalf.
Now as for the new site design, I think it impacts visibility in these ways (BUGS ASIDE that I know they're looking into and working on, like stuff not appearing in fresh or the entire collection of their respective genre.)
NAVIGABILITY: This new way of navigating series and reading (and not having a dark mode) will most certainly impact some readers and deter them from finding more things to read. It's a pretty big turn off. Myself included. I hate the redesign lol (some parts are good tho! like sorting between premium and free to read, the font options for novel reading, the collapsable comments).
Browsing novels: Having it as one scrolling list can deter people from continuing to scroll down. People's attention spans are short. I liked the tiled look from before, kind of like how the comics are now. If the series descriptions are necessary, perhaps when hovering over a thumbnail their the description can pop up?
But the rest I can't say for sure until the bugs have been sorted out. That's all that I can dare to predict. It's still a bit early to determine how this redesign will impact numbers
Was Tapas perfect before the redesign? Certainly not. They have and still do deserve criticism with how some things are managed and done without creator input until after the fact. But there are definitely areas where Tapas' hands are tied. They cannot wave a magic wand and give everyone the numbers they want. There is no sacrifice available to give all 70,000 titles on the site the attention they may (or may not) deserve.