Nearly a year after selling Wattpad to Korea’s Naver for an estimated $600 million, Wattpad cofounder Allen Lau is transitioning into a new role: executive advisor for Naver subsidiary Webtoon. Lau outlined his decision in a recent web post, reflecting on his 15 years at the company and its growth to nearly 100 million users around the world.
“The past year was record-breaking for Wattpad,” he wrote. “Since the acquisition—one of the largest for a Canadian technology company—we have never grown faster. With the Grand Plan in place, it’s the perfect time to pass the baton to Wattpad president Jeanne Lam and Wattpad Webtoon Studios president Aron Levitz in leading the team to achieve the vision. With such strong leaders, Wattpad is in great hands.”
Lam, who was named president of Wattpad last year, spoke with PW following the news, noting that the company’s monetization plan for its content creators is a top priority for the company: “We’re now approaching having reached a total of $3 million dollars paid back to our writers from the ‘paid stories’ program over the past 2.5 years.” She added that the company’s brand collaborations have also been successful, citing collaborations with cosmetics companies Elf and Maybelline, the latter of which raised over $30,000 for mental health awareness. A new collaboration with the airline Southwest is coming later this year.
Lam underscored that Wattpad’s 94 million users are roughly distributed equally across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. “We reach 176 million combined visitors around the world monthly across Webtoon and Wattpad,” she said.
Lam added that Wattpad has helped, in her estimation, establish the future of reading, especially among the young. “We’re allowing more diverse stories to come to life across the platform,” she said. “Some 80% of Wattpad users are Gen Z, and they want to see themselves represented. We are trying to bring these stories to life as movies, books, and now Webtoons and animation.” She feels that the scale and scope of Wattpad’s influence and accomplishment was sometimes underestimated in the broader literary community.
Lau’s new role will be working to find further ways Wattpad and Naver’s Webtoon can collaborate. Late last year, the companies committed to investing $100 million in content development and product financing.
“As we’ve always done, we have been pioneering the space of leveraging data to surface those stories that we want to bring to life,” Lam said. She added: “We help creators get their stories told. We want to empower writers to write what they want, engage with their readers and communities, and help them monetize their massive fandom. It is truer now more than ever before.”