In an interview following yesterday's announcement of the sale of Wattpad to Naver for more than $600 million, Allen Lau, co-founder and CEO of Wattpad, told PW the acquisition was “a match made in heaven.” Lau emphasized the synergies between the two companies, particularly with Naver’s Webtoon subsidiary. “We are both multiplatform entertainment companies and are perfectly aligned. We offer online reading and writing, book publishing and relationships with television and film studios. Webtoon offers digital comics and animation.”
Lau sees opportunities in collaborating on a variety of projects and sharing IP, in particular helping to bring the work of Wattpad creators into new formats, including comics and animation, while producers of Manwha, as Korean comics are known, can move into prose published on Wattpad. The same goes for finding new readers readers. “The audience for comics may not read fiction, and fiction readers may not read comics,” said Lau.
Both companies are already very popular throughout the U.S. and Asia. Webtoon, which has 72 million monthly users, is particularly popular at home in Korea, as well as Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand. Wattpad, which has more than 90 million monthly users, is also popular in Indonesia, as well as the Philippines and Vietnam. The big question is how the combined company will work to grow their respective markets in China, where Webtoon has strong competition. Tencent, the Chinese conglomerate is an investor in Kuaikan Manhua, a Chinese competitor to Webtoon, but also in Wattpad, where it led a $117.8 million round of investment in Wattpad several years ago.
“We support over 50 languages,” said Lau, “so with the combined entertainment ecosystem, we can create more opportunities for writers and help each other out.”
Lau emphasized that Wattpad will remain an independent company, operating out of Toronto. “We are together, but we want to continue to grow in the same way we have for years.” Since it was launched in 2006 Wattpad has has more than a billion uploads to it site.
Lau underscored several other of the company’s achievements over the years, including the 90 film and television projects sourced from Wattpad stories that are in production on five different continents; the launch of Wattpad Paid Stories, which now has 650 stories for readers to buy and has generated more than $1 million in revenue for writers; as well as the launch of the company’s own young adult publishing imprint, which has published 21 titles in two years. “This year,” Lau said, “we will almost double our book production,” with plans to publish 16 books in 2021. In all, the company has had more than a billion uploads to its site since it was launched in 2006.