Wattpad plots expansion, additional revenue streams under new ownership

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Online storytelling company Wattpad and its writer-users will have more chances to expand their audience — and income — after the close of its sale to an Asian media conglomerate Monday, says Allen Lau.

The chief executive of Toronto-based Wattpad Corp. anticipates a flood of new revenue streams because South Korean owner Naver is deeply connected in areas where Wattpad has little presence.

“Not only will the size of the audience increase, the number of IPs will increase, and the number of ways that we are able to monetize the content will also increase,” Lau said in an interview.

“That’s why this is such a match made in heaven. Business will be greatly, greatly accelerated.”

Lau’s remarks came about four months after he announced the sale of the self-publishing platform he and pal Ivan Yuen dreamed up on a napkin in a food court at the Vancouver airport in 2006.

Between its inception and its US$600-million sale, about five million writers used the platform to publish stories. In recent years, Wattpad realized the trove of titles was a major asset.

It began cashing in on the intellectual property at its fingertips by adapting hit titles with rabid online fan bases into films, television series and books at a dizzying speed.

Lau believes the Naver deal will only accelerate this pace because it brings comic and animation capabilities that Wattpad currently lacks.

“It’s very clear that we can capture even more value,” he said.

Alongside its search engine and e-commerce offerings, Naver owns Webtoon, an online platform that is behind hit web comics like “Lore Olympus,” and has worked with the Jim Henson Company and producers of “The Lego Movie” and “It” franchise.

Wattpad is currently at work on more than 100 projects, including “The Hound,” “The Bro Code,” “Paradise Garden” and “Slow Dancing” television series and film adaptations of “Perfect Addiction,” “Along for the Ride” and “Float.”

Its crown jewel — the steamy fan fiction series “After” written by Anna Todd — has also begun shooting its latest film adaption to the five-part series that made Wattpad a household name.

To complete those projects and get another round underway, Lau announced Monday that Wattpad will increase its 215-member team in 2021.

That amounts to about 100 new roles in engineering, marketing, content, and other parts of the company. They will all be based in Wattpad’s Toronto or Halifax offices.

In the months before Wattpad’s big announcement, Montreal tech firm Element AI was sold to California cloud company Service Now and Toronto’s “buy now, pay later” business PayBright was purchased by San Francisco rival Affirm.

Lau will remain Wattpad’s CEO and is eager to ensure the company’s Canadian identity doesn’t slip away as it speeds towards a future with a faraway owner.

He said, “Last year was one of the fastest growing in the company’s history … this year is going to be even faster.”