How Wattpad Became a Multiplatform Entertainment Venue
“Founded in 2006 by Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen, Wattpad, an online community of writers and readers, has blossomed into a multiplatform entertainment venture that attracts millions of visitors to its site each month. Wattpad helps aspiring writers find readers, but it also provides traditional book publishers, advertisers, and film and TV producers with original content, in addition to offering them real-time data on which stories and topics consumers find exciting.
In a blog post titled ‘The Master Plan,’ Lau marked the company’s 10th anniversary by outlining what’s next for Wattpad. He wrote that publishers and other media producers will be able to use data generated by Wattpad’s global fan base ‘to test content’ and find the next hits. Data mining, he said, will reinvent the entertainment industry. Wattpad, he continued, will use machine learning—a kind of artificial intelligence that helps computers learn without needing specific programming—to discover stories and create new forms of entertainment.
Lau told PW that Wattpad was founded with a straightforward plan: ‘To revolutionize the discovery of content and the ability to connect with readers and share those stories.’ He said that from the start, ‘we wanted original content, we wanted to create a big user base, and we worked to figure out what to do to build a community online.’ But, Lau noted, to meet this goal, ‘we needed two things—the smartphone and ubiquitous Internet connectivity to share and download content.’ He added, ‘These were the ingredients that ensured that Wattpad would survive.’
Wattpad has built its online community by offering material from aspiring writers—who post their content for free to solicit feedback from readers as well as to build a following—and now from a succession of veteran writers looking to cultivate readers under the age of 30. Over time, Wattpad’s free-content platform has attracted significant promotional partnerships with major trade book publishers, among them HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Sourcebooks. And for good reason: Wattpad attracts more than 45 million visitors monthly (a figure that represents the number of users who access the site via the Wattpad app and those who access via desktop/laptop), most of whom are under 30 years old. Ninety percent of the reading and writing activity on Wattpad is conducted via mobile devices. And all of this activity is global: Wattpad stories are available in more than 50 languages.”