Toronto-based online storytelling company Wattpad has confirmed with Good e-Reader that they are being sold to NAVER, for $600 million in cash. The South Korean company is best known for their digital comics platform, Webtoons. Webtoon is behind some of the biggest names in webcomics, including Lore Olympus, and has worked with the Jim Henson Company and producers behind hit films like The Lego Movie, the It franchise and Snowpiercer.
Wattpad provides an online platform for amateur authors to post their works, which are read by more than 90 million monthly users globally. Its users are typically young women, accessing the app on their smartphones. Canadian author Margaret Atwood was an early champion. Wattpad uses artificial intelligence to identify which stories are popular and have potential for adaptation into other formats. That has fuelled its grand ambitions to upend traditional Manhattan publishers and Hollywood producers, who have typically greenlit books and movies based on gut instinct.
Naver operates South Korea’s largest online search engine, the Line mobile messaging app, and other internet properties including the Snow video app, digital comics platform Webtoon and live streaming platform V Live, used by K-pop celebrities to post videos and interact with fans. Naver was named the world’s ninth most innovative company by Forbes in 2018.
The founder of Wattpad, Allan Lau said Naver will offer Wattpad a chance to get into animation and to grow beyond the 90 million users — including more than five million writers — that Wattpad has. Webtoon said it has more than 72 million monthly active users. “Wattpad’s vision to entertain and connect the world through stories fits perfectly with our vision for Webtoon and Naver’s content brand and we’re thrilled to have them join the Naver family,” Seong-sook Han, chief executive, said in a statement.
Lau confirmed Wattpad will continue to operate independently and only plans to accelerate its current trajectory. “I’m not done yet. What I would say is, today is the last episode of season one, but tomorrow is the more amazing first episode of season two,” the CEO said. “It will only be better and I’m so looking forward to growing the company at an accelerated pace.”
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.