Storytelling incubator Wattpad is getting bought for over half a billion dollars

Last week, we told you how Wattpad has become a place where budding authors can sometimes turn their work into Hollywood film and TV, with Hulu, Netflix and others adapting Wattpad writers’ labors into titles like The Kissing Booth, Light as a Feather and After We Collided. But it looks like Wattpad may no longer be trying to become an entertainment tastemaker all on its own — South Korean web company Naver is buying Wattpad for over $600 million, the companies announced today.

While details are scarce, it seems like Naver already sees Wattpad as a natural pairing with one of its other brands — Webtoon, an online webtoon publishing portal that similarly allows artists to upload their own work and similarly spawns TV and anime adaptations.(Here’s a handy list of those adaptations from Wikipedia.)

A new chapter in our story is about to be written, and we’re not writing it alone… We’re thrilled to announce our board has approved an agreement to be acquired by Naver, home of @webtoonofficial! Read the exciting news →

— Wattpad (@wattpad) January 19, 2021

Wattpad’s press release explicitly mentions Webtoon, and Webtoon was the one to issue a press release on behalf of its parent company Naver as well. Here’s how Webtoon describes the buyout:

With the backing of Korean technology giant, NAVER, WEBTOON and Wattpad will collaborate to create a stronger and connected ecosystem across visual and textual storytelling content, with a combined reader base of over 160 million monthly users globally. WEBTOON’s innovative monetization model and Wattpad’s massive library of diverse stories will provide each prospective affiliate with new levers for growth, creating a stronger foundation to fund an aspiring generation of young, creative talent.

However, Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau tells BetaKit that his company will continue to operate independently.

Naver is a popular search engine in South Korea, and competes with the likes of Google and Facebook in other ways too. The most notable is probably Line, a messaging app whose associated services have helped make it the dominant social media company in Japan.


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Digital publishing site Wattpad is partnering with Sony to adapt stories for Hollywood

Update, 8:38PM ET: Added info from BetaKit about how Wattpad plans to operate independently.

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