Content Licensing is Key to Wattpad’s Future

In Feature Articles by Edward Nawotka

Wattpad licensed Anna Todd's One Direction fan fiction novel to S&S and Paramount Pictures.

Wattpad licensed Anna Todd’s “After” to Paramount Pictures.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Licensing, says Allen Lau — co-founder of Canadian social network, writing and publishing website Wattpad — is a key to the company’s future. The company, which has attracted tens of millions of users around the world, sees this as a secondary strategy to monetize users, after content marketing.

The content licensing model for online writing and self-publishing platforms is already extremely popular in China, where companies as Tencent Cloudary have helped some popular authors make a lot of money or even turn them into celebrities.

Last year Wattpad made headlines when it licensed Anna Todd’s novel, After, to Simon & Schuster in a four-book deal estimated to be worth half a million dollars. Wattpad then enlisted talent agency UTA to represent film and TV rights for the novel, which were picked up by Paramount Pictures.

More recently, the company has begun working with Cosmopolitan magazine to syndicate content through the magazine’s website; and the company has also helped some of its most popular writers host crowdfunding campaigns to help them get their books into print.

Helping existing Wattpad writers get traditionally published is part the company’s agenda, says Lau, and they’ve seen traditional deals happen for writers throughout Latin America, France, Spain and Asia.

In the Philippines, where newspapers credit Wattpad for having literally transformed the publishing ecosystem, Lau estimates “hundreds, if not thousands, of titles were published as a result of the books’ popularity on Wattpad.” Unfortunately, laments Lau, the company doesn’t always know exact figures because authors are not required to work with Wattpad to forge deals with publishers and can work directly — though this too may change.

As an extension of its influence, Wattpad has developed a partnership with television channel TV5 to produce Wattpad Presents — a television show that dramatizes stories originally published on Wattpad — and has deal with Life is Beautiful Publishing Company to produce books out of stories popularized by the show. “They are sourcing talent; they have a proven, captured audience. The model is working to grow all sides. I do expect us to see more and more of this kind of opportunity around the world, and we are starting to see activity in France, Italy and Germany as well.”

While Wattpad keeps the IP of the content that appears on the platform, “we don’t want to own the content,” says Lau. “We want to provide a platform for them to freely share. Because of the frictionless environment, we encourage more people to share. For those writers who become really popular and if they choose to, we can collaborate and amplify this through licensing and promotion. Of course, we don’t need to stop people from doing this themselves either.”

Naturally, though, the company generates revenue by taking a cut of the deals it assists on, be it through an agent or in a direct deal.

“We want to help the writers, we use this analogy a lot: there a lot of people who love to play golf, but there is only one Tiger Woods. For many people, it is always a hobby. We give the choice back to the writers. We remain competitive by making sure we offer them the best opportunities — and for the right writers, that can be licensing their work internationally.”

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.