Wattpad was a startup with seemingly no monetization plan for several years. It kept growing every which way except financially, it seemed. This year that changed abruptly as the company—which started as an online reading community—put both feet in the water of television.
Cofounder and CEO Allen Lau is not looking back to the shore.
“[Cofounder] Ivan and I believed people would read and write on devices that they would carry with them all the time,” Lau recalls of the founding concept behind Wattpad, which preceded the iPhone.
Because of Wattpad, Lau says, people are reading and writing more than ever.
“Reading just looks a lot different today,” he says. “It’s a social and interactive experience, not the solitary pursuit it once was.”
Again, however: not a ton of money to be made. Enter Wattpad’s future: entertainment. The company’s launch of Studios signaled an important shift toward something Lau and co. could actually cash in on—television content.
Today, Lau calls Wattpad a global, multiplatform entertainment company. And he says that traditional television’s process to creating content is “inherently inefficient” and a gamble. He wants to use artificial intelligence on his platform of 45 million storytellers to determine exactly what will make great TV—and then make it.
In effect, Wattpad wants to reinvent an entire industry.
“I can guarantee the next big hit is already on Wattpad,” Lau says. “That’s why major entertainment companies around the world have partnered with Wattpad to co-produce popular stories for other platforms.”
It’s bold and ambitious. Not the impression we often got from Old Wattpad. But this is new Wattpad. You can sense the excitement, the confidence. Lau was ahead of the mobile internet with his original idea. Can he beat television’s sea change to the punch, too?