LOS ANGELES — Wattpad, an online publishing community where 2 million writers have posted 250 million works, most of which are fiction, is now going the way of many other digital media enterprises: more video.
The company Tuesday announced the launch of Wattpad Studios, where it will partner with established entertainment companies such as Paramount Pictures and United Talent Agency to bring some of those stories to life through movies, TV and digital platforms. It will also explore new print partnerships and deliver more money to its content creators, some of whom have become hugely successful. The platform’s biggest star, Anna Todd, has more than 1 billion reads and 32 translation rights sales to date for her novel “After.”
Aron Levitz, who was promoted to head of Wattpad Studios as part of the announcement, told International Business Times that the studio division will give writers new opportunities to make money. He said their proven, quantifiable fan bases make them much safer bets for production companies to take a chance on.
“Now, we have built-in audiences,” he said. “Our biggest writers will have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. They get a lot of love, maybe 10,000 comments. And that love comes in the form of data.”
The new Wattpad Studios division will oversee the Wattpad Stars program, which began in September and identifies top talent and connects them with brands that can commission them to write stories of interest to those companies. Native advertising has been a huge profit engine for digital media companies such as BuzzFeed, but Levitz said Wattpad for the first time brought that potential income stream to fiction writers.
“We bring brands in to pay writers to write fiction about something the brand cares about,” he said. “We just competed a major campaign with GE for near-future science fiction based on their amazing technology. In no kind of scale have writers ever been paid to write fiction by brands.”
While product placement in fantasy novels might seem off-putting, it likely does have fewer ethical issues there than in the news business, where it is rampant. And Wattpad targets the young adult demographic that can be hard to reach through traditional advertising channels.
However, TV still has plenty of resonance — especially outside the U.S. — and Levitz said traditional media is going to be a big part of Wattpad Studios’ partnerships going forward. The company currently produces a weekly television show in the Philippines that Levitz said is one of the top-rated shows and could be one type of model going forward. He also said that while a story that works in Manila may not play in Peoria, Wattpad’s bottom-up, scriptwriter-first approach makes Wattpad Studios distinct from other, personality-based multichannel networks (MCNs).
“At the end of the day, we work in the atomic unit of the entertainment industry and publishing industry — storytelling,” Levitz said. “That sets us apart from other MCNs that focus on talent.”