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From teen wizards to Harry Styles romances: How Wattpad created a user-generated media empire

Wattpad is turning hit stories “After,” “She’s With Me,” “I’m A Gay Wizard,” “Crossbones,” and more into books, TV shows, and movies.

From teen wizards to Harry Styles romances: How Wattpad created a user-generated media empire
[Illustration: Fast Company]
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In the world of Wattpad, no genre is too niche. The user-generated publishing platform, founded in 2006 and boasting 90 million monthly readers, has spent the past few years turning its most online popular stories into both print books and movies and TV shows. In 2021, the multimedia powerhouse was acquired by the Korean tech giant Naver for $600 million—a price buoyed by Wattpad’s ability to analyze content down to which lines of a story readers like best (and absolutely must appear in a movie adaptation). “We have what is possibly the largest library of fiction that’s ever been created,” says Aron Levitz, General Manager of Wattpad Studios, the film and TV arm. “Our audience data allows us to really explore that.” The company’s insights have catapulted dozens of untraditional stories to box office and bestseller success. 

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Click to expand [Data Visualization: Chelsea Schiff]
Wattpad estimates it has 90 projects currently in development (see above), with more titles being surfaced every day by users and algorithms. Some prime examples of the company’s success: Anna Todd’s After series began as Harry Styles fanfiction, selling millions of books. The first After feature film, released in 2019, made $70 million, and a third (After We Collided) will come out later this year. Young adult novel I’m A Gay Wizard was one of Wattpad Books’ first print releases in 2019, and is currently being developed into a TV series by the Wattpad Development Fund, which identifies and elevates underrepresented stories for film and TV. The company also has a massive presence in Asia: Indonesian romance novel Turn On garnered more than 17 million reads on Wattpad, and debuted as an eight part TV series in January. With 10 million views so far, it’s the most successful Wattpad project of 2021.

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