Wattpad said to be ‘up for sale for $500 million’ after year of increasing diversity and strong growth

Wattpad is reported to be up for sale at around $500 million after 2020 saw the story platform grow strongly amid the Covid pandemic.

Wattpad’s Paid Stories program rolled out to new international regions during last year and TV and film projects in development with Wattpad Studios grew past 70 while Wattpad Books brought 15 hit stories to bookshelves.

The Wattpad global community grew to more than 90 million people in 2020 and the company was included in Fast Company’s annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies.

Reports indicate that the 15-year-old Toronto company, headed by co-founder Allen Lau has been talking to potential bidders after receiving an unsolicited takeover offer from a US internet company.

Wattpad, according to the reports, is saying it doesn’t ‘have any news to share’ in response to enquiries about a possible sale deal.

The company uses artificial intelligence to identify which stories are likely to prove popular and could be published as books and adapted for film or TV. It launched a book publishing division in 2019 and is also producing its own film and TV projects. Wattpad also sells advertising on its platform.

The Covid pandemic brought a big increase of around 50% in people signing up to use the platform. Writer activity overall increased by 200% from January through April.

Wattpad General Manager Jeanne Lam says, ‘Wattpad has been a lifeline for people, as they’ve used reading and writing to connect like never before. In a year of quarantine and isolation, people have been able to truly express themselves on Wattpad, sharing their experiences, struggles, and hopes with others around the world. Whether it’s creating new opportunities for writers or helping readers discover stories that can change their lives, we’re proud that Wattpad is a safe space where people have been able to find connection and solace.”

Some of the facets of Wattpad’s year in 2020 include:

  • The pandemic produced an influx of stories inspired by the pandemic, with users spending more than 16 million minutes reading stories tagged #COVID19. Pandemics and dystopian narratives have always been popular on Wattpad, but in 2020, these themes found more fans. Popular stories like C M Fritts’ (@cmfritts) The Runners (150k reads) were part of a surge in #pandemic tags, which increased by 2,104% over 2019.
  • #Dystopian stories and tags also gained in popularity, increasing by 31% compared to last year. Creatures of the Night (1.1 million reads) by Grace Collins (@cloudedwithstories) was one of the most popular stories in this genre, and it will hit bookstores on July 13, 2021 from Wattpad Books. Kassandra Tate’s (@famouxx) The Famoux was also a fan favourite. With 5.1 million reads, the story will be in stores from Wattpad Books on January 19, 2021.
  • Wattpad users spent millions of minutes reading romance stories tagged #coronavirus or set in quarantine situations. The most exciting example came from quarantine-romance Lockdown on London Lane (406k reads) by Beth Reekles (@Reekles), internationally-renowned Wattpad author of The Kissing Booth. The story is set to be published by Wattpad Books in 2022.
  • Amid the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, mental health was a prominent theme for Wattpad users Last year, Wattpad’s Gen Z Census research found that 47% of Gen Z Wattpad users surveyed have experienced mental health challenges, particularly depression and anxiety. The number of stories tagged #mentalhealth increased by 32% compared with 2019.
  • Global protests against racism and police brutality spread awareness, inspiring Wattpad authors to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Users spent more than 18 million minutes reading stories tagged #blacklivesmatter, like Emani Jasmine’s (@emani_jasmine) Shades Darker (268k reads), which follows protagonist Kendra Lyon as she navigates the fallout from a tragic act of police brutality.
  • Readers backed Black authors on Wattpad, spending more than 45 million minutes reading stories tagged #celebrateblackwriters. The movement was supported by stories like Daven McQueen’s (@keyframed) The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones (14.6k reads).
  • 2020 saw the rise of activism and political engagement as central themes in popular Wattpad stories, with readers spending millions of minutes reading stories tagged #protests, #voting and #election. The number of stories tagged #activism and touching on political themes increased by 93% compared with 2019, exemplified by stories like Wicked, Wild, Wonderful (174k reads) by Matthew Dawkins (@MatthewD_Writes).
  • The Wattpad community continued to spread positive messages about a variety of causes. Jo Watson’s (@JoWatson_101) Big Boned (265k reads) is part of a wider movement supporting #bodypositivity, #neurodiversity, and #selfesteem. Revenge of the Sluts by Natalie Walton (@Floats) took on #slutshaming and encouraged important conversations about consent. The story currently has more than 443,000 reads on Wattpad and will be available from Wattpad Books on February 2, 2021.
  • Diversity continued to increase in genres such as supernatural, paranormal, and fantasy. There was a 26% increase in the number of paranormal stories tagged #gay and a 100% increase in paranormal stories tagged #lesbian. Wolf & Witch (394k reads) by Alix Hicks (@HicksScribbles) — which follows a 17-year-old gay witch as he tries to save his failing relationship — was an important story in this movement.
  • There was a wide variety of exciting new stories and voices in every genre. Jessica Cunsolo’s (@AvaViolet) genre-blending romantic thriller Stay With Me (in bookstores since December 2020) continued to grow in popularity, with an incredible 221 million reads across the three-book series, Rebecca Phelps’ (@geminirosey) world-shattering sci-fi story Down World (305k reads, and in bookstores March 30, 2021), and Philline Harms’ (@writing00introvert) coming-of-age lesbian romance Never Kiss Your Roommate (2 million reads and in bookstores June 1, 2021) were all fan and staff favourites this year.

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