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This Company Transforms Unknown Writers Into Published Authors

Naver's adoption of up-and-coming apps has facilitated the creation of a writing genre.
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People have been writing online for decades. But often, what they're doing as a casual hobby has the potential to turn into something much bigger. In fact, some writers'  work has become popular enough to dictate entertainment and publishing industries--it even made "Twilight" author Stephanie Meyer an instant celebrity and earned $3.4 billion for the franchise in box office sales.

Naver Corporation  (NHNCF) , a South Korean search engine that is the Korean equivalent of Google  (GOOGL) , owns popular writing platform Wattpad, which has a global community of more than 94 million readers and holds more than 1 billion uploads -- including a section of the site devoted to fanfiction.

What is Fanfiction?

Young readers have altered the book market almost entirely with a relatively new genre: fanfiction. Fanfiction is a genre of writing where authors write a story utilizing characters from different aspects of popular culture. Whether it be a celebrity like Harry Styles or Billie Eilish, a character from a television show or book such as Harry Potter, fanfiction has definitely become an industry worthy of acknowledgment.

Fanfiction has been around since the 1960s, with "fanzines" created by the Star Trek fandom. Not only did "Twilight" begin as a fanfiction, but so did "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James, which was written as a spinoff of "Twilight."

Platforms like Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (also known as Ao3) have been sensationalized for their unique structure, upholding individuality and creativity for younger generations. These websites allow anyone to write and publish a story, allowing readers to comment and interact with the author and other readers in real-time. These sites are increasingly attractive to people interested in writing and reading. 

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Wattpad is not just a platform for gen Z and millennials; it has become integral to the entertainment and writing industries. As previously mentioned, "Twilight" and "Fifty Shades of Grey" began as fan fiction. The "Twilight" franchise went on to earn $3.4 billion and "Fifty Shades of Grey" earned $569.7 million in box office sales. 

Other crossovers include the book After by Anna Todd, which began as a Wattpad story inspired by the members of the band One Direction. It was turned into five books: "After", "After We Collided", "After We Fell", "After Ever Happy", and "Before". Anna Todd was scouted on Wattpad by New York-based publisher Simon and Schuster, offering the author around a six-figure deal. Several film adaptions then ensued through separate film adaptations from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, each making millions.

Why Fanfiction Is So Lucrative

Wattpad reportedly generates $40 million in revenue annually from programmatic advertising, brand campaigns, Wattpad Premium subscriptions, and purchases from Wattpad Paid Stories. Companies like Unilever  (UL)  have advertised on Wattpad as well for this reason. 

Wattpad is owned by a South Korean company called the Naver Corporation  (NHNCF)  which bought Wattpad on May 10th, 2021. The corporation harbors a revenue of ₩5.3 trillion and ₩17 trillion in total assets as of 2020. It also owns the LINE messaging app, which is currently valued at $11 billion.

Naver Corporation is attractive to investors because of its strategic focus on social media and messaging companies, as well as its success in those sectors (its net income is ₩836 billion won, or $648 million U.S.).

Because Wattpad is popular among fanfic communities, the sites have also been found intertwining with the entertainment and publication industries. More publishers are scouting them for talent than ever before. Wattpad is providing a new way to connect writers and publishers, transforming the writing app into a unique combination of a social media site and a talent agency.