By Siti Syameen
The year opened with the news of Naver’s acquisition on Wattpad for over AUD$773 million in January.
For those who are unfamiliar, Wattpad is a website for writers to publish new user-generated stories.
The app founded by University of Toronto alumni Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen in 2006 is about to write a new chapter in its own story.
While most people might wonder about these two names and what warrants the sizable amount of money involved, tech pundits are getting all excited.
Naver’s subsidiaries, Webtoon and Wattpad are both already accomplished multi-platform entertainment companies.
Many Webtoon titles have already made their way into the Korean drama scene while Wattpad stories have been made into series and movies.
As a Wattpad user, the possibility is endless.
Content such as The Kissing Booth and The Sun Is Also A Star from Wattpad have already made their way on Netflix and cinemas respectively while Webtoon has The Uncanny Counter and True Beauty.
Goes without saying that TV/cinema adaptation is the height of achievement for a writer/webtoon author.
What would this marriage mean?
As I am only an active user of one and an observer of the other, I can only deliver a lopsided perspective.
On Wattpad, I don’t only post stories for others and read the works of my favourite peers, I also volunteer via Wattpad’s much-talked program, the Ambassadors.
Wattpad Ambassadors are people who welcome new users and cheer for others as their stories come out.
Ambassadors are selected from all over the world, making Wattpad one of the most global platforms in the tech scene.
Over 50 languages are supported on Wattpad, making global campaigns and contests such a rewarding experience for participants.
At the same time, as a writer or reader, Wattpad still allows for lone souls to enjoy its features without having to stand too close to the scene.
One can simply sign up, just read or post stories for just a handful of people.
However, most writers would love to get a lot of readers, have their story record millions of ‘reads’ and receive favourable ‘votes’.
This motivates further writing and indirectly builds confidence.
On the other hand, Naver’s Webtoon has Korean as the default language but multiple languages including English are available for most of its comics. It also takes in higher monetisation statistics business-wise.
As a Wattpad user who contributes stories, Naver’s takeover means a chance for a story written using simple text to be morphed into other forms, and the webcomic format is possibly one of the most exciting shapes.
Why webcomic when there is video?
Webcomic used to be a sub-culture especially popular in Asian countries. In Malaysia, many identify themselves as an otaku for being a hardcore fan of comics, especially those from Japan.
They source comic books from book stores, which have been already translated into other languages including English.
Many Malaysians have since found web pages and sites filled with mangas that they could not buy or understand, translated for their consumption.
Webtoon also allows for content creators to gain income via ads.
While Wattpad also has programmes like Paid Stories, it is not that easy to get content to that spot.
The idea of a story of Wattpad being converted into a webtoon is indeed exciting but how will Webtoon sift out those poorly clichéd tales out of Wattpad’s 400 million stories?
Wattpad has its annual Wattys Awards to highlight the best stories, however, there are real gems buried deep in its stronghold and fake diamonds being pushed up simply by the total amount of page views it received.
Both platforms are also crowded with talents and it would be harder for writers to get noticed.
Webtoon authors are already adept storytellers and they have a graphic advantage, what will happen to those who could only type their hearts out?
On this note, Wattpad becomes more discerning about what its users are allowed to post.
On the other side, Webtoon has already established a structure where content is somewhat segregated into three tiers: amateur works, those good enough to be selected by Naver to be promoted and lastly, a level where artists actually get paid based on how popular their work is.
Come what may, this writer hopes the platform will stay orange and continue to serve as a means of catharsis for its users.
About the author: Siti Syameen is a freelance journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org