Wattpad’s new leader is focused on creator value

Wattpad President Jeanne Lam wants to help creators “become the next big hit.”

When Jeanne Lam joined Wattpad in 2015, she took charge of customer acquisition and growth of the company’s creator ecosystem. More than seven years later, creators remain a focus for Lam as she takes over the reins from founding CEO Allen Lau.

“My goal is to be able to say that more writers earn a living writing on Wattpad than anywhere else,” Lam said.

In a recent interview with BetaKit, Lam discussed how she plans to move Lau’s vision forward, and why creating value for Wattpad creators is still a key focus as a Naver company.

One of the first things the company asked of her is what Wattpad is doing to help creators grow and “become the next big hit.”

Lam joined Wattpad just shy of the company’s 10th anniversary. At the time, Wattpad had between 30 million to 40 million monthly users. Lam quickly moved through the ranks of the company, becoming general manager, followed by chief business officer of platform in 2020, and finally president in the summer of 2021. In that time, Wattpad has grown to a user base of 94 million.
 

Lam took on the top spot at Wattpad after co-founder and longtime CEO Lau stepped back from the company in May. The move came just over a year after Wattpad was officially acquired by Naver, with Lau transitioning to an executive advisor role for both Wattpad and Naver’s Webtoon.

Lam is now at the helm of Wattpad as the company navigates being part of a larger corporate structure that has it closely aligned with Webtoon, the web cartoon unit of Naver. Based in South Korea, Naver is also the umbrella company for a variety of subsidiaries and affiliates, including messaging app Line, camera app Snow, group social media platform Naver Band, and metaverse platform Zepeto.

Naver has closely aligned Wattpad with Webtoon as the two have clear synergies in their content focus. Five months after purchasing Wattpad, Naver combined the respective production studios of Wattpad and Webtoon, investing $100 million USD in the newly merged company.

Naver has also hinted at plans to take its web cartoon unit public in the United States, while sources familiar with the company’s operations have previously indicated to BetaKit the potential of a Webtoon-Wattpad spin-out. With the current market conditions having all but brought public offerings to a halt, such plans have yet to come to fruition.

Speaking with BetaKit earlier this year, prior to stepping back, Lau noted that Wattpad is focused on how to utilize and expand what Wattpad and Webtoon have built to ensure their companies remain at the forefront of digital content innovation.

Lam echoed the sentiment, noting that Webtoon continues to invest in Wattpad “to pursue innovation.”

The question now, she said, is “where are we going to go now, what is the parent company going to ask of us?”

One of the first things the company asked of her is what Wattpad is doing to help creators grow and “become the next big hit.”

“We’re like, ‘well if that is the first question, we are going to have a really good time together,’” Lam said.

RELATED: Allen Lau drafts a new plan for Wattpad one year after Naver acquisition

Wattpad’s longtime focus on creating opportunities and value for its creators – in the form of book and movie deals for example – has been solidified within the company given Webtoon’s purported focus on that, Lam said.

That focus can be seen in the program that Wattpad has launched since Lam took the reins. Last month, Wattpad announced what it calls the Creators Program to allow its writers to monetize their work. The program provides writer stipends based upon a variety of milestones, with Wattpad committing to dole out $2.6 million. The program also provides writers with marketing and editorial support.

“Helping writers build a global fandom for their work and make money is what drives us in everything we do,” Lam wrote in a blog post about the program. “We’ve democratized who gets to tell their stories and started building a Creator Economy for authors.”

The Creators Program builds on Wattpad’s long history of finding ways to monetize the stories on its site. Wattpad makes its money by being an intellectual property factory that turns stories on its platform into books, movies, podcasts, and television productions.

The company has seen a number of stories from its platform adapted by the likes of Netflix. In December, the combined Wattpad Webtoon Studios signed a deal with ViacomCBS International Studios to produce and develop a slate of original series.

Becoming a Netflix hit is not a reality for the majority of Wattpad’s millions of users, and the Creators Program helps democratize the ability for writers to earn money through their stories on Wattpad.

Part of that new program includes Engaged Readers, a feature that allows writers to track metrics such as how much time people spend with their stories. The feature is set to roll out in the coming weeks. Lam called it the first in a number of features that Wattpad plans to launch this year.

“My vision is: invest in the people, the programs, the technology, [and] the products that really support creators on their journey in building their fandom,” said Lam.

Feature image courtesy Wattpad.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.

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