Storytelling platform Wattpad conducts another round of layoffs

This is the company’s second round of layoffs. Wattpad laid off 42 of its 267 workforce, or 15% of the staff, in March 2023…
Wattpad

It was announced earlier this month that Wattpad, a Toronto-based storytelling platform owned by Naver's Webtoon Entertainment, had laid off another round of workers.

According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke with TechCrunch, Wattpad has eliminated about 30 positions, or about 15% of the workforce. About thirty employees were affected by the cut, according to local media sources such The Korea Economic Daily. Prior to publishing, a request for comment from a Wattpad representative was not answered.

As its parent firm, based in Los Angeles, looks to strengthen its finances in anticipation of a potential U.S. IPO as early as 2025, the move is a part of the company's cost-cutting reorganisation plan, the person said. There are three storytelling subsidiaries of Webtoon Entertainment: Line Digital Frontier in Tokyo, Wattpad in Toronto, and Naver Webtoon in Seoul.

This is the second round of layoffs for the company. In March 2023, 42 out of Wattpad's 267 employees, or 15% of the workforce, were let go.

In October of last year, Wattpad introduced a new freemium model called "Wattpad Originals," which lets fans access free content and trial before they buy while writers can keep specific chapters behind a barrier. The firm most recently started offering "premium Picks," which allows Premium and Premium+ users to view five Wattpad Originals for free each month.

As part of its publishing division, Naver acquired Wattpad, founded by Allen Lau in 2006, for $600 million in 2021.

Wattpad lays off 15% of its staff, blames changing economic environment

Companies of all sizes are being impacted by the difficult economic climate, which is leading to job losses. Wattpad, a storytelling website, revealed on Tuesday that 42 of its 267 employees—or around 15% of the workforce—had been let go. The departing staff will receive six months of continuous benefits in addition to at least 12 weeks of severance pay. Additionally, they will be permitted to keep any equipment designated for their offices, including laptops.

In a blog post, the company blamed the economic environment for the cost-cutting measures and said the layoff impacts all its divisions.

As you are all aware, the last year has seen a significant shift in the global economic landscape, and we are not exempt, like other businesses. "Today, we've made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce our workforce, despite our best efforts over the past several months to limit the impact of the changing economic environment," interim president of the company KB Nam stated.

“This does not mean that these team members haven’t been an important part of our work. It’s important to note that these decisions are in response to changing business realities and needs, and are in no way a reflection of individual contributions. Everyone at Wattpad has accomplished a tremendous amount and had a positive impact on our company.”

After Jeanne Lam opted to quit the company last year, Naver Webtoon's Nam was named interim president. Wattpad was acquired for $600 million by Naver, a South Korean corporation, in 2021.

The business launched a new creator programme in June of last year, offering writers a maximum compensation of $25,000. For writers, it also introduced a brand-new measurement statistic known as "Engaged Readers."

Wattpad ditches ‘Paid Stories’ for a freemium model

The social storytelling platform Wattpad is replacing its "Paid Stories" programme, which it introduced in 2019, with a new freemium model dubbed "Wattpad Originals." This new model offers authors the opportunity to earn revenue while also expanding their readership of non-paying fans. With this new paradigm, authors can allow readers to access free content and trial before they buy while still having the option to put specific chapters behind a paywall.

Top-notch content chosen by editorial professionals based on reader interaction metrics may be found on Wattpad Originals, an invite-only platform. By purchasing coins to access chapters (the price varies based on word count) or by subscribing to Wattpad Premium+ for $7.49 a month, readers can show support for their favourite writers.

However, they can also wait a week or longer until the chapter is free. For instance, whenever a new chapter is added, a previous one becomes free. “For the most recent story in a series, only the most recent ten chapters will ever be behind a paywall,” Wattpad writes on its support page. “Readers will be able to see how long they need to wait until the next part will be available for free.”

At launch, Wattpad Originals will number over 1,600. 

Wattpad Premium subscribers now have access to 5 free monthly Wattpad Originals

Today, Wattpad revealed "Premium Picks," a new service that allows Premium and Premium+ users to access five free Wattpad Originals each month. Wattpad Originals is a recently established freemium model that allows some authors to choose to charge for chapters.

Members no longer have to pay to unlock content; instead, they receive five Wattpad Originals for free each month. The experienced staff at Wattpad has carefully chosen a variety of publications, including bestsellers, hidden gems, and works by up-and-coming writers. Authors Claudia Tan of "Perfect Addiction," Rachael Rose of "Gaslight," and Neilani Alejandrino of "The Girl He Never Noticed" are a few writers whose works are featured as Premium Picks. Authors will have a new platform to present their work and possibly attract more readers thanks to Premium Picks.

The selection of free stories will expire on the first day of each month, so subscribers will have to purchase the ones they didn’t get to finish. Wattpad included a countdown timer on the Premium Picks screen, so readers know how much time they have left. They can also turn on app notifications to be alerted when the next batch of stories is available.

One month doesn’t really seem like enough time for subscribers to read all five stories. But we guess that Premium and Premium+ members are hardcore readers anyhow, so maybe this won’t be a problem for most.

“Wattpad readers read a lot, and Premium subscribers are some of our most passionate fans,” Meghan MacDonald, head of strategy and business operations at Wattpad, told TechCrunch. “They subscribe to Wattpad Premium because they want to be able to read without interruption. And every reader enjoys stories at a different speed. While some might binge a whole book in a sitting, others might read a story over the span of a few days or weeks.”

Wattpad launched its $4.99/month Premium subscription in 2017, giving users an ad-free experience, offline stories, bonus coins with every purchase of a Wattpad Coin pack and exclusive profile colors and reaction stickers.

“Wattpad Premium looked very different when we launched the first version of our subscription service in 2017… Our research and internal data about reading trends among subscribers made it clear that we can add significant value by giving access to a selection of Wattpad Originals, some of the most exciting stories on Wattpad,” MacDonald added.

Storytelling community Wattpad launches Paid Stories and its ad-free subscription globally

Online storytelling community Wattpad, also now a content feeder for streaming services and other media companies, is taking its two consumer-facing paid products global. Wattpad Premium, the ad-free subscription tier, first launched in 2017 and has only been available in a handful of countries to date. It’s now available to Wattpad’s 70 million-plus worldwide users, as of today. In addition, Wattpad’s Paid Stories, which offers exclusive, paywalled content to readers, is also now available to the global user base.

This application, which was once known as Wattpad Next, went into beta testing in November of last year. It was first made available in the United States, and this year it is supposed to go global.

Technically speaking, Wattpad quietly launched Paid Stories globally last week, but it has now completed its rollout to all users, the company says. The stories give readers another way to support their favorite writers as they can purchase the serialized content either when the story is finished, or as it’s still being written. This past month, readers spend more than 5.5 million minutes on Paid Stories, the company says. 

Users purchase access to the stories using Wattpad’s virtual currency, Coins. These Coins are sold in packs that start at $0.99 for 9 Coins, and go as high as $7.99 for 230 Coins.

With the global expansion, the two products are also being better integrated.

Now, Wattpad Premium subscribers will receive discounted Coins to buy the Paid Stories. They also receive bonus Coins — up to 66% more free Coins, the company says — every time they buy a Coin package to unlock a Paid Story.

“Our vision at Wattpad is to entertain and connect the world through stories, creating the best platform and community on the planet for every type of reader and writer,” said Wattpad general manager, Jeanne Lam. “Every innovation and initiative at Wattpad supports that vision while improving the experience for users. Wattpad Premium and Wattpad Paid Stories give users everywhere more control over their Wattpad experience and options to enjoy the platform in new ways — whether it’s uninterrupted, ad-free reading or the chance to support the writers who make those stories possible.”

The company does make some money from the items; Wattpad is now ranked No. 8 on Google Play and No. 11 in the App Store's Books category. These days, though, the company's content deals are its major business. In addition to having a development partnership with Universal Cable Productions, Wattpad signed a first-look agreement with Sony Pictures Television earlier this year. It collaborates with iflix, Bavaria Fiction, Huayi Brothers Korea, Mediaset, NL Film, Mediacorp, and eOne on an international level..

Wattpad’s stories have been turned into feature films, as well as movies and TV shows for streaming services like Netflix (The Kissing Booth) and Hulu (Light as a Feather).

Wattpad Books is its own print publishing division as of late.

These broader efforts capitalize on Wattpad’s generally younger and devoted fan base.

For instance, Tay Marley's The QB Bad Boy & Me, one of Wattpad Books' most well-known novels, has been read over 26.3 million times on the platform and will be published as a book on August 20, 2019.

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