People have been writing online for decades. But often it’s not just people who write stories. What some are doing is popular enough to dictate the entertainment and publishing industries – it even made ‘Twilight’ author Stephanie Meyer an instant celebrity and brought the franchise $3.4 billion in sales at the box office.
Naver Company (NHNCF) a South Korean search engine which is the Korean equivalent of Google, owns the popular writing platform Wattpad, which has 90 million monthly users and contains more than 665 million stories – or, as they say commonly called fanfiction.
What is fanfiction?
Young readers have almost completely changed the book market with a relatively new genre: fanfiction. Fanfiction is a genre of writing where authors write a story using characters from different aspects of popular culture. Whether it’s a celebrity like Harry Styles or Billie Eilish, a character from a TV show or a book like Harry Potter, fanfiction has definitely become an industry worthy of recognition.
Fanfiction has been around since the 1960s, with “fanzines” created by Star Trek fandom. Not only did “Twilight” start as fanfiction, but also EL James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which was written as a spinoff of “Dusk.”
Platforms such as Wattpad, Webtoon, and Archive of Our Own (also known as Ao3) have been sensationalized for their unique structure, supporting the individuality and creativity of younger generations. These websites allow anyone to write and post a story, allowing readers to comment and interact with the author and other readers in real time. These sites increasingly attract people interested in writing and reading.
Wattpad isn’t just a platform for Gen Z and Millennials; it has become an integral part of the entertainment and writing industries. As mentioned earlier, “Twilight” and “Fifty shades of Grey” started out as fanfiction. The “Twilight” franchise grossed $3.4 billion and “Fifty Shades of Grey” grossed $569.7 million in box office sales.
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Other crossovers include the book After by Anna Todd, which began as a Wattpad story inspired by the band members One Direction. It has been transformed into five books: After, After our collision, After our fall, After always happyand Before. Anna Todd was spotted on Wattpad by New York publisher Simon and Schuster, offering the author a $600,000 deal, resulting in several film adaptations that each made millions.
Why fanfiction is so lucrative
Wattpad generates an annual revenue of $40 million, mainly due to the increase in the number of views on advertisements. Companies like Unilever (UL) – Get Unilever PLC report advertised on Wattpad for this reason.
Wattpad is owned by a South Korean company called Naver Corporation (NHNCF) which bought Wattpad on May 10, 2021. In fact, it also bought Webtoon in 2020, a site known for its fanfiction content. The company generates ₩5.3 trillion in revenue 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 due to its strategic focus on social media and messaging companies, as well as its success in these sectors (its net income is 836 billion won, or US$648 million).
Its revenue has also increased due to the global success of South Korean media imports such as Netflix. (NFLX) – Get the Netflix Inc. “Squid Game” and popular boy group BTS, bringing more recognition to big business.
Due to fanfic sites intermingling with the entertainment and publishing industries, more publishers are seeking them out than ever. Wattpad offers a new way to connect writers and editors, transforming the writing app into a unique combination of a social media site and a talent agency.