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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Kate

Is Wattpad Going Down in Flames for Real This Time?

Every few years, rumors circulate about the downfall of Wattpad. But with this year's many unpopular changes, we have to wonder if this is the beginning of the end.



Wattpad has had a rough couple of years. Once hailed as the digital haven for aspiring writers and avid readers alike, the platform has recently weathered a series of storms that have left its community questioning its future. This is far from the first time rumors like these have popped up, but it is the first time there seems to be real cause for concern.


Over the pandemic, Wattpad experienced tremendous user growth, and it seemed like things were going well. In 2021, tech conglomerate Naver (parent company of Webtoon) acquired the company. New CEO Jeanne Lam seemed to be bringing fresh ideas to the table and they launched a new sister app, Yonder. But in December of 2022, Lam announced that she would be leaving the company, and was ultimately replaced by KB Nam.


In March 2023, Wattpad made headlines with a significant workforce reduction, laying off 15% of its staff. When October came around, there was another sign of big changes at Wattpad: the site had drastically overhauled their Paid Stories program, rebranding it as Wattpad Originals and shifting the focus from completed books or series to ongoing stories with seasons.


A new year brought new problems, as 2024 started with a new wave of layoffs, this time affecting an additional 10% of its employees.


So yes, Wattpad had a bad couple years. Yet, the most recent developments have arguably been the most alarming. This month, Wattpad caught its community off guard with a series of drastic changes to its platform policies and features. These changes included an unexpected adjustment to the age of consent policy, the introduction of a controversial moderation bot tasked with flagging stories for mass deletion, and the announcement of the removal of direct messaging altogether.


These changes are more than just another hiccup in Wattpad's journey—they signify a deeper identity crisis. They've swapped some of the app's more popular features in an attempt to be something they’re not—namely, their sister app Webtoon. Meanwhile, we've already seen Wattpad's attempt at applying Webtoon's model to serial fiction in its relatively mediocre sister app Yonder, which never managed to achieve anywhere near Wattpad's level of success.


This new Wattpad is also likely a reflection of cost-cutting measures instigated by Naver in advance of plans for an IPO some time next year. It would make sense that they've trimmed down their staff, made their content more advertiser-friendly, and eliminated the moderation responsibilities that come with maintaining a direct-messaging system—all in an attempt to look more attractive to buyers. Of course that won't mean anything if they manage to alienate users along the way.



 

Are you still using Wattpad? Let us know in the comments...

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