Being part of the DLD community you most likely have heard some impressive, outrageous, unique and inspirational stories. Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of Wattpad, has made stories his business. In the run up to DLD14 we found out more about the man's ideas and vision for the potential of storytelling.
Our time is often called "the age of images" - pictures and videos are increasingly the mode of communication. What makes you believe in the written word as a source for business?
Despite the perception, people are reading more, not less - they’re just reading differently. Wattpad’s growth - we more than doubled engagement on the platform last year - proves that people still love to read, write and engage over the written word. There are about 7 billion mobile devices in the world, the majority of which are internet connected or enabled. And there are 4 billion people who can read or write or both. This represents a huge market opportunity for Wattpad as we democratize the written word and make it easy for people around the world to read and write online through their mobile devices.
How come the traditional publishing houses aren't the inventors of and investors in creative business models like Wattpad?
Change can be slow in the traditional publishing world. Since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago, publishing has been a tightly-controlled process where a handful of players dictate the next phase or evolution of the industry. I don’t have a background in publishing and this industry naivete frees me to experiment with bold ideas. Ideas that may be dismissed in the traditional publishing world. Self-expression is important to the Wattpad community. More than publishing a book, people in the community want to share their voice, connect with others and be social. Wattpad does work closely with the publishing industry. Through these partnerships readers in the Wattpad community get access to even more stories and connect with even more writers, and publishers get their authors in front of a global, engaged audience of millions of readers.
What's the secret behind Wattpad's ability to create an online community?
In the traditional publishing industry there are many layers of people who stand between reader and writer - booksellers, publishers, editors, agents, etc. On Wattpad, people connect directly with each other and readers are empowered to influence and shape the stories they love through comments and messages to the writer. Writers benefit from ongoing feedback and encouragement through a direct connection to their fan base. By humanizing the publishing process Wattpad has created an incredibly active and positive community that spans the globe.
How do you handle the question of quality and standards with regards to the content that gets published on Wattpad?
With more than 30 million story parts shared on the platform by both established authors and emerging writers there is something to suit every taste. Wattpad does not operate like a gatekeeper dictating what stories will be published and ultimately read by others. Instead it is a facilitator by creating a platform where people can read and share the stories that matter to them.
What makes investors believe in your enterprise?
Our investors like fellow DLD14 speaker Albert Wenger (Union Square Ventures) look for companies that use internet technology to disrupt major industries and transform society. As a free platform where people connect through stories in real-time from any phone, tablet or computer, Wattpad does just that by fundamentally changing reading, writing and storytelling around the world.
And finally - DLD is turning ten in 2014, so we like to get an insight from our DLD14 speakers what their vision is for the coming ten years for their business or industry?
I see a future where readers are discovering, recommending and sharing stories as easily as they share songs and videos today. New stories will be streamed to readers like episodes based on past likes and who they follow. This means as a reader, I will interact with the writer and other fans from all over the world as we consume the media.
Allen Lau will speak at the upcoming DLD14 conference, taking place in Munich January 19 - 21, 2014. Apply for a ticket to this exclusive conference, tune in on the beat of our community on the DLDpulse and find regular updates on the DLD14 programme and speakers here.