BISG To Honor Wattpad With Industry Innovator Award

Posted By: Brian F. O'Leary Announcements,

At its annual meeting on Friday, April 22, BISG will recognize Wattpad, the Canada-based global entertainment company powered by storytelling technology, with its Industry Innovator Award. The recognition is given annually to an organization or individual who boldly reimagines what publishing is and can be.

Founded in 2006 by Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen, Wattpad connects a global community of 94 million readers and writers through the power of story. It was one of the first online platforms to feature the work of writers from around the world, with some of its most successful authors writing from locations such as the Philippines.

Its mobile-first strategy has attracted users comfortable with writing on small-screen devices, including cell phones.  In recent years, the company has continued to innovate, introducing Wattpad WEBTOON Studios (its global TV, film, and publishing division), Tap (stories in the form of text messages), and Paid Stories (stories paid with Wattpad Coins, which could be bought or earned through various forms of engagement).

Wattpad estimates that its users spend in excess of 15 billion minutes each month using the platform. More than one billion story parts, written by more than six million indie authors from around the world, have been uploaded to the platform. The company, acquired by Naver in 2021, has seen a number of stories move from the platform to traditionally published works. Today, Wattpad and sister platform WEBTOON are the global leaders in web novels and digital comics.

The company's algorithms have helped identify promising candidates for adaptations from the web to other media. This understanding helped shape Wattpad Studios, which was formed in 2016 to partner with other companies in the entertainment industry. These partnerships co-produce Wattpad stories for print, film, television, and digital platforms.

In 2021, Wattpad Studios merged with WEBTOON Studios to become Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. The company’s publishing activities have grown in recent years, and the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group is now home to a growing number of imprints, including Wattpad Books, W by Wattpad Books, Frayed Pages x Wattpad Books (with author Anna Todd), and graphic novel imprint WEBTOON Unscrolled. 

Ashleigh Gardner, Wattpad senior vice president, managing director global publishing at Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, will accept the award on behalf of the company. Gardner came to Wattpad from ebook retailer Rakuten Kobo, where she was director of content management, and Toronto-based Dundurn Press, where she served as manager, digital development. Gardner has spoken about Wattpad's plans at several BISG events, including "Making Information Pay: The Evolution of Delivery" in 2017.

The BISG industry awards were established a decade ago to recognize individuals and organizations who have worked to expand and strengthen book publishing. Companies that have received the Industry Innovator Award include, LitBar, Little Free Library, Project Cicero, SheWrites Press, Trajectory, and BitLit. Individual recipients include Rachel Comerford (Macmillan Learning) and Dominque Raccah (Sourcebooks).

The BISG annual meeting will take place at the Harvard Club of New York from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 22. Tickets remain available ($349 members/$449 non-members) through April 21. The keynote and all panels, as well as the business meeting and presentation of three industry awards, will be broadcast and made available virtually to anyone who registers for the Zoom session. The cost for in-person and virtual access is the same. For more information, contact BISG at