Teen Writing Site Figment Buys Rival, HarperCollins’ Inkpop

Figment, a teen writing site launched by two Condé Nast vets in December 2010, is buying a competitor: HarperCollins’ Inkpop.

HarperCollins officially launched in January 2010, saying it “represents the next step in the company’s overall digital strategy designed to build and expand its direct-to-consumer business. Inkpop will be the anchor of HarperCollins’s ongoing teen strategy.”

Now, HarperCollins Children’s publisher Susan Katz tells the WSJ that strategy hasn’t worked as planned: “Initially we thought, writers are great readers, so we’ll help people with their writing and benefit from that community. But we’re really a business focused on readers, and there are many more readers out there than there are writers.”

The companies did not disclose the terms of the acquisition. Inkpop has 95,000 users and Figment, though it’s a year younger, has 115,000, with little overlap between the two groups. That “validates an optimistic view about the potential growth for what we’re doing,” Figment co-founder Jacob Lewis told me. “It shows us we can captivate a community larger than what we might have anticipated.”

Inkpop includes some features to allow teen authors to be discovered by HarperCollins editors, with an “editorial board” reviewing the highest-rated books in the community. HarperCollins signed deals with two authors discovered on the site, but both were adults. Figment has not focused as overtly on publication opportunities, but with the acquisition that becomes more of a possibility: “HarperCollins is very interested in continuing to provide those possibilities for publication,” Lewis told me. “With them as a partner, we’re going to do a bunch of stuff in that vein.”

On Inkpop’s forums, users expressed concern about the sale. In a thread with 405 comments, one user wrote, “What’s stupid is that HC and Inkpop didn’t deem it worthy to tell US first and not the stupid Web . . . THANKS SO MUCH HAPERCOLLINS.” Another wrote, “HC, you have hosted the future of writing on Inkpop. The NYT best-sellers and the next Tolkiens and J.K. Rowlings, and you have let them down.”

Lewis said Figment will “go out of our way to welcome everyone and message them appropriately.” On March 1, Inkpop users who give their permission will be merged over to Figment.

Figment raised $1 million in funding in May and ran a tolerance-themed writing contest with MTV this summer. The site also won the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Innovators Award.