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Korean webtoon companies are becoming mainstream global content providers and disrupting the wide market of comics. Korean webtoon apps have seen tremendous growth in their audience in ASEAN countries and even the US and European markets. In fact, in Japan, famous for its manga (graphic novels), two South Korean webtoon Manhwas (virtual scrolling comics) are conquering the market share.
Korean IT giants Naver Corp’s Line Manga and Kakao Corp’s Piccoma have become Japan’s highest-grossing mobile apps outside games. Korean webtoons are capturing audiences in Indonesia, Thailand, and even China; K-Webtoon companies have mentioned in the top list of webcomic manufacturing companies in a report ‘global leading online comic platform market 2020’ by LP information, a leading market research company.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought in more surges in the popularity of the online manga platforms. What made Korean webtoons favorable is the free-reading service. Most apps are available for free, with readers getting the option of in-app currency called coins. Readers can enjoy amusing stories from romance, thrillers, sci-fi, comedy, teenage, fantasy, magic, and more created by numerous manhwa artists.
According to a Marketwatch report, webtoon manhwa distributes global content worth about $ 950 million and has gained billions of fan following. KoreaTechDesk checks out what to look forward to in 2021 from some of the top-performing Korean webtoon companies with a global fan following.
Founded in 2013, Lezhin caters to webtoon titles in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English. Lezhin’s model allows manhwa creators to monetize their work with a revenue-sharing model. It is a free-read app where fans can download comic titles of various topics like love toons, fantasy, school life, action, thriller, horror, and even some adult 18+ content. Lezhin Entertainment that owns the webtoon platform, partnered with the American online portal Anime-Planet in 2020 to provide content for English-reading audiences. Lezhin Studio, part of the startup, is also producing the first Netflix web series based on its popular webtoon, ‘D.P.’
Naver’s Webtoon and Line Manga
The webtoon manhwas of Naver’s platform are the most read webcomics in the world. Its Webtoon platform has surpassed the popularity of comic giants like Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and European comic book publishers for its free reading service. Webtoon has an over 80 million readers per month as per an estimate. It publishes more than 10,000 exclusive titles and had made over $700 million in revenue in 2019. Webtoon also ranked no. in profits in Google App comic category.
Line Manga is Naver’s international output targeting the Japanese and US market. Line Webtoon is available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and two European languages – French and Spanish. Naver also acquired Canada-based global multi-platform entertainment company Wattpad recently, marking its entry to the Canadian market. NAVER also has entered the Chinese market as Dongman Manhua.
KakaoPage, a digital content marketplace, was launched in 2013 by the Korean internet giant Kakao Corp. The platform allows brands and individuals to create and distribute visual, audio and written content such as webtoons and genre fiction. KakaoPage has provided content through Tencent in China and Piccoma, a manga subscription service in Japan. Piccoma’s readership has surged in Japan threatening the domestic manga developers’ readership.
KakaoPage has 960 webtoons, online novels, movies, and dramas, each of which crossed cumulative sales of over $88,465. KakaoPage also acquired Neobazar, an Indonesian company publishing webtoons and games with a mission to expand and popularise Korean content in the Southeast Asia region. KakaoPage CEO Lee Jin-soo had said in an online media conference that the company has plans to further expand into the US, China, and Southeast Asia through continued investments and M&A deals and become a truly global network by 2022.
Ridi Corp’s Manta
Ridi Corp is a leading e-reading platform that expanded its business to digital content including webcomics. Manta is Ridi’s webtoon app that caters to webcomic fans. A subscription-based webcomics was launched in 2020, offering a diverse collection of themes including romance, fantasy, horror, mystery, comedy, thriller, and Manta Originals. Readers can get unlimited access to the rich content that has been curated to target each individual’s tastes for $3.99/month. Manta plans on delivering an even more diversified webcomic experience by expanding the production of original content based on films, TV shows, and games.
“With Manta, we strive to make reading webcomics a mainstream entertainment culture worldwide,” said Kisik Bae, RIDI CEO, to media during the launch of Manta. “North America is just the beginning — we’re going to expand our service so that people from all over the world can easily access and enjoy webcomic contents in their own language.”
Toomics is another popular portal for webtoons. The Toomics webtoons are all updated weekly on set days, just like other webtoon services, and it has a special VIP subscription for early sneak peek. The platform provides webtoons in English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Latin and of course Korean. Toomics also caters to a variety of genres – romance, horror, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi and has a good fan following in Japan and other ASEAN countries.
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