Korean Webtoons go global with LINE

LINE launched its Webtoon service globally

If there is Anime in Japan, Korea has Webtoon — Cartoon that is perfect to be consumed on the web. Webtoon might be one of the most favorite time killers on the web among Koreans. Since the concept was invented in 2004, it has been growing gradually and now one-third of Korean, which is about 15 mil, read it at least once a month.

This newly created compound word is originated from the two words ‘Web’ and ‘Cartoon’. Therefore, Webtoon itself has many distinctive characteristics enhancing reader’s experiences.

  • Short and easy-to-read — 3 min is enough for reading one episode. It is typical to upload 1 to 2 episodes on a weekly basis.
  • Narrative — it depends on title but many Webtoons are well-organized and full-length stories. Some of them were made into movies, dramas, or books.
  • Mobile and web friendly — unlike conventional cartoons, Webtoon provides mobile and web optimized experiences to readers. For example, scrolling down is the standard method for reading Webtoons, rather than fliping over. Also, they sometimes contain BGMs or GIFs for dramatic effects.
  • Active communication between readers and authors — readers can leave a real-time comment on each episode and authors can respond to it or collect feedbacks from it: the best way to be ‘lean’

Anyway, thanks to all the characteristics, Webtoons does a huge role in expanding the cartoon market itself. Naver, one of the biggest Webtoon platforms in Korea (also the biggest portal and the parent company of LINE) recently shared publicly about their astonishing stats. Here’s the brief summary of it:

(Source: Naver)

  • Cumulative view count of episode — around 30 bil — it’s 2,000 per user
  • DAU — 6.2 mil
  • The major user demographic — 20s (45%)
  • Mobile dominates — mobile accounts for 65% of the total traffic
  • Another content ecosystem — 140K amateur Webtoon authors have uploaded their works
  • Some make real money — One Webtoon author earns $80,000 per month from the platform
  • Sources of quality content — Based on Webtoons’ origianl content, 142 books were published, 37 videos were released, and 10 games were developed.

Webtoon is not culturally limited in Korea as cartoon culture is very common all over the world. However, it could not go global due to its language barrier and lack of global distribution channel. Now that Naver has LINE, one of the fastest growing mobile platforms in the world, I would like to say it is very natural that they drive these contents to global markets.

From July 2nd, they started offering the service on mobile web and Android app, which means mobile-first. Also, they plan to release iOS and iPad in the near future. That’s because their major distribution channel is LINE app and also the statistics from Korean operation show that mobile is the #1 channel for Webtoon consumption, thanks to its short and web friendly form. Currently, traditional Chinese and English version are available and more languages will be supported too.

Naver’s local rival ‘Daum’ (recently merged with KakaoTalk) also has its own Webtoon service. Interestingly, they have chosen another way to go global. They invested in Tapastic, a Webtoon platform based in San Francisco, founded by a Korean entrepreneur who sold his previous company to Google.

As a Webtoon fan, I am very thrilled to see what happens next. Who knows, Hollywood would make a movie out of Webtoons!