Last time, we did understand what exactly is webtoon and today we are going to understand what is the most important players in webtoon industry and what are their strategy to expand their service abroad. Without further ado, let’s start!
What are the big players in Webtoon industry?
When it comes to the development of Webtoon, it used to be only an approach to effectively increase search engine traffic instead of boosting revenue. But over the past decade the market has grown tenfold, making webtoons a vital source of income for the internet giants. Let’s see who those big players are?
Naver is a Korean tech giant with various kinds of services provided to users, such as search engine, cloud services, image messaging app and webtoon. And the most well-known subsidiary from Naver is Line corp. with 184mn MAUs mainly from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.
Naver launched its online comic services in 2004 and gained tractions in Korea during late 2000s and early 2010s. To acquire more users and increase its influence, Naver started to expand their service outside of Korea. In 2016, Naver created two branches respectively in Japan and China. After 2019, Naver started to enter into English, Spanish, French and German market. Now Naver owns 750k creators and 82mn MAUs and Monthly sales generated from subscription fees and advertisements surpassed $82.6 million.
To secure its leading position in global content market, Naver acquired Wattpad, the biggest online novel operator based in Canada with 94mn user of its own, in 2021. Generally speaking, these two companies are complementary in the content format (now Naver has comic, anime & fiction).
In addition, Wattpad not only can share its successful adaption experience from fiction to TV series with Naver but also can shed light on its well-known machine learning technology to Naver. With this technology, Naver could analyze its webtoon plot and only trans-create the best chapters to movie or TV series.
Besides, Naver has also partnered with DC, Marvel and Archie Comics. These collaborations are to introduce webtoon and American comic to untapped audiences by transforming the original format of American comic to new medium.
Kakao is another Korean tech giant established in 2010. It provided the instant messaging services in the beginning and gradually expanded its service to different area such as online bank, music and hailing taxi services. Now, Kakao Talk has more than 220mn registered users and 47mn MAUs.
Webtoon service was brought into Kakao due to the merger with Duam, the second largest search engine operator in Korea in 2014. This service was originally created by Duam in 2003 for driving more traffic in Duam’s website.
To compete with Naver, Kakao tried to expand their service abroad as well. The sales of its Japanese webtoon service, Piccoma, has overtaken Naver in Japan. Besides, to increase its influence and increase the presence in the U.S, Kakao also acquired US-based mobile fiction startup Radish Fiction Inc. and invested the third-largest US digital comics platform Tapas Media Inc. Kakao expects to adapt original stories from Radish into movies, TV shows and games, as well as webtoons, which would produce enormous profits.
Fierce Competition between Naver & Kakao
The webtoon battleground between Naver & Kakao has extended to Japan and the U.S. These two countries are two main comic markets and account for nearly 50% of sales share. Currently, Kakao is in the lead in Japan while Naver is ahead of Kakao in the U.S.
These two companies’ acquisition for web content platforms shows the heated competition to bolster their storytelling intellectual property (IP) portfolios which can adapted to webtoons, TV shows, games and movies.
The next main target market is supposed to be southeast Asia due to its huge demographic dividend. Indonesia is considered to be an important gateway to the rest of southeast Asia, so two of them invest a great amount of money in it.
Ofc, Naver (Line webtoon) and Kakao webtoon both have entered into Taiwan market. Now it seems Line webtoon take the lead in Taiwan and there’s a Taiwanese Webtoon will be adapted to TV series soon. In the next article, I will introduce how big is the Webtoon market and what is its impact to Japan and the rest of world? Stay tuned!