Digital comics

Tapas sees big payouts for digital comics

Digital comics delivered through mobile devices are starting to make significant creative and commercial strides. Last year, Webtoon, owned by Korean tech giant Line, saw dramatic growth in user numbers and revenue, thanks to large investments to attract new customers. It was no coincidence: Tapas, a small American mobile comic book startup, also announced impressive recent growth, as well as partnership plans with traditional print publishers like Scholastic.

Founded in 2012, Tapas has developed a dedicated community of readers and creators through a popular mobile app, Tapas.io, which features webcomics and episodic “snack” vertical scrolling stories. In the past year, the private company announced that it had reached 100 million episode unlocks (paid content transactions) and saw the total payouts in 2020 to the creators of Tapas rise to 14 million. dollars. Although the company does not make its financial data public, Tapas reported a 5-fold increase in revenue in the 12 months between October 2019 and October 2020. A particularly active period saw users spend $ 100,000 on one-page content. single day (the average is usually $ 50,000- $ 70,000). Figures like these have made Tapas the third highest grossing comic book app on Android and the 9th highest grossing book app on IoS by revenue in 2020.

Tapas offers hundreds of titles mainly in genres related to fantasy and romance. Eighty percent of the content in Tapas is comics, 20% prose novels. Users can read the first episodes of a Tapas comic for free, then purchase a special in-app currency called “Ink” to unlock additional content. The site offers a balance of original material presented, developed in collaboration with selected creators working with the editorial, marketing and production resources of Tapas; user-generated content posted by aspiring creators seeking to build an audience and possibly monetize their work; and licensed content from Asia and beyond.

Tapas Founder and CEO Chang Kim said TP the storytelling and serialized income model emphasizes work that immediately attracts readers. “In the print version, stories can build up slowly, but our series needs to hook readers from the first chapter, because people quickly decide whether a story is for them or not. “

This approach has paid off. Kim said the Tapas conversion rate of people who try a free sample and then buy additional content is 7-10%, spread relatively evenly across customer base, rather than depending on a tiny minority of big spenders. to account for most of the income. “It’s encouraging, because a lot of companies have tried to make the micropayment model work, and we are actually doing it,” he says.

Tapas editors help creators optimize their stories for audiences, then the site uses data targeting to increase discoverability so fans can find material that matches their tastes. The company shares 50/50 revenue with the creators of their premium original content channel.

Tapas’s data-driven understanding of its audience helps maintain creative standards and high incomes. Kim said the majority of Tapas readers are women between the ages of 18-24. “That wasn’t our intention, because we have a lot of content that appeals to men as well,” he said, but the audience lineup has shown that material with fantasy and romantic elements works best.

One of the platform’s successes is The beginning after the end, a light action-fantasy series from two creators called TurtleMe and Fuyuki23, based on a series of TurtleMe novels. The comic has 173,000 subscribers heading into its fourth story season and has garnered over 6.8 million views to date. Kim said this and other successes are an example of Tapas’ focus on developing promising designers and their material into mainstream properties with mass appeal. Many of the most popular comic book series on the platform started out as prose novels and then developed into comics by matching the writer with artists from the pool of professional talent or generated content. Tapas user. And Tapas just announced the launch of Tapastry, a new community for creators of user-generated and fan-generated content that will be an online destination for Tapas artists to interact with fans.

Kim said the company continues to invest in growing its mobile audience, but is also branching out into other media and formats, including books. Last December, Tapas announced a deal to release another of their original hits, Magical boy by The Kao (artist / illustrator Vincent Kao) as a graphic novel through Scholastic. Scheduled for release in fall 2021, Magical boy graphic novel will bring together the 30-episode webcomic series for the first time.

Scholastic vp and Global Licensing, Brands and Media Editor Debra Dorfman said: “We are deeply delighted to be working with Tapas and comic book creator The Kao to publish Magical boy. We hope this is the first of many graphic novels [for the character]. “

Kim said this was just one of the many partnerships Tapas pursues in print and other media. Tapas is already a partner of publishers such as Boom! Studios, Vault Comics, and others that publish periodical comics, and have deals with Hachette and other publishers for commercial books. He stated that Tapas also has an agreement with Podium Audio, which develops, produces and distributes audio content, for the distribution of audio books; has licensed its hardware for mobile games and is actively negotiating deals for animated and live action shows with streaming platforms.

“Collaborating on this intellectual property with creators and partners is exciting for us,” Kim said. “For us, it’s about the stories, not the media. We are not a traditional publisher, we are a platform.

Kim says he’s optimistic about the outlook for 2021. While he acknowledges that the pandemic has sped up growth because so many people were stuck at home hungry for new content, he believes last year’s gains are linked to the preparation of Tapas for more growth. The company recently invested in a new Studio Tapas facility in Los Angeles, is adding staff to its team of 80, and is raising new funds.

“Last year has been a great year for us. In 2021, we want to forge bigger partnerships and connect our readers with more great stories. Right now, this business model is working well for everyone. Things are moving fast and we want to stay ahead of the curve.