What African Comics Companies Should Learn from Webtoon

Webtoon and African comics on the Zebra Comics Blog

In the world of digital comics today, there is no name greater than WEBTOON. Wait! Before you argue that webtoons aren’t really comics, let me remind you that webtoons  are just comics whose panels have been organised in such a way that they can easily be read on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. A webtoon is a type of digital comic that originated in South Korea and is read vertically by scrolling down on a computer or smartphone.

Webtoons began as online daily chronicles, created by people out of work during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. These eventually evolved into more complex narratives produced by both professionals and amateurs, mixing styles and genres in unexpected ways, and engaging with contemporary Korean social issues.

Webtoon ideas for African comics on the zebra comics blog

In 2020, webtoons’ combined sales topped 1 trillion won (£684.6 million) for the first time, representing a year-on-year increase of over 64%. Today, webtoons stand as a foundation of Korean storytelling industries, having become an inexhaustible source of inspiration for K-drama, cinema, musicals and computer games.

Undisputedly, today, the biggest webtoon company out there is Line Webtoon. Webtoon is a South Korean webtoon platform launched in 2004 by Naver Corporation, providing hosting for webtoons and compact digital comics. LINE Webtoon was founded by JunKoo Kim, under the name “WEBTOON,” after he watched the manhwa industry crash in the late 1990s and early 2000s.The platform is free, and is found both on the web at www.webtoons.com,  and on mobile devices, on both iOS and Android. Today, webtoon attracts over 180 million active users. That’s the population of several countries put together. Pretty huge!

Webtoon boasts of thousands of webtoon creators and has millions of users in every continent of the world, including Africa. With its hugely diverse catalogue of webtoons, the platform which you access via a smartphone, tablet or PC continues to thrill African comic lovers with engaging stories. There are some African creators on the platform, however, they are so small in number that their impact is seldom felt across the board. This therefore makes one wonder if there are creators and companies from Africa who produce and publish webtoons full time. The answer is an astounding YES! The issue here, however, is that these creators and platforms are not yet well known internationally. Line Webtoon is not the only webtoon publisher out there as there exist other companies like Tappytoon, Manta comics, Bilili Comics, INKR comics etc. Nevertheless, Africa is not yet anywhere close to enjoying the reputation of these giants even though they are effectively present on the international market.

At this stage, the follow up question one will ask will be: what do African comics and webtoon companies have to do to enjoy the success that Line Webtoon enjoys?

Well, we did some research and we came up with the following things that African comics and webtoon companies can learn from Webtoon to become better platforms out there.


Cameroonian and African culture for African comics on the zebra comics blog

Open the webtoon app or browse through their website and you will find a ton of stellar content. From action adventures to fantasies, passing through slice of life stories and romance IPs, there is a ton of stuff to enjoy on the platform. The peculiarity of the content therein, however, comes from the fact that most of it is based on Korean culture. Well, it may be logical that a majority of the content on the platform is from Korea because most of the creators whose works are published there are Koreans. Nevertheless, they could still decide to create content based on other cultures which are more mainstream than theirs. The fact that they chose to focus on their own cultures, sets the content apart by giving it a unique tone and feel and showing great originality.

Thanks to this way of doing things, many IPs on the platform have been adapted into TV series, movies and games, helping Webtoon to bring in even more revenue. Quite a good number of K dramas on Netflix are adaptations from webtoons and they are amongst the most watched shows out there. So, African comics companies should not compromise on using African cultures as the basis for their content creation. Africa boasts of millions of untold stories and so much more undiscovered cultures. That is a huge opportunity for African comics to leverage on and stand out on the international market.


Genres in webtoon and African comics on the Zebra comics blog

Webtoon is known for its strengths as far as geolocalization is concerned. What does that mean? Well, in simple English, it simply means that Webtoons platform is developed in such a way that it identifies where users are located and shows them content based on their location and preferences. Webtoon goes even further with this by curating content that comes from different parts of the globe. This way, users in different places get to see the kind of content they like and that can relate the most to. With this retention is assured and many more users will come to their platform. It is a good thing for African comics companies to unapologetically create content that is focused on their cultures and traditions, but they should be as diverse with these cultures as possible. This will include many more people from different regions and ultimately increase the popularity of their platforms.


Webtoon free coins and African comics on the zebra comics blog

Every business exists to make money; that’s a fact. However, how that money is made is not always an easy mountain to climb. Right out of the box, mobile applications and websites like Webtoon make use of a confirmed variety of monetization strategies which enable their owners to ensure cash flow. Amongst these monetization methods, it should be noted that offering the comics or webtoons for free can also ensure that money comes in regularly and consistently. Do not get it all mixed up, we are not saying that you should take ages, effort and resources to build something authentic and really useful, and then play Mother Theresa by distributing it for free. What we are actually saying here is that African comics companies should open up their platforms with free content and then use smart ways to make money from the tons of people who populate their platforms.

Webtoon has used and is still using this strategy to brilliant effect. Most of the content on their platforms is completely free, however, even when you are reading for “free”, you are compelled to view ads on the platform. Webtoon makes money from every ad that is displayed on any device using its platform anywhere in the world. This way of opening up their platform by making the content free and monetizing it indirectly has helped webtoon make hundreds of millions of dollars every year. This strategy is particularly good for African comics companies because African comics are not yet as popular as those from North America, Europe and Asia. These African comics companies will have to open their platforms so as to let as many people as possible get in, so that they can gain popularity and then make a lot of money in the process. They can add other monetization options like subscriptions and micro transactions, but they have to gain popularity first for the other strategies to be really effective.

Today, African comics are gradually gaining popularity across the world. This can be seen in the different adaptation deals signed between African comics publishers and large media companies to turn these comics into other media like animation and games. However, even with this popularity and even though some African comics companies like Zebra Comics PLC are doing much to position the continent internationally, African comics still need to grow and position themselves firmly in an ever growing market. With the deep penetration of the internet and the massive adoption of digital comics and webtoons across the globe, African comics companies will gain much by learning a thing or two from greats like Line Webtoon. Copying and fine-tuning what Webtoon has done and is doing will provide the much needed growth that African comics need today.

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