This week, LINE Webtoon announced a new partnership with Patreon. The gist of the agreement is that webcomikers whose work appears via Webtoon can now add a link back to their own Patreon campaign.
Now, at first blush, this doesn’t sound like much of a big deal. I mean, any creator can start a Patreon campaign and throw a link on their site, right? Heck, I can do it myself here! But there’s some note-worthy differences that make this an actual announcement worth examining.
First, a creator’s link is embedded in the LINE Webtoon app. I don’t have any insight currently into whether apps will take over as the dominant venue for reading webcomics or not, but this certainly gives creators more reason to look at the option. Whereas previously, a webcomic sitting on its own site could be easily controlled by the creator, any implementation into a multi-comic app (that is, not an app dedicated exclusively to that one comic) was largely limited by the design of the app. There’d be room for the comic and perhaps a short creator bio or something, but this adds a financial incentive for creators to sign up. As they’re also free to maintain their own site, this means that readers have more options to read the comic, and without potentially undermining any crowd-funding efforts of the original site.
Second, part of the announcement reveals that creators meeting certain viewer threshholds will be getting regular stipends, up to $1000 per month. For already popular creators like Tracy Butler and Gavin Aung Than, this could mean a nice bonus for essentially zero extra work. Webtoons has only pledged this monetization for a year, but a potential extra $12,000 is nothing to sneeze at!
Both of these moves are very oriented towards the creators. I suspect the intent is actually less about pleasing existing creators (although this will certainly do that!) and more about luring in additional ones. Many of their current works are Korean in origin (the company began there) and, while still presented in English, don’t always have the social and cultural touchstones that are more familiar here in the U.S. By bringing in works that are created with a more American mindset, it looks as if they’re hoping to expand more broadly into the American market. (The app is already incredibly popular in southeast Asia.) Not to mention that more comics—regardless of origin—means there’s a greater chance that there will be something to appeal to everyone.
This effort is expected to cost $3.6 million over the next year. We’re only a few days after the announcement, though, so we’ll have to wait until this time in 2017 to see if this pays off.