As American Webcomics creators continue to find their way into print (a la Megatokyo and Penny Arcade), in South Korea the Webcomics phenomenon thrives on the site of the parent of U.S. manhwa publisher Netcomics (see 'New Manhwa Publisher Debuts in January'). Ecomix Media's Website in Korea is home to some 40,000 manhwa volumes, all available for viewing online by its 1 million registered users. Users can access the manhwa content in a variety of ways, from small payments by chapter or book to daily, weekly, and monthly subscriptions.
Ecomix, which has been online in Korea for eight years, offers manhwa licensed both from publishers and directly from 150 creators. It also offers comics created specifically for the Web, some of which are designed to be scrolled, rather than read on pages. The site has also begun making content available for mobile devices. The comics are not downloads; they are only available for viewing on the Web. Netcomics' Heewoon Chung told ICv2 that Web exposure helps sales of the printed volumes, rather than offering an alternative to purchasing books.
Korean publishers and creators have been happy to develop a new revenue stream for their content. Sales of printed material of all kinds, including manhwa, have been dropping rapidly in South Korea since the late 90s, when government subsidized broadband connections began proliferating. South Korea currently has the highest broadband penetration of any country in the world, and is the home of some of the most avid online gameplayers anywhere.
Netcomics is pursuing both a print and online business model in the States, according to Chung. It has begun offering free and pay comic content on its U.S. Website, and began publishing manhwa volumes in January. It is publishing three books per month in Q1, and plans to increase its production to five to seven books per month later this year, and seven to ten books per month in 2007.