J. Carmody of Serenity Studios in
Tokyopop's Web exclusive idea is a concern in that by creating Web exclusives and offering their regular range side-by-side, Tokyopop is obviously seeking to circumvent the middleman and increase its bottom line. Fair enough, though the results may not be so for the trade channel. By taking titles away that they deem to not sell well, with a one-way trip to becoming an exclusive, it isn't a hard leap to see that it is as easy for Tokyopop to take out of print titles onboard their Web exclusive deal (not that they have said this will be an option).
Personally, I see this as either: a) a move to reap an ever greater portion of the profits (companies are about increasing profit after all) and based on comments by Tokyopop, a clear indication of things to come as they seek to become the central site for manga fans to visit so they can, in turn, offer ad space to their competition. Hold on a moment. That being the case, why not set up an account with the opposition and resell their product on Tokyopop's Website side-by-side with their own offerings? Now that is certainly going to increase fan interest as well as increase Tokyopop's profits. And yes, this is a worst case scenario as to what could occur with such a move (am I being paranoid enough?). Or b) the other option, as Ed Sherman said, is that perhaps Tokyopop is in trouble. I've witnessed such schemes in the past when business heads have to justify their being on the payroll when times were tough and sales are down.
Either way, it is not a friendly move as far as retailers are concerned, not because of current plans (Tokyopop is after all targeting less popular titles because retailers apparently aren't doing a decent enough job), but because of the direction such plans can go. If there is trouble in paradise though, Ed has the right idea: support should be given to product the fans want, not simply product that Tokyopop thinks is 'cool.'
'Cool'...if it was cool, wouldn't it be popular by definition? Unless Tokyopop is being run by fanboys with little business knowledge (or for that matter, interest), then this would indicate to me at least (a third option) that Tokyopop may be doing this due to contractual obligations. They get access to products A, B & C (which sell hand-over-fist) but at a cost of having to also take and sell products M-Z (the not-so-happy portion of the family line). This being the case, they then have to find a way to turn a profit with these less popular lines to ensure they do not simply soak up the profits generated by the more popular lines (A, B & C). If this is the case, then it may provide an answer as to why more popular lines are still out of print.
If a product becomes popular, what happens then? Will Tokyopop return it to regular trade channels? Will Tokyopop be looking to offer retailer exclusives not available through Tokyopop? Will Tokyopop provide a blacklist (before titles are chosen as Web exclusives) to retailers so they know what titles to liquidate/get rid off as they won't be able to order restock?
Perhaps instead of removing titles from the trade channels to offer online as exclusives, an e-book version could be offered instead, with a better version (additional information, perhaps a backup story included) provided to the trade channel. Spread the interest and have the retailers ready to back up the promotion. Hell, use the e-book concept as a precursor to a line's real life launch with a three to five issues release online before publication. If interest isn't there, you avoid wasting dollars on printing the book, or at least go with a limited release instead.
I had my database corrupted a few months back and have almost fixed the problems that resulted. Having to enter data by hand means that I have to be picky as to what I wish to throw my support behind (yes, that does validate one comment that was made as to reasoning for their Web exclusive decision).
Tokyopop was my first choice for the manga lines, however with their recent news, I will continue to promote and sell Tokyopop product but I will be selecting a different publisher to use as the flagship publisher in my advertising decisions for manga-related product from now on.
What ever happens with Tokyopop's plans, it will be interesting to see how it plans to support the trade channels should its experiment prove popular.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.