Unlimited content for a single subscription fee has become a popular model for a lot of digital content, from Netflix to Spotify to Marvel Unlimited. In fact, when Kodansha released its K Manga app last month (see "Kodansha Launches Digital Manga App"), that was one of the biggest pushbacks: Readers accustomed to the ease of apps such as Shonen Jump didn’t want to muck about with in-app currency, day passes, or anything that forced them to pay for each chapter individually. Yet that in-app currency is the standard model for webtoon platforms, all of which offer a substantial amount of free content and use a variety of digital trinkets for paid content.

Manta is the exception. It has a very simple model: Pay $4.99 per month for all you can read. The platform offers a “free pass” for selected series, and the first few episodes of each series can be read for free, but most of the content is behind the paywall. We talked to Manta COO and Head of Content Moonseok Jeong about how Manta works and what their plans are for expanding into print, as they have recently begun to do (see “Exclusive: Ize Press Licenses ‘Finding Camellia’ Webtoon”).

I’m really interested in Manta because you are the only webtoon platform to use a subscription model. Why did you decide to do that, and how is it working out for you?
To provide some context regarding our subscription model, let me delve into the broader structure of our business. 

We, through RIDI Corporation, the parent company of Manta, have accumulated extensive expertise in the storytelling and content business. Realizing the immense power of “good stories” and “proven intellectual property (IP),” we have successfully acquired thousands of content products, positioning us as a trusted source for engaging IP. 

Leveraging the large collection of quality IP from RIDI Corporation, Manta has been able to create its own digital comics based on these properties. This strategic advantage allows Manta to offer users a vast library of digital comics at an affordable subscription fee, distinguishing us as the only platform utilizing a subscription model.  

The subscription model has proven to be highly successful. Manta, launched in late 2020, is still at its early stage compared to other platforms but has already achieved an impressive milestone of over 10 million downloads—highlighting the popularity and positive reception of our subscription-based approach.

I read that Manta’s parent company, RIDI, is a publisher of e-books, and that much of your content originated as novels on their platform. What is the advantage of that model?
RIDI Corporation initially established its presence in the industry as an e-book publisher, and over time, we expanded into other content domains, with a particular focus on webnovels. Our core belief centers around the inherent power of captivating stories, and we know that owning quality IP is paramount to achieving success in the content business.

Drawing from this vision, RIDI Corporation has acquired an extensive portfolio of IP. Some of these IP have already been adapted into digital comic formats, including our immensely popular title Under the Oak Tree. Manta’s IP library is continuously growing, as RIDI Corporation consistently secures high-quality IP, with Manta dedicated more to creating fully owned IP.

Is that the sole source of comics, or do you run comics from other sources as well? Do you publish user-submitted comics, as Webtoon and Tapas do?
One of Manta’s strengths and competitiveness is that we have our own webcomic production studio named Manta Studios. To the best of our knowledge, it stands as one of the largest of its kind worldwide. Manta Studios comprises a talented team of experienced creators responsible for producing original content.

The majority are based on our original IP, allowing us to showcase quality products with unique and engaging stories. We also collaborate with third-party IP rights holders to adapt existing storytelling from other entertainment formats into digital comics, with examples like Svaha: The Sixth Finger and A Hard Day.

Moreover, in our endeavor to expand Manta’s IP library, the division has recently embarked on the creation of our own, distinctive IP, involving all stages of development, from story development to original artwork production. 

What is your business model? Do the subscription fees support the site?
Our business model is very simple—monthly subscription of $4.99 that provides unlimited access to all titles available on our platform.  We aim to maintain simplicity and clarity for our users, ensuring they can enjoy a seamless experience without any complicated structures or hidden fees. 

Does Manta own the comics, or are they creator-owned?
A significant portion of the comics published on Manta are Manta-owned, meaning we have ownership rights over them. We do also collaborate with external partners and license certain series from them. Our primary focus is to distribute digital comics based on proven, high-quality stories to a global audience, regardless of whether they are Manta-owned or licensed from external sources. 

What are the most popular titles and genres on your platform?
Since our launch, we have secured a passionate and strong fan base, particularly for stories in romance genres, including Under the Oak Tree, Finding Camellia, Disobey the Duke if You Dare, Semantic Error and many more.