Manta is unique among webtoon platforms in running on a subscription model, where users pay a single monthly fee to read all the comics they want (the first few chapters of many series are available for free). One of its most popular titles, Under the Oak Tree, will be published in print by Inklore (see “PRH Announces ‘Global Comics’ Imprint”), and Ize Press recently announced a print edition of the boys love series Semantic Error; the creator, Angy, will be a guest at New York Comic Con in October.

ICv2 talked to Travis Kim, who was appointed the CEO of Manta in October 2023 (see “Manta Gets New CEO”), about creating webtoons with wide appeal and how he plans to expand Manta’s footprint.

A year ago, we interviewed Moonseok Jeong about Manta and what makes it different from other webtoon platforms (see "ICv2 Interview: Moonseok Jeong").  Since then, you have been appointed as Manta’s first CEO. What are you changing, and are you planning any new initiatives?
Since my appointment as CEO of Manta last October, I have pursued a clear and strategic approach to our business.  Our company hosts a wealth of exceptional intellectual properties adored by fans worldwide, and we continuously add to our library to make Manta the ultimate destination for the best storytelling.  My role has been to identify and implement numerous ways to scale these IPs globally and grow the company.  We have been working tirelessly to introduce new webcomic titles, original novels based on our popular webcomics, and an audio drama series for one of our top titles.  Additionally, we plan to release printed books of our beloved series Under the Oak Tree and Semantic Error later this year.  These expansions are ongoing as we continue to explore new initiatives to enhance our offerings.  Ultimately, our focus remains on bringing great stories to fans worldwide.

In that interview, Mr. Jeong said that Manta had over 10 million downloads.  What is that number now?
Thanks to our global fans and their love for our extensive library of hundreds of best-in-class webcomic and novel titles, we recently reached 15 million downloads last month.

What are the demographics of your audience in terms of age, gender, location, etc.?  Have you noticed any patterns among your readers, such as people in a particular region preferring a particular type of story?
Our user base spans from teens to those in their 30s, appealing to anyone who loves good storytelling.  Although our largest user base is in North America, I believe that good stories transcend age and location.  If a story is compelling enough, it can achieve great success across different regions.  For example, Under the Oak Tree was a huge hit in Korea, and its popularity has since expanded to America, Japan, and Europe.

I remember there was a lot of excitement around Semantic Error at San Diego Comic-Con in 2022, and around that time you published it on Kindle.  Why did you do that?  Have you published other webtoons on Kindle, and if so, how is that model working out for you?
During that period, we launched a significant campaign for Semantic Error with the core purpose of engaging with its incredibly supportive fans.  Beyond publishing the book on Kindle, we had the opportunity to connect with fans personally, share our excitement about one of the top titles on our platform, and express our gratitude for their support.  We plan to expand our fans' favorite titles into other forms, not only on Kindle but also to printed books, audio dramas, TV series, gaming, and more, so that fans can enjoy the IP in various forms and immerse themselves even deeper into the worlds they love.  By diversifying our offerings, we aim to create a richer and more interactive experience for our audience, ensuring that our stories reach and resonate with even more people globally.

Now Ize Press is publishing Semantic Error in print, as well as some of your other titles, and Inklore is bringing some of your webtoons to print as well.  Why does Manta work with other publishers rather than publish print editions yourself?
We have strong respect for the publishers' experience and expertise in the print business and believe that this collaboration brings great synergy.  Manta provides compelling stories, and our publishing partners excel at bringing these stories to life in print.  Additionally, we highly value partnerships in all forms, as they allow us to leverage the strengths of each partner and reach a broader audience.  By working with experienced publishers like Ize Press and Inklore, we can ensure that our beloved titles are presented in the highest quality print editions, while we continue to focus on creating and curating exceptional digital content for our fans.

How do you determine which webtoons will be published in print form?
Manta is continuously seeking opportunities to bring our stories with strong fandom and compelling narratives from our library into other mediums, including print.  We always pay close attention to what our fans and communities are talking about, and we assess the level of engagement and activity in discussions about each title.  Additionally, we consider factors such as the story's popularity, potential for broader appeal, and its suitability for print format. In the end, our goal is to select titles that will not only thrive in print but also resonate deeply with our audience, ensuring they can enjoy their favorite stories in multiple formats.

I've Become a True Villainess
What are your most popular titles and genres at the moment?
We have a very strong catalog of romance fantasy, often referred to as romantasy, and overall, we excel in romance storytelling.  In addition to the titles mentioned above, Under the Oak Tree and Semantic Error, we also have I’ve Become a True Villainess, a popular romantasy that we are super excited to expand into an audio drama, which will be released on June 11.  Another top romantasy on our platform is Betrayal of Dignity, which is highly popular in both webcomic and novel forms.

Superheroes of Class F
I know you launched your first superhero series, The Superheroes of Class F, last year.  Why did you decide to head in this new direction?  How is it doing, and do you have plans for more superhero stories?
While we specialize in romance storytelling, our catalog spans a wide range of genres, including action, horror, drama, and more.  Our goal is to make Manta the ultimate destination for great storytelling, regardless of genre. The Superheroes of Class F is a superhero story developed internally by our in-house team at Manta Studios.  It was an innovative effort to offer fresh and diverse options to our audience.  We plan to continue developing and licensing high-quality stories across all genres to cater to diverse tastes and preferences.  This approach ensures that Manta remains a versatile platform where every reader can find something they love.

There are a lot of webcomic platforms out there and a lot of graphic novels in print.  What is Manta doing that no one else does – what niche are you filling?
We consider ourselves more than just a webcomic platform - Manta is a powerhouse of quality IP.  We own and have the rights to expand hundreds of good stories serviced on Manta into other forms, with the goal of creating a multifaceted entertainment experience.  Our unique niche lies in our ability to take beloved webcomics and transform them into novels, audio dramas, printed books, TV series, games, and more.  By doing so, we provide our audience with diverse ways to engage with their favorite stories, ensuring that the immersive worlds we create can be enjoyed across various mediums.  This holistic approach to storytelling sets us apart, as we continuously innovate and explore new avenues to bring compelling narratives to a global audience.

Betrayal of Dignity
I noticed a "Leaving Soon" section on your app. Why do you take series off the platform?
This is due to the contract ending with the external content providers.  When our licensing agreements with content providers expire, we sometimes need to remove certain series from the platform.

I was also intrigued by the subgenres listed there, such as "falling in love with royalty" and "revenge romance."  Who curates your list and creates these categories?
We have experienced talents in the content industry at Manta who work very closely on the platform with a “customer first” approach.  We've observed that even within the same romance genre, people have specific tropes they prefer and enjoy.  Our team carefully curates and categorizes our content based on these preferences to ensure our readers can easily find stories that match their interests.  By paying attention to feedback and reading habits, we create subgenres that resonate with our audience, making their reading experience more personalized and enjoyable.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?
Manta will continue to strive to bring best-in-class storytelling to audiences globally, leveraging the creative talents from our in-house studios and partnering with creators who have compelling stories to share.  We value good stories and believe they can be expanded endlessly.  We have a proven track record of success in adapting popular novels from Korea into high-quality webcomics for story fans worldwide.  In addition to this, we are investing further in collaborating with various creators around the globe to offer our fans the best.  By fostering these collaborations and emphasizing diversity in our content and creator partnerships, we ensure that Manta remains a leading destination for diverse and exceptional content.

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