First Gagnam Style. Now Webtoons. Both are Korean phenomenons, and now both are available for U.S. audiences. The latter comes thanks to a new platform called Tapastic, which aims to help artists share and find an audience for their bite-sized web comics.
According to Tapastic founder Chang Kim, Webtoons are a particularly Korean obsession. The cartoons, which are created and distributed by famous artists and amateurs alike through online platforms like Naver Webtoons in Korea, are viewed by about one-third of the total Internet audience there, he told me.
Most of the famous comic brands here are of the superhero genre, while Korean webtoons typically focus on more mundane subjects like dating, or pets, or travel. A fan of the art form himself, Kim hoped to introduce U.S. audiences to webtoons. There was just one problem: There was no really good aggregators or distribution platforms for the particular type of comic in the U.S. market. So he built Tapastic.
On the consumer side, Tapastic is similar to existing webtoons aggregators in the Korean market — it provides a list of serially updated comics in a variety of genres. The startup has lined up between 50 and 60 different English-language webtoons that span from comedy to drama to horror, among other things. The comics are updated weekly and fall under a set schedule, so that readers always know when to expect them. That said, Tapastic has built a notification system which will allow users to mark their favorite webtoons and get updated whenever a new one is available.
But the real magic might be what Tapastic has built for the artists and writers themselves. Today, most U.S.-based Webtoons artists have cobbled together their content through platforms that weren’t meant for distribution of their art. Some posted on Tumblr, while others used text-based content management systems to upload their art to the web. The Tapastic platform offers those artists a purpose-built distribution engine for webtoons. And since it aggregates content from multiple artists, Tapastic provides an opportunity for artists to find new audiences that might not have stumbled across their work on other platforms.
Tapastic is available on the web at Tapastic.com, as well as through an app available for Android devices. An iOS app is also in the works and coming soon, Kim told me. Tapastic has raised $750,000 from investors that include SK Planet, 500 Startups, Strong Ventures, and other angels. The company has 12 employees and is based in San Jose, Calif.