Serial thriller — Kakao buys short fiction sites Radish and Tapas for nearly $1 billion

South Korea’s Kakao Entertainment is taking a big bite of the short fiction market by buying two US serial platforms — Radish and Tapas — in a deal totalling $950 million as the global sector hots up with another South Korean company Naver recently taking over WattPad for $600 million and Amazon getting ready to launch its own Vella operation.

Kakao is aiming to use its dual buys to expand its original content business in North America and other English-speaking regions. The company claims to have a dominant market share in Japan through its affiliate comic platform Piccoma.

Tapas is a mobile storytelling platforms in the US focusing on webtoons and the Kakao buy is valued at $510 million. The deal for the Radish fiction platform and app is valued at $440 million.

Kakao became a significant stakeholder of Tapas last November and has been distributing webtoons through the Tapas platform, which it says has led to sales increasing fivefold in 2020.

The Radish Original series, an in-house program that takes a collaborative and data-driven approach to create serialized web novel IPs, is reckoned to comprise more than 90% of the company’s revenue, with Radish’s sales estimated to have increased tenfold in 2020.

Jinsoo Lee, CEO of Kakao Entertainment. says,’Tapas and Radish are two amazingly powerful storytelling platforms. The partnership with Tapas and our webtoon IPs has already borne fruit and given us even more confidence in the North American marketplace. Radish gives us the platform to publish our web novels for the first time there, and we see endless potential. With the combination of our expertise in the IP business and Tapas and Radish’s strong North American foothold, we are excited about what we can achieve together.’

Beyond Korea, Japan, and North America, Kakao Entertainment will launch its own webtoon platform in Taiwan and Thailand next month, to be followed by moves into China and India in the second half of this year.

Tapas claims to have had more than 8 billion views and over 8.6 million registered users, primarily in North America. Tapas has a community side of the platform, Tapastry, which allows any creator to share their stories and find their audience. Founded in March 2012, Tapas has over 63,000 creators, 96,000 series, and more than 1.6 million episodes.

Radish is a fiction platform for serialized storytelling and readers can access thousands of serials across a range of genres. Authors can publish their own original stories but Radish also produces Radish Originals.

Both Tapas and Radish offer monetization for indie authors, including ‘premium’ options. You’d probably need to be fairly prolific to make much money on these sites but there are plenty of writers who say they do make substantial sums.

The question remains whether the North American market for serial fiction is really going to take off in the same way that it has in Asia. The big guns are now going to be Kakao with Radish and Tapas; Naver with WattPad; and Amazon, which is launching its new serial offering Vella over the next few months, with authors getting a 50% share of royalties.

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