Top 10 Digital Content Publishing Startups in Korea you Need to Know

Publishing startups in Korea are taking entertainment, media, and all forms of content into the digital space. Printed books, CDs, movies, and more are moving online at a rapid speed. The publishing and digital content industry have become more interconnected and flexible for direct delivery to customers. Now there are options for digital content, streams, and on-demand entertainment from the comfort of your home. Publishing startups in Korea not only have to stay up to date on the latest trends and technology but also constantly produce new and engaging content. 

As Korea shifts from traditional media to digital media, more and more consumers in Korea are getting their content online. This trend is only expected to continue as Korea incorporates 5G technology and consumers look to their mobile phones for content rather than their television. Koreans use their mobile phones to access content in Korea from webtoons to podcasts. So what are the top digital content publishing startups in Korea? The rankings are below! 

The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on 4 factors:

  • Funding
  • Market Opportunity
  • The innovation of service or product
  • Growth Potential/Scalability

Top 10 Digital Content Publishing Startups in Korea

1. Lezhin Comics 

Lezhin ComicsKorean webtoon publishing platform Lezhin Comics gives webtoon artists a platform to publish their works online. The webtoon marketplace is in high demand and many Koreans love webcomics. Lezhin Comics has topped the Google Play app store’s best-grossing application chart, beating out Marvel Comics and DC Comics, Lezhin Entertainment said Monday. Lezhin Comics began its service in the U.S. in January 2016 with only had 12 Korean comics in English at that time. Now it features over 250 comics for English readers. The company entered the digital comic industry since it began service in Korea in 2013. It generated over $50 million in sales in 2019.

Lezhin Comics has more than 7,000 comics in Korea. It also features about 300 Japanese online comics, 100 Chinese online comics, and other comics created by cartoonists from France, Thailand, Indonesia, and the U.S.

They were able to partner with Samsung for “Lezhin Comics for Samsung.”

“I’m excited to see Lezhin Comics for Samsung launch and cement our position in the global market. This partnership gives Lezhin Comics a firm position overseas with the potential to go even further while we continue to work towards publishing more exciting and engrossing webtoons,” said Sung Eob Lee, CEO of Lezhin Entertainment.

Lezhin AutoPlay

Lezhin AutoPlay is the newest and cheapest way to purchase coins on Lezhin Comics. It is a monthly payment service that is friendly for both light and heavy users. Check out Lezhin Comics on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep up with the latest webtoon and manga launches.

2. Radish

Radish Publishing Startup in KoreaPublishing startup Radish is a global web-based fiction platform that was founded in 2016. It targets the English speaking market with short fiction. They break up book-length stories into smaller length chapters. They not only offer user-generated content but also the Radish Originals Program where Radish produces their own content using their own team of writers. Therefore the content that Radish Originals Program creates is owned by Radish. They generate revenue through micro-payments. Therefore, users on the platform buy coins that allow them to unlock later chapters of a story. Some of the top stories generate millions of dollars and get over 30 million reads. 

Radish has raised over $63 million in its latest Series B funding round. Participants in the investment are Mirae Asset Capital(KR), Mirae Asset Venture Investment(KR), SoftBank Ventures(JP), Partners Investment(KR), Kakao Page(KR), and Daekyo Investment(KR). This takes its total funding to $68 million to date.

3. RIDIBOOKS

RidibooksKorean e-book platform RIDIBOOKS has found a lot of success in Korea because of Korea’s passion for e-books. RIDIBOOKS is Korea’s top e-book provider and has raised over $40 million in funding to date. For 2020 they will focus on improving the user experience and expand their webcomics content. RIBIBOOKS has over 4 million users and has gotten over 300 million ebook downloads. Their site holds over 1..5 million titles from over 5,000 publishers.

RIDI Select

RIDI Select is a monthly subscription plan for RIDI Books. It lets users read the bestselling books at RIDI Books for a flat monthly fee. RIDI Select does not put a limit on books the readers can choose from. Therefore, if the user does not like the book they got, they can return it and it will not count on their account.

“RIDI Select service is designed to reduce the reader’s time and cost significantly. I expect such characteristics can contribute to increasing the number of readers and spurring growth in the book market,” said Kisik Bae, the CEO of the RIDI Corporation.

4. Watcha

WatchaKorean streaming service Watcha is a curation service that recommends movies based on the user’s preferences, reviews, and ratings. It is a huge hit in Korea and has over 500 million reviews and ratings on the platform. In addition, they have their own streaming platform called WatchaPlay which offers thousands of Korean and foreign shows. WatchPlay has over 1 million users and over 6 million downloads to date. Watch charges around $7 a month for their basic plan. 

Watcha uses big data to identify and recommend content to their users. They have a very strong portfolio of Korean content. Therefore, the increased global demand for Korean shows will be key to their expansion into new markets such as Southeast Asia and China. In addition, Watcha plans to expand into the music, gaming, and webtoon industry. To date, Watcha has raised over $36 million to date from Kakao Ventures, SBI Investment, Atinum Investment, Company K Investment, Maple Investment Partners, Gaia Venture Partners, and Quantum Ventures Korea. 

5. MyMusicTaste

MyMusicTasteMusic Publishing Startup in Korea, MyMusicTaste is a very interesting startup in that they are a fan initiated live event making service. This means that they bring fans, artists, and promoters from all over the world together in one place to create a valuable and meaningful concert experience. The power is mostly in the fans’ hands. Fans can request their favorite artist’s concert in their city. Then based on the demand they are able to generate on the MyMusicTaste platform, artists and promoters can organize an in-demand concert for that city.

Artists and promoters will have access to data to make their own determination on whether to put on a concert.

Putting on a concert can be very risky or artists, organizers, and promoters. Ticket sales are the key. Therefore MyMusicTaste allows fans to pre-request tickets so the artists will have a baseline for ticket sales before they make their decision. Most of their users are outside of Korea (90%). This is due to the popularity of K Pop around the world. Therefore, users can bring K Pop groups to their city through the platform.

“Most artists are looking to generate large profits and interact with their fans from all corners of the world through international tours. It is based on this need that we get a sense of the market and plan the tour,” said Lee Jaeseok, CEO of MyMusicTaste.

MyMusicTaste BM

MyMusicTaste makes revenue by selling tickets and taking a commission and promoting concerts organized through its platform. Think of MyMusicTaste ad the “Live Nation” of Korea but with a larger focus on up and coming artists.

A few years back MyMusicTaste was able to get an $11 million Series C funding led by KTB Network. This brings their total to date to over $25 million. Its Series C will be used to expand into more genres. MyMusicTaste also plans to open regional offices in Los Angeles, Europe, and Southeast Asia and strengthen its data science and engineering team.

6. PUBLY

Publishing Startup in Korea PublyPUBLY is a content subscription service for working people. They have a large collection of webbooks and articles at the price of one book per month. They offer a monthly subscription model to provide millennials original content through the mobile web and app. Furthermore, they offer the translation of content from overseas media such as the New York Times and Financial Times. In addition, they offer curated Korean content through their partnership with Korean media, magazines, and publishing companies. Their subscription fee is around $20 per month and to date, they have over 25,000 subscribers. PUBLY has raised over $5.5 million in funding from Korean VCs such as DSC and Investment and InterVest to name a few.

“We will be gearing ourselves up to provide the best learning experiences for the millennials who have a job. We will recruit more talented people for both our content and platform,” said the president of PUBLY, Park So-ryeong.

7. Macovill

macovillContent publishing startup in Korea Macovill is an entertainment content company. They create content such as animation, games, comics, and characters. Macovill is the creators of the successful comic sitcom Project Chitabu. They have gotten $2.6 million in funding through their Series A raise from Kona Venture Partners and Mirae Asset Venture Investment. The startup will use the funds to hire the talent and speed up their development.

8. Dillyhub

DillyhubDillyhub is a publishing and monetization platform for comic/webtoon creators. The digital publishing startup in Korea promotes and facilitates the works of independent comic artists. It connects creators and fans using and creators can freely post and monetize their content. Dillyhub takes a platform fee and a payment fee. They raised $1.4 million in seed funding from SV Investment, Kakao Ventures, and Shinhan Capital. To date, they have over 250,00 registered accounts and are looking to expand outside of Korea.

9. Tappytoon Comics

TappytoonKorean webtoon startup Tappytoon curates the latest comics and webtoons for their consumers. Users can use their app or website for high-quality content with vetted translations. The first few episodes will be free with later episodes charging a small fee. Similar to other webtoons sites, users will need to unlock episodes by purchasing tokens.

10. Rhoonart

RhoonartKorean startup Rhoonart is a commission-free platform that allows artists to compose music. It is being considered the next generation music marketplace. They currently have a database of hundreds of songwriters. Therefore customers can get music for commercial purposes and it will be delivered online. Rhoonart is a marketplace for clients, songwriters, composers, and enterprises looking to find commercial music.

Rhoonart only takes money through the transaction between clients and artists. Therefore, a client can request a type of music, and then the artists will send their estimates. Once the client finds the artist they want, the artist will write or compose the music exclusively for the client. Furthermore, payment is held until the client is satisfied with the artist’s work. Furthermore, the copyright stays with the artist unless the client pays for it.