Earlier this month, I was thinking about getting back into the blogging scene, and I realized I had plenty of ideas about series, recent events, and the like, but didn’t actually feel like writing…
I have ideas for blogging, but little actual desire to write. I need to butt in on someone’s podcast
— Alexander Hoffman (@mangawidget) October 24, 2013
Thankfully, Lori Henderson at Manga Xanadu offered me a guest spot on her latest podcast, which you can listen to here. We talked a lot about the most recent happenings at VizManga, Crunchyroll, and the expansion of the digital marketplace. While I ultimately feel that Viz is doing fans a service by expanding their offerings to alternate digital formats, I also think that something gets lost in the translation when moving from a closed platform to an open market.
One of Crunchyroll’s strongest features is its community. People can interact in the forums or debate and discuss individual episodes of an anime right as they watch it. There is a cohesion there that makes the whole site an experience, not just a place to go watch anime. Adding manga to the site seems like a no-brainer now, but I’m sure it wasn’t always. What sells the service is that cohesion.
Crunchyroll is able to package manga in a way that no other publisher or service has yet done: day and date, all you can eat manga. (The truth here is that JManga attempted a fairly similar project, called JManga7, but the content was already available as pay per volume on the main JManga site, and JManga went out of business shortly after they attempted to implement JManga7.) This release method is most aligned to the current aggregator model where chapters are uploaded and available for viewing once the scanlator’s website is scrubbed. All digital manga currently available for purchase is translated complete volumes, available the day of their US release and sometimes later.
The content here is interesting because it is all Kodansha content. Notable series include Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail, which are being published by Kodansha USA, and UQ HOLDER! and The Seven Deadly Sins, which have been licensed by Kodansha USA, but haven’t been released yet. The other series are a grab bag – mostly seinen or shonen, with a mix of other content. All are currently being published – Crunchyroll isn’t interested in putting old comics on the service. The reason, of course, is the weekly update.
Weekly updates give a reader a reason to visit the site at least one time a week, if not more. New free weekly content is a powerful draw. Crunchyroll is already doing this with their anime content. More visits means more ad revenue, more brand loyalty. And using the newest comics, they avoid competing with older titles already completely scanlated. The most complex part of all of this – the manga business is going to support the video service, and the video service is going to support the manga business in ways that I don’t think we can completely understand at this point. I know I am watching anime because of the manga service. I know I can’t be the only person experiencing this cross-over.
Ultimately, I think Crunchyroll’s entry into the digital manga market is well-timed. They’ve brought one of the most popular manga in years to digital publication in a way that is free and legal to many readers, and a lot of other value to anyone who decides to pay. Provided they are able to continue this service and add other titles, Crunchyroll could be on solid ground to compete with aggregators in a way that no other publisher has been able.