Manga publisher Viz rolled out a new digital comics service last week that takes advantage of the publisher's kid-friendly licensed properties—not all of them Japanese.
The sticky DOT comics app (for the iPad and iPad Mini only, at least for the moment) is the first digital comics service to carry the Pokemon manga, and it also features several of the licensed graphic novels that Viz has been developing under its VizKids imprint. The app, which is aimed at kids 6-12, launched with about 30 titles, including Voltron Force, Redakai, and Mameshiba graphic novels as well as four different Pokemon series. The graphic novels are priced at $2.99 and $3.99 (described as a "debut price" in the official press release), and the app also includes free preview chapters. Little Miss Sunshine and Mr. Strong comics have been announced and are upcoming.
Viz, which is co-owned by the Japanese manga and anime companies Shueisha, Shogakukan, and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, is the largest publisher of manga in the U.S., and it has the largest digital presence as well. The Viz branded digital service is available on the web, iOS, and Android devices, and carries over 1,300 volumes, with 50 to 60 new and backlist volumes going up each month, as well as its digital manga magazine Shonen Jump.
The sticky DOT comics app does not sync with Viz's name-brand app, and the content of the two apps does not overlap at all. And while the Viz branded service requires the user to have a Viz account, sticky DOT comics does not; users buy comics through iTunes and don't need to log in to the app itself.
We talked to Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director, children's publishing, at Viz, about the strategy behind this new app.
PWCW:Why did you decide to have a completely different app with different branding than the Viz app?
Kawasaki: We created the sticky DOT comics app as a family-friendly destination where parents will feel comfortable letting their kids read comics and kids will discover fun and entertaining stories on their own.
PWCW: Will there be any overlap in content between the two?
Kawasaki: No. There are no plans to overlap content between the two apps.
PWCW: What sort of content do you expect to have in the app, and how frequently will it be updated?
Kawasaki: All of the content is from our kids’ comics line. We’re really excited to have the first-ever digital Pokémon comics, and launched with 30 volumes on the sticky DOT comics app. We also have nail-biting action with Voltron Force, funny and fun stories with Little Miss Sunshine, Mr. Strong and Mameshiba, and other-worldly adventures in Redakai.
We’ll continue to add frontlist titles as the print editions are released and are also working on adding more titles from our backlist.
PWCW: Why did you choose to do this first as an iPad app?
Kawasaki: The iPad is an extremely intuitive device and children really respond to it. We’ve seen how kids light up and become mesmerized when they’re reading books on an iPad. If you’re around kids, or even if you just see them when you’re eating out or shopping, it’s not unusual to see them playing on their parents’ iPad. Kids comics are one of the fastest-growing segments in graphic novel publishing. Forty-eight percent of children ages 6-12 put iPads on their Christmas wish list last year according to a Nielsen Survey.
PWCW: What are your plans for other platforms?
Kawasaki: If the demand is there, we’ll expand to other platforms.
PWCW: Have you thought of adding games and other activities?
Kawasaki: For now, we’re concentrating on the comics.
PWCW: What sort of marketing are you doing to promote the app?
Kawasaki: We’re doing targeted marketing with Google AdWords, YouTube and ads on several sites, campaigns via social media and e-newsletters, a PR outreach that includes influential parenting sites and blogs, and, of course, reaching out to our current fans on Viz Media’s sites and apps.