Is paid webtoon service a low involvement product?

김민오 | 2019-11-30 10:27


'Why do I have to pay money to read webtoons?'

This is common in paid webtoon app reviews. If you think about it, you can see that the reaction against paid webtoons is stronger than expected. While people can keep it in mind and pass over, they leave their comments about the paid webtoon even if it could be quite annoying. Then what raised the repulsion toward the paid webtoon? There are various reasons for this, but in my opinion, the perception that Webtoon is light and casual content that can be enjoyed, and the price exceeded expectations are the biggest causes. Considering this, I’ve got a question.

Is paid webtoon service a low involvement product that can be enjoyed lightly?

If you look at one paid webtoon episode that costs between 200 and 500 KRW, it is correct that it's a low-involvement product. However, is it a low involvement product even for more than 200 long-length webtoons? In this case, at least 60,000 KRW of minimum cost is required, while one episode is 200 KRW. At this price, light users who are accustomed to free webtoons can't afford even if the webtoons have pretty pictures. In this regard, I studied the webtoon's characteristics and involvement to solve curiosity about if the webtoon service can be considered as low-involvement products, and if there are things to improve in the marketing strategy.

First and foremost, the definition of the degree of involvement is as follows.

Perception or interest of an individual's importance to a particular subject in a given situation

*Source: Lee Hak-Sik, Ahn Kwang-Ho, Ha Yung-Won <Consumer Behavior Theory>

Solving this a bit more easily will likely translate it into "the degree of interest a user considers when making a purchase." For example, is there a difference between the amount of effort trying to find product information when we buy a snack like jelly or gum at a convenience store and trying to find product information when we buy a laptop online? If you are not much interested in the product information such as snacks such as jelly, you can classify those as low involvement products. Like notebooks, if you are interested in the product information such as performance / weight / design / price, you can classify as high involvement products.

The characteristics of each involvement are as follows.

[Low involvement products]

Generally, those are low in price and have no big quality difference from other competitive products. Plus, less effort is required to get product information because you're less at risk of losing money if you make a mistake. For such reasons, when developing a marketing strategy for low-involvement products, a strategy that builds familiarity and intimateness, such as repetitive advertisement exposure for that product, is often used. Examples include light snacks such as jelly, portable tissues, and writing supplies.


The products that are placed in front of the supermarket checkouts that tempt us are usually low involvement.


Legend of low involvement product advertising. The product sells well only when the familiarity (..) is appealed.

[High involvement products]

In general, the price is high and there are many factors that users consider before making a purchase. Users invest a lot of time and effort in getting information about their products because they are questioning whether they can satisfy their needs and the risk of losing money when they make a wrong purchase. For this reason, marketing strategies for high involvement products are often used to provide useful information and trust. Examples include laptops, cars, wine and cosmetics.


Most of the products that you can look around for price and sigh are usually high involvement products.


Example of high involvement product advertising. The product sells well when it appeals to performance.

There are many other features that affect the level of involvement, but I will omit the details considering the volume.

Given the characteristics of these involvement products, what kind of product does Webtoon service seem to users?

Many webtoon service users use it for light fun or stress relief. But nowadays, many services can be light and fun. People can use video services like Youtube without purchase, or they can play mobile games for free, which they can achieve the pursuit of fun. In this context, I think that paid webtoon service is a high involvement product.

First of all, many free services can achieve the goal of pursuing fun besides paid webtoons. Compared to games or video services that smartphone users are known to use the most, if there is no strong distinction between paid webtoons, people will use free games or video services rather than paid webtoons. No matter how interesting webtoons you find in this environment, the fact that you have to spend money on reading webtoons makes you think again. If you go beyond simple pursuits and don't feel the value that a game or video service can't provide, the average person will be burdened by spending money on webtoons.


Second, what users see in paid webtoon service is not a single episode of 200 ~ 500 KRW, but the amount of purchases when the total number of episodes is summed up. In the case of a narrative webtoon, the story continues through several episodes, so once you start, you have to keep buying until the last episode. Even in the case of the latest work doesn't reveal when it'll be completed. As a result, the cost of reading paid webtoons is higher than the opportunity cost offered by other alternatives, and users are forced to make purchases. In this situation, low-involvement product marketing strategies that appeal to the intimateness and familiarity of webtoons can attract users, but there are limits to inducing purchases. There's a lot of conflict coming from the perception and price that webtoons should be free or cheap. In this context, how can we improve the paid webtoon service marketing strategy?

Attached above is an FCB model that classifies marketing strategies by involvement and product purchase motivation created by an advertising agency called FCB. I believe that to attract more of the new paid webtoon users, it is necessary to develop a marketing strategy for high-involvement emotional products located in the upper right corner of the material, rather than a low-involvement product marketing strategy. Like a marketing strategy for fine wine or cosmetics. Here are my opinions related to this.

First, it is necessary to provide people the trust which paid webtoons are worth purchasing. 

Using only repetitive exposure of advertisements created with webtoon pictorials and stimulating messages is not enough. If the pursuit of the fun moment is a purpose, free webtoons, not paid, are a good way to achieve that goal, and a free video service or game may be an alternative to achieve that goal.

I think Kakao Page is doing well in this field. They mark 'a million page' for the works that have more than 1 million subscriptions to provide the trust of webtoons. This reduces the risk that people who are new to paid webtoons will choose a work that is not interesting among a lot of other webtoons. Furthermore, through the 'Free if you wait' feature, it is possible to constantly encourage users to stay away from the time that they have trust in the work. Users who constantly appreciate the work will make purchases as they pass through the work.


A Million Paged work of Kakao Page, free to wait

Other than this, ways to expose the artist's introduction or press articles related to the initiation of the work, and ways to expose information such as the evaluation and review of the work will also help to earn the credibility of the work.



SNS advertisement of a novel 'We and You' which used external evaluation for advertisement -Source: Yes24 Facebook page

Second, it should be appealed that webtoons are useful content that can expand the experience like reading books. 

There are many webtoons that can provide huge enlightenment to life and a profound sensation. Some works, such as ‘Misaeng’ which became a drama and gave consolation and move to many workers, 'God of bath' that gave the opportunity to think about what is the happiness that we really want, 'Long live the king' which rendered politician who citizens really want, are masterpieces that cannot be underestimated although they are webtoons.

Through these webtoons, we can discover aspects of life that we have never experienced, gain enlightenment, and discover opportunities to grow. Through this kind of feature, if we appeal webtoons can provide a helpful experience like books, it will help to lower the disapproval of paid webtoons. I think it would be better to create an advertisement by linking the subject of the work with the questions of life that users can discover and find the answers through the work.

Also, if heavy users who already use the paid webtoon service have the opportunity to create his webtoon reading history and appeal to others, they may receive increased satisfaction with the paid webtoon service. It can be a chance for people to be recognized for how much they are maniac like an in-game achievement system.


PlayStation Trophy page to check own gameplay achievements.

Third, it is a good idea to recommend a webtoon that you can enjoy for a low cost. The wine could be an example. 

Many people like wine, but not everyone has the purchasing power to buy expensive one. Cheap wine is available for this kind of consumers. There is even a wine bar that sells expensive wines by one glass instead of a bottle, reducing the burden on the price.

As such, not all paid webtoons are long-length, and not all webtoons have to pay a high price. Like Line Webtoon's 'Yeon's Letter', small / mid-volume webtoons can have a great story that can impress people. For the users who are still not willing to pay for webtoons, recommending paid webtoons that can be started casually rather than recommending more than 100 paid webtoons from the beginning will help lower the barriers to payment. It is like recommending cheap yet great wine for those who feel burdened about buying expensive wine. Also, the price range that is not burdensome seems to find a hint in a paid video service or a paid game that can be called competitive service.


7 paid episodes of a short-length webtoon, Yeon's Letter, which was genuinely touching with only 3,000 KRW.

Fourthly, even if there are many episodes, it is a good idea to recommend a webtoon that does not require purchase. Like 'Woman's bath report' daily life toon, or omnibus style 'KIKIKUIKUI', if the story is not connected but singly story, it is not necessary to read all. We need to make the users recognize these works as low-involvement products, that they can read with only 200 ~ 500 KRW whenever they are bored. However, I think that we need a device to give credibility to each episode, such as information about what story we have at the individual episode and how people can evaluate each.

Lastly, purchased webtoons should be supported by usability that users can read at anytime and anywhere. 

The purchase should not be the end of the relationship with the users, but rather the beginning. Users purchase products expecting compensation. As Amazon Kindle has done, Webtoons should try to bring online the experiences of comic books that users thought it was natural to pay. Furthermore, we must create an environment where people can fully immerse themselves in content by taking advantage of the unique characteristics of online, which comic books could not. As we continue to make differences from free webtoon services, video services and games, I believe that the barriers to any new paid webtoons will be much lower.

Users get high satisfaction with the content they have purchased, and creators want the value of their content is honestly admitted. I hope this will create a happy market for each other, and finish this writing. I hope my little ideas can be a chance for someone to develop it into a better idea. Thank you.

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