The Korea Herald

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Koreans warm to Instagram webtoons

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : Dec. 19, 2023 - 13:11

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A screenshot of @tyeodya's Instagram account, which has 154,000 followers as of Tuesday (Instagram) A screenshot of @tyeodya's Instagram account, which has 154,000 followers as of Tuesday (Instagram)

Social networking service Instagram is slowly rising as one of Korea's most popular platforms for reading webtoons.

The new content format known locally as "instatoon" is growing in popularity as people increasingly seek freely serialized webtoons, autobiographical content and easy access to webtoons.

In a Korea Creative Content Agency survey of 3,500 Korean webtoon readers aged 10 to 69 conducted between July 2022 and May 2023, Instagram was ranked as the fifth most-used platform on which the readers read webtoons.

The most used platform was Naver Webtoon, with 84 percent of respondents saying they used it, followed by Kakao Page at 32 percent and Naver Series at 27.8 percent.

Lezhin Comics, a webtoon-specialized platform, was the sixth-most used platform for reading webtoon after Instagram, with 13.1 percent. Another webtoon platform, Toptoon, followed in seventh place with 9 percent.

According to the survey, the popularity of Instagram as a platform for reading webtoons was largely because they were provided free of charge, with 48 percent of the respondents citing this as the reason for using the platform.

Currently, Naver Webtoon charges for completed webtoon series, while Kakao Page and Lezhin Comics offer free trials of the first few episodes of both ongoing and completed webtoon series.

Meanwhile, 35.7 percent of respondents replied that they read webtoons on Instagram because they have been using the SNS for a long time and 30.4 percent of the respondents answered that they read webtoons on Instagram because the platform provided a lot of content.

Industry experts added that instatoons are gaining popularity among webtoon fans, as the webtoons serialized on Instagram center around a specific genre that is not commonly found on webtoon platforms.

"Instagram has specific limitations in the uploading of content, such as the size of the pictures. Due to the nature of instatoons, it is difficult to construct a narrative element or detailed visual composition of the webtoons serialized on the webtoon platform," said Seo Beom-gang, the president of Korea Webtoon Industry Association.

Because of this, instatoons tend to center around the personal stories of the authors and plots involving daily routines, which the readers find convenient to read -- compared to the lengthy romance fantasy webtoons commonly found in popular platforms such as Naver Webtoon.

"Also, SNS has a ripple effect. Content can be shared freely, adding to the popularity. Instagram allows the webtoon writer to communicate with its readers and receive feedback through Instagram stories and comments, providing a sturdy foundation for the growth of instatoons," Seo added.

With 'instatoon' becoming popular, a slew of Korean businesses have turned to it as a marketing tool.

Korean food company Nongshim has initiated a slew of collaborations with Korean instatoon writers in order to popularize its intellectual property, the company said.

"Nongshim has characters from various brands such as Neoguri, Ramen King Kim Tong-kkae, and the Bbang Bu-jang. (Nongshim found that) it is easy to use instatoons to tell stories, using these characters." said an official from Nongshim.

Korean steelmaker Posco currently operates an instatoon account with some 60,000 followers, in which the life of Posco's character Po Seok-ho and materials advertising Posco are serialized in a webtoon format.

"To break away from the heavy image associated with the steel company and engage with the younger generation, we chose a more approachable communication method," said an official from Posco.

"Through Instagram, Posco found that we can convey complex stories in an easily understandable way and create greater empathy by showing the perspective of Po Seok-ho, who appears as an employee of Posco," she said.