An Interview With Victor Chu of MangaMagazine.netA comics interview article by: Steven Savage
Comics Bulletin is delighted to welcome Steven Savage back to our site. Steve wrote the Mission: Professional for CB for several years and has recently moved to his new site, MuseHack, a site about how people apply their inspirations, passons, and creativity to making things. From careers to conventions, blogs to art, charities to cosplay, they're about what happens when creativity and inspiration become real. This interview was originally posted on MuseHack.
Two friends running a comic store sounds like a dream (one we’d love to participate in), but Victor Chu and Bancha Dhammarungruang took it a lot farther. They founded MangaMagazine.net, a website that’s a publishing platform for people to display, find, read, and discuss e-manga. This isn’t just an upload site – this is a site that also works to promote works and help share profits with authors/artists.
So with that in mind, you can guess I had to interview some of the minds behind the site, so I got in touch with Victor Chu. So let’s meet one of the people who got this rolling – and ask how it works!
1) Victor, give me an idea of how this came about – few people sit down and say “I should make an e-manga site.”
Bancha and I have been huge comic fans since childhood, but we were frustrated at how fragmented and difficult it was to engage with authors, read their content and buy their merchandise. There are many hurdles a comic artist needs to successfully jump to gain visibility, and our goal is to not only make it easier for artists to find an audience, but to consolidate the process under one roof. It’s not efficient to have different places for selling books, selling merchandise, publishing the story and engaging with fans, and this is equally frustrating for both artists and readers. So we decided to design a one-stop destination for artists to consolidate their online presence, and readers to discover, read and share new comics.
2) Does the current incarnation look anything like your original vision? What changed? What remained the same?
When we first started, MangaMagazine.net was designed to be a closed distribution platform where we invited top artists to post. After speaking with our readers and artists, we realized there was a demand for having an open platform and a more data centric approach towards curating content. One goal has remained consistent: to help readers discover great content and help provide the building blocks for these talented artists to take their series to the next level.
3) What are the technical hurdles to implementing a site like this?
Content platforms have been around for some time, so users expect certain base features, such as an easy to use commenting system, bookmarking and event notifications like when somebody follows your series. This presents two challenges: First, the amount of time and effort required to reach parity with competitors is quite large. Second, content consumption can come from many different platforms, which forced us to weigh the benefits for expanding support to devices like the iPad against the cost of focusing on a web presence alone.
4) What platforms is the site supported on – and what will be supported in the future.
Currently, MangaMagazine.net is accessible via Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer, but we are excited launch an iPad app in July and are looking very carefully at Android tablets. We are also considering designing an iPhone app, but there are some user technicalities to consider in order to deliver an engaging reading experience.
5) In a way you’re competing with other e-comics initiatives; how does MangaMagazine.net stand out?
We view MangaMagazine.net as a service provider to independent artists, which sets us apart from other e-comics initiatives. We are intimately involved with our top artists in identifying different means to help them grow, such as helping set up and run advertising campaigns, laying out or designing books and printing and selling on our site, among other. This differs from typical content aggregators who want to generate ad revenue or content distributors who license content to sell.
6) Let’s ask the hard question – is this a self-supporting business yet? If not, how do you keep it going?
In short, not yet. But we have a lot of exciting services and features rolling out in the next few months that will address this. We are very lucky to have an amazing group of investors who are encouraged by the passion and commitment of the comic community, and stand by our vision and plan.
7) Manga artists can make money – if their work is selected to be a “Feature” article, or they’re actually chosen to write and be paid specifically for MangaMagazine.net. How does this work?
Artists can make money a few different ways, and we are constantly coming up with new opportunities. Artists who join our site and perform well, based on a set of metrics, are invited to publish on a regular schedule and access additional features, such as listing their products for sale on our marketplace. Every month, artists are paid from a pool of money where the amount they receive is proportional to the amount of traffic and reads their content generates. Artists are also provided support from the book and merchandise team in creating goods to sell on the site. A key benefit our artists really enjoy is that even though we pay our artists and offer many services, artists maintain all content and distribution rights.
8) How does your community function?
We rely heavily on our commenting system and user dashboard to help users interact with one another. Through our dashboard we also make recommendations of relevant activity and content based on what a user favorites. Also, our users can access a community chat for larger discussions. All of this would not be possible without our community team that actively participates and engages with our users. Quite a few of them are artists on the site, too.
9) How are people reacting to MangaMagazine.net? It certainly seems to have a lot going for it.
The support has been nothing short of amazing. We are continually amazed at the lengths our users and artists are willing to go to help one another and the site. Our users understand that we are trying to succeed in partnership with our artists, and are very supportive of it. I always tell people that the comic community is one of the most fanatical and passionate group of individuals anywhere, and our confidence is boosted by the encouragement from fans.
10) How are you planning to expand the site in the future?
We are constantly tweaking our plans, but our main goal is ubiquity. Anything that can help us expand our footprint into providing more services to artists or expanding our user reach is a priority for us. We want to make it irresistible for artists to upload their content and for readers to come explore our content and product offerings.
11) Any tips on people who want to found their own web initiatives and products?
Learn to code and take web design lessons. Even if you don’t plan to contribute in the development, understanding the basics of what makes a successful launch of a great web product can help guide your planning and interactions with engineers.
Thanks Victor. And be sure to check out MangaMagazine.net!
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at MuseHack, nerd and geek culture at Nerd Caliber, and does a site of creative tools at Seventh Sanctum. He can be reached at stevensavage.com.