Decentralizing control over the webtoon market
HyperComic aims to provide artists an option outside major portals such as Naver and Daum
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임준혁 2022년 5월9일 16:40
출처=하이퍼코믹 제공.
출처=하이퍼코믹 제공.

The two main concepts behind Hypercomic, a content platform to which the webtoon firm Mstory Hub contributes, are "decentralized" and "hyperfiction."

Put simply, hyperfiction is non-linear fiction with the possibility for multiple plot developments and endings. It also usually involves a level of interaction between the writer and reader.

"We're originally a webtoon company, but one day we decided to venture into the blockchain space, NFTs in particular."

The reason for Mstory's blockchain exploration is simple: autonomy. Particularly over creative rights and secondary sales.

Traditionally, Korean content creators like Mstory rely on major web portals such as Naver and Daum. Think of Google, but with a plethora of curative services that covers everything from shopping and news to real estate and cooking recipes.

The majority of Korean users rely on such portals for search engines as well as recommendations on what to wear, eat and watch, the latest celebrity gossip, and random lifestyle tips. A lot of vendors also pay a fee to be listed on their online malls. Webtoons are no exception. The average Webtoon fanatic turns to portals to curate and recommend content.

The moment Mstory signs a contract with such a portal, however, they lose their autonomy. Mstory gains exposure to a massive audience, but the portal then obtains most of the creative rights to a title. Since most content creators rely on such platforms for exposure, portals occupy monopoly-like shares of the market, and account for a majority of the domestic industry's content distribution.

"We decided tp create and experiment with a platform that distributes the creative rights to and profits from webtoons in a more decentralized way."

배병화 엠스토리허브 이사(사진 왼쪽)와 남득현 엠스토리허브 전략기획본부장이 하이퍼코믹 플랫폼에 대해 설명하고 있다. 출처=정인선/코인데스크 코리아
Philip Bae (left) and Teddy Nam of MStory Hub. Source: CoinDesk Korea

I'm talking to Philip Bae and Teddy Nam, the brains behind Mstory's Hub's blockchain experiment.

The basic premise is that HyperComic creates a Web3 content platform that allows artists to create and upload their own content. 

HyperComic offers two types of NFTs. One gives the owner a level of executive authority related to the platform's operations. These are known as "Hyper Passes." Initially, only 1,000 of these will be issued.

Pass holders have the authority to approve new webtoons and review them before they're officially published. They serve an editorial role and ensure a certain level of quality control.

Pass holders also serve members of a community that discuss and work on the oracle problem, or the issue of how to verify and manage off-chain data. 

The second type of NFT is related to rights over content. The second form is issued in the form of PFPs. The first series of such PFPs is called "Prince Charming." Only 10,000 will be issued. HyperComic will issue an additional 10,000 PFPs under a princess theme.

When an artist wants to create a new webtoon, he/she mints NFTs that represent shares of profit from that piece. The artist then decides how much he/she wants to keep and how much to sell to investors.

If the piece is approved by pass holders, the profits made from either ads or user fees are then divided up according to NFT shares. The value of those NFTs will then rise or fall depending on the success of said webtoon.

The artists, instead of working for the profit of a platform like Naver and taking a certain percentage, are working for their own personal profit. The more successful their project, the higher the value of their NFTs. 

"Our NFTs aren't just collectibles, as they will offer true utility."

웹 콘텐츠 제작사 엠스토리허브의 계열사인 하이퍼코믹이 동명의 탈중앙화 NFT 플랫폼을 만들고, '하이퍼패스' 토큰과 '프린스 차밍' 대체불가능토큰을 발행하겠다고 밝혔다. 출처=하이퍼코믹 제공.
A glimpse of HyperComic's "Prince Charming" PFP series. Provided by HyperComic

Bae and Nam acknowledge that during the initial stages of HyperComic's growth, most Korean artists will continue to choose portals like Naver over any sort of decentralized platform. As HyperComic grows however, particularly outside the Korean market, they believe more artists will flock to HyperComic, which will provide artists greater control and ownership of their work.

"Artists will also be able to choose whether they want to keep their content on our platform or take their work to a portal like Naver. Giving creators authority over their work is what makes us similar to  a DAO."

The problem with DAOs, Nam says, is they haven't been able to act as efficient decision makers for complicated problems that don't have a "yes" or "no" answer. DAOs, as we currently know them, are mostly used to either approve or disapprove something. But when it comes to providing an overall direction or operational goal, Nam doesn't see DAOs replacing the conventional corporate structure anytime soon.

In terms of artist-reader interaction, HyperComic doesn't envision a world in which the readers have direct creative input, such as which character to kill. Most artists wouldn't stand for such interference.

However, the readers can offer their input on general creative directions to take. For example, Batman fans can vote on whether or not they want a separate series on Jim Gordon, the police commissioner of Gotham.

But how well-versed is the average webtoon in the world of crypto and NFTs?

Bae's answer is that it doesn't matter.

"NFT collectors or investors and webtoon readers are in their own respective categories. The readers will pay fees because they want to view certain content, while NFT investors will approach their purchases from an investor's perspective. There's essentially no need for webtoon readers to be crypto literate. To them, content is king."

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