The Beat con confirm reports this afternoon that Tapas Media has announced major layoffs, including to the editorial staff. The moves are reportedly part of a shift to more UGC (user generated content) and away from Originals, a program to acquire new content from new and established creators. It’s also a move to consolidate operations of the three companies under the Tapas banner: Tapas, Radish and Wuxiaworld.
The layoffs have been taking place over the last month or so, with 80% of the staff of Radish – a UGC portal for prose that Tapas acquired last year – being laid off recently.
Bleeding Cool is reporting that Radish, Tapas, and Wuxiaworld are merging under CEO Chang Kim, and about 30% of the overall staff has been laid off, including the CFO, CCO, Head of Publicity and other high-ranking executives. Some of our sources say the percentage of layoffs could be even higher.
All of this comes after a huge expansion last year at Tapas, after they were acquired by Korean tech giant Kakao last May at an estimated value of $510 million. Kakao also acquired Radish, which was then valued at $440 million, and completed the troika by buying fantasy portal Wuxiaworld last December for a mere $37.5 million.
Tapas made further headlines with a series of high profile editorial hires, including former DC editors Michelle Wells, Jamie S. Rich and Alex Carrand former Marvel staffer Chris Robinson, with the expectation that they would be acquiring original material for the web and eventually print.
Rich recently left Tapas for a position at IDW. The fate of the rest of editorial is not yet known.
Obviously, the softening of the tech/streaming market left these companies is less valuable by a huge factor. With Kakao streamlining operations of its three divisions there are also many executive redundancies.
Since the acquisition by Kakao, Tapas had been positioning itself as a place for creators to bring original content, hoping to tap in to the lucrative but highly selective world of top webcomics like Lore Olympus.
In fact, only this Monday Tapas was included in a very high profile front page story in the New York Times about the rise of webcomics, which liberally quoted Tapas vp of content Michael Son:
Tapas Media, another major web comics platform, says that more than 80 percent of its readers are between 17 and 25 and roughly two-thirds are women
Some of its most popular series revolve around topics the current generation of young readers can directly relate to. Michael Son, Tapas’s vice president of content, pointed to “Magical Boy,” a series featuring a transgender teenager discovered to be a descendant of a goddess. “Sailor Moon meets Buffy,” he said.
“We wanted to get rid of gatekeepers,” he said. “The readers really directed what content directions we were taking. What organically popped up was a very young, very female-centric readership that was also reflected in the creator base.”
While this is still a developing story with a lot to unpack, there are a few other observations. It does seem to follow in the path of Korean rival Webtoon, which similarly ramped up in the US with original Western material only to cut editorial staff and go to a more streamlined UGC and Korean content model. While Korean tech rivals Kakao and Naver (owner of Webtoon) were in something of a “race to an ipo”, paying creators good rates is evidently just a few dollars too much to spend.
It was also a bit of sign of things to come that Tapas had a very bare bones presence at the just concluded SDCC. While other companies had new booths and displays, Tapas, a first time exhibitor along with Wuxiaworld, had a modest table display, though with many high profile creators including “The Kao” stopping by to sign.
Also developing: what is to come of Tapas’s many publishing connections, including Andrews McMeel.
As word of the layoffs spread among industry gossip, one observation was made repeatedly: “At least they had the sense to wait until after San Diego Comic-Con.”