In a manga market that isn’t experiencing growth, Tokyopop CEO Stuart Levy believes the slowdown has less to do with consumers losing interest in Japanese pop culture and more to do with them accessing content in different, perhaps illegal ways.
The Appetite for Japanese Culture
“My personal opinion is that Japan as a pop culture influencer is still very relevant to the U.S. market,” Levy said in a lengthy interview with pop-culture news outlet ICv2.
“I do believe a lot of people are accessing the more direct Japanese pop culture content via the web and because there are less legal ways to access that content,” he went on. “Piracy is pretty rampant in the U.S. among Japanese pop culture product. Some of the legal Websites seem quite popular. I personally don’t believe that there’s been a drop-off in terms of interest in Japanese pop culture.”
Levy states that it was important for Tokyopop to restructure its management and product line-up during the economic downturn in order to remain profitable. Not having the backing of a larger firm to support it meant the publisher had to rely on fewer, more popular brands to navigate through the recession. However, he pointed out, they are now ready to start experimenting again.
The Importance of Mobile Digitization
Levy believes exploring the digital space on mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad is an important aspect of reaching a broader audience.
“I believe the iPad is really the first step toward Apple allowing the computer revolution to become a fully mobilized revolution,” he said. “People don’t buy desktops any more. They buy laptops. I believe Apple with the iPad will get it where people don’t even buy laptops anymore.”
“This won’t be the first version, but they will get to the point where you have your iPad, you have your iPhone, maybe you never even need to add a computer unless you’re very specialized, like a video editor or a music creator or somebody like that. The iPad is going to have a huge impact. It may not be immediate, in the first generation. It seems like the kind of thing that’s exciting for our business as a pop culture company, as well as for the book industry as a whole.”
Pressed further on the subject, he predicted that Tokyopop would be primarily focused on the iPhone due to its large install base for most of 2010, but that the iPad and the iBookstore were an important part of the company’s publishing strategy going forward.
Levy also has plans for a tour across North America with six university students that he admitted is an idea he has wanted to pursue for some time now. The tour is part of an endeavour to reconnect with fans and promote some of the company’s newer brands.