Earlier today, Tapas Media Chief Creative Officer Michele Wells tweeted out the following image by artist Thomas Boatright with the word "Mood".
Earlier today, Bleeding Cool broke the news that the major webtoon publisher Tapas Media, has informed its employees of a number of imminent layoffs in editorial at the publisher. Since then we have confirmed that a number of them are amongst editorial staff, though have been asked not to name them for now, with one exception. That is Michele Wells, and that is only because of her prominence at the publisher, Chief Content Officer of Tapas Media, and former Executive Editor and co-EIC of DC Comics. Michele only joined Tapas in February last year.
So what's going on? Last year, Korean online giant Kakao Entertainment signed agreements to acquire two American storytelling platforms, Tapas Media, Inc and Radish Media, Inc. The acquisitions were intended to pave the way for Kakao Entertainment to expand its original content business in North America and other English-speaking regions. Tapas is known for its mobile comic book content and webtoons and had been valued at $510 million. Radish Media, mobile fiction platform and app has been valued at $440 million. Kakao Entertainment became a significant stakeholder of Tapas the year before that and had since been distributing webtoons, such as A Business Proposal, Space Sweepers, The Uncanny Counter, and Navillera through the Tapas platform, which saw sales increase five times last year.
But changes have been exposed in recent days. Kakao has been merging some operations between Radish, Tapas, and Wuxiaworld to increase efficiency and reduce redundancy. But that means an increase in redundancies. It is estimated there have already been layoffs of around 30% of the current company, as well as the departure of the CFO, CCO, Head of Publicity, and other high-ranking executives last month, mostly from Radish, but now there are more firings to come. When Bleeding Cool contacted Tapas yesterday, we were asked to hold any such story while Tapas CEO Chang Kim contacted staffers to give them the news directly first, including significant numbers at the Tapas editorial side. We were asked to do the same regarding the status of Michele T Wells at Tapas as well.
Bleeding Cool understands that Chang Kim has been elevated to a more senior position at the company on the Kakao side. And that Won Choi, is to be the new COO for Tapas to more directly run that side of the publisher, from a financial point of view. We previously reported that the position would be on an equal level with CCO Michele R Wells – now it seems he will replace her role. There have been recent moves to reduce budgets, and I'm now told there's a move to focus on content created and pitched by readers rather than headhunting established creators to bring their work to Tapas.
Tapas, just like Substack, Netflix, Amazon and other such streaming services are going through a numbers crunch, in an increasingly divided competitive market that hasn't had a shakeout yet. There are likely to be more. Tapas will be fine as an IP filter for Korea, but its days as an original content provider are numbered.