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💭 Are Webtoons the next big thing?

The Hustle

If you were skeptical when McDonald’s announced the McPlant burger — get ready to say I told you so. So far, after testing the sandwich in 600 stores, sales are only at ~50% of their target. Perhaps some things just weren’t meant to be.

📣 P.S. Enter our power boost giveaway for a chance at a $1k Amazon gift card (we’ve got 10). Once you hit 3 referrals, your ticket count doubles. Details below.

In today’s email:

  • Webtoons: Are digital comics the next big thing?
  • Crazy Eddie: The electronics chain that scammed America.
  • The Purge? Why rich people are panic-buying panic rooms.
  • Around the web: AI lyrics, why we love adding stuff, jellyfish cams, and more rad internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Sam teach Zack and Rob how to be a prepper, why local newsletters are blowing up, and how Webtoons can take over America.

The big idea
webtoons gif

Webtoons are taking over the world. Is the US next?

While superhero movies own pretty much every American box office record, the comic books they’re based on have always been a niche interest in the US.

Webtoons, a digital comic format that originated in South Korea, are starting to make a splash outside of East Asia — and a big push for the American market, per the Financial Times.

Webtoons…

… are digital comics meant to be read on a smartphone or computer. The technology originated circa 2003 as physical comic sales dwindled in South Korea.

The rise of the format has happened in lockstep with the country’s 2 leading platforms:

  • Naver Webtoon, which has 750k creators on its platform and 82m monthly active users
  • Kakao Webtoon, whose Japanese affiliate, Piccoma, was the 2nd highest grossing non-gaming app in the world, behind TikTok, in 2021 ($96m in monthly revenue)

Both platforms allow creators to upload Webtoons for free, leading to a massive range of stories and titles. This variety, along with the ability to consume Webtoons quickly and on-the-go, has led to the format’s growing popularity in South Korea and beyond.

But will Americans bite?

Critics wonder if South Korea’s “digital snack culture” will work with American audiences who have shown mixed feelings about short-form content.

On one hand, TikTok has 50m daily active users in the US.

On the other, Quibi, the short-form streaming platform, raised $1.75B only to shut down 6 months after launch when it struggled to hit subscriber targets.

South Korean creators…

… have already generated massive hits in the US across formats:

  • BTS, the K-Pop group, has had the bestselling song in the US 2 years in a row
  • Parasite, the 2020 Oscar winner, is the 4th highest-grossing foreign film in US box office history
  • Squid Game, the Netflix hit, was the 6th title to reach 3B minutes streamed in a single week since Nielsen started tracking streaming

For its part, Naver Webtoon has 14m subscribers in the US, making up 17% of its total readership — a nice little niche already.

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SNIPPETS

Powerful partnership: Fanatics joined forces with WWE in a deal that includes a new ecommerce and mobile site, licensed merchandise, and digital goods like NFTs. #ecommerce-retail

Blue Bird, which makes electric school buses, received its largest order ever: California’s Modesto City Schools ordered 30 buses, converting ~1/2 its fleet to electric. #clean-energy

Glow time: Amazon Glow, a hardware device meant to connect kids with distant relatives, is now available to all consumers in the US. The device was previously available to an invite-only list. #emerging-tech

GIFs galore: TikTok partnered with Giphy to launch ‘TikTok Library,’ a tool for creators to access entertainment content and take advantage of trends. #big-tech

MFM: Sam and Shaan discuss how to start a $1m business in college (5-minute video). #mfm

Yikes
Crazy Eddie visual

The electronics chain that scammed America

On Sept. 13, 1984, as stocks wavered through a bear market, a regional electronics chain held a hyped initial public offering.

If it seems odd that a purveyor of VCRs and stereos could make investors swoon, remember that this was the ’80s, and people were getting pumped about cell phones the size of microwaves.

This electronics company was Crazy Eddie, a brand that, in so many ways, was breaking the usual rules.

The previous fiscal year, Crazy Eddie’s annual revenues were ~$134m (~$372m today) and it led the industry in sales per square foot and profit margins.

There was just one problem. Crazy Eddie had been lying about its numbers — and the higher the stock soared the further founder Eddie Antar went to maintain the illusion.

Read the full story →
Free Resource

10 red-hot copywriting tips from the pros

So you want to write copy that slaps.

We look at writing a lot like music. Smooth will be smooth. Bangers will be bangers. You make whatever the hell you have the gall for.

But toss in SEO, narrative flow, structure, skimmers, word count (smh)…

Fret not brethren. Here are 10 high-quality copywriting techniques, curated by HubSpot professionals who’ve been in the game much longer than most of us.

How professional copywriters drive eyes and action (YouTube)

  • Optimizing SEO, keywords, secondary keywords, and more
  • Using free headline analyzer tools to test phrase variation
  • Executing content gap analysis on competitor websites
  • The APP, AIDA, and F-shaped copywriting methods

Templates, good sounds, and clowning included.

On writing crisper copy →
Safety 1st
panic room

Why rich people are panic-buying panic rooms

The demand for panic rooms is booming in the Los Angeles area, per The Hollywood Reporter, with one business owner reporting a 1k%+ increase in inquiries over the last 3 months.

Prices typically start at $50k-$100k for a basic hideout, but can shoot up to $1m+.

Why are they so expensive?

For one, there’s a lot of steel involved. But they’re also getting fancier.

David Vranicar, managing partner at Miami-based Fortified & Ballistic Security, told Robb Report demand has jumped ~4x since 2020, while requests have become more elaborate.

We’re talking multipurpose suites with their own plumbing and HVAC systems and hidden escape tunnels.

The door alone can cost $2.5k to $190k, based on what it can withstand and how cool it is — like Creative Home Engineering’s secret bookcase entrance. (Look at this. You kinda want one, right?)

What’s causing the demand?

Los Angeles’ uptick in violent crime — despite conflicting data and overall lower crime rates across the last decade — apparently has those who can afford it prepping for The Purge.

But it’s not uncommon for danger, real or perceived, to spark these kinds of purchases. (We previously covered the also booming doomsday biz.)

Over the years, safe room companies across the US have attributed sale surges to the pandemic, news reports, fear of terrorism, and gun violence.

And interestingly, the owners who spoke to Robb Report noted only a handful of times their rooms were ever used in an emergency. The notion of safety, however, is perhaps priceless.

BTW: A previous THR story on rising crime from late 2021 mentioned increased demand for Rolex replicas. They still cost $2k-$3k, but buyers say that’s a fraction of the luxury watch’s $200k price tag. Oookay.

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AROUND THE WEB

🎥 On this day: in 1955, James Wong Howe took home the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for The Rose Tattoo, becoming the 1st Asian American to win an Oscar.

🗺️ That’s cool: Click on any county on this map to learn the origin of its name. For example, Canada is said to come from a Latinized word for “village” in an Iroquoian language.

🎤 Haha: Use AI to generate your own song lyrics. Just choose a topic, mood, and genre.

🤔 That’s interesting: Research shows we often have an additive bias, meaning that when coming up with solutions, we look to add vs. subtract — even if it’s not the best option.

🎐 Aww: And now, please enjoy this extremely relaxing live jellyfish cam from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Meme of the day
wine panic room meme

That’s one way to do a panic room. (Source: Me.me)

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