JManga is the online manga service that readers have been waiting for: Fresh manga in a variety of genres (including lesser-selling ones like sports manga), straight from Japan, on your computer, iPad, Android, or Kindle. They launched at San Diego Comic-Con with a panel, and Deb Aoki has provided us with the most comprehensive reporting on it yet by posting a transcript of the SDCC panel and an interview with six representatives of JManga and participating publishers Kodansha, Shogakukan, Futabasha, and Kadokawa Shoten.
JManga is a great idea, and there was a lot of talent in the room, but there's only one thing that manga readers care about: The manga. And it was very troubling that in their big SDCC panel the publishers could not identify a single title that it would carry (although the Futabasha rep hinted pretty strongly that Crayon Shin-chan would be on there). When Aoki asked if the manga in the enormous banner over their heads would be included in the JManga portal, JManga rep Robert Newman answered:
My apologies, but this information cannot be disclosed at this time. We will provide you with more information regarding titles around the timing of the launch.
Are you kidding me? This is not how you deal with your audience. Remember when Kodansha USA launched under a veil of secrecy, and how well that went over? It took them a year just to put up a website; at SDCC, a rep said they would have their Facebook and Twitter up by the end of the year, causing one commenter at ANN to remark that they could have set up the Twitter during the panel from their mobile phones.
There is only one way to sell manga, and that is by telling people what the manga is and creating buzz around it. Since manga readers outside Japan tend to be young and internet-savvy, engaging them via social media is also a plus. Surrounding your publishing program with a veil of secrecy is not only counterproductive, it makes people angry—and gives them one more excuse to stick with the pirate sites that JManga was set up to combat.
The best thing the JManga folks could do is release a list, right now, of manga that will be on the site at launch and a schedule of upcoming releases. Assuming they have some decent titles in the works, people would immediately start talking and spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, LJ, and whatever way it is the kids are communicating these days. Since the majority of the audience is teenagers, that free advertising is invaluable—and ignoring it is not just leaving money on the table, it's actively working against your brand.