Chang Kim, CEO of Tapas Media in San Francisco, is on a mission: to build the best platform for bite-sized mobile content. His 2012 startup was already a leading online platform for comics and visual stories when it released its new Tapas app for iOS and Android in April.
Tapas has more than 14,000 creators. They have posted more than 300,000 episodes and generated more than 700 million views. The site, visited by a million users a month, aspires to be the YouTube of comics.
In this week’s Kindle Chronicles interview, Kim described the company’s expansion of its offerings to include text stories, part of the update when the two new apps were introduced.
“Think Candy Crush meets books,” Kim says.
In other words, Tapas seeks to generate interest in its bite-sized “microchapters” of comics and text stories using virtual credits, similar to the way gamers unlock items and stages on mobile games.
To prepare for my interview with Chang, I spent a few days exploring the Tapas offerings, whose audience skews considerably younger than that of my show. Chang says the main demographic for Tapas is readers who are 18 to 24 years old.
I found well-drawn comics and carefully written stories, and once I subscribed to a creator’s work, it was fun to have the latest updates show up in my inbox.
A written Tapas story on your iPhone is not going to rival the sophisticated reading tools of a Kindle book read on your phone’s Kindle app. There are no highlights, dictionary lookup, translation, notes, or other tools we’ve come to expect from the Kindle platform.
Chang said he’s not trying to compete with Kindle.
“I believe that for publishing, even though the Kindle is capturing a lot of the mobile market,” he said, “there are still innovations to be made.” That’s where Tapas comes in, and I believe it’s an initiative worth following.
The company has raised $4.4 million in four rounds from nine investors, according to CrunchBase.
Also in this week’s show, I give low marks to the job Walt Mossberg did interviewing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the Code 2016 conference. I have loved Mossberg’s tech coverage in the past, especially his informative and fair gadget reviews when he was at The Wall Street Journal.
But in his conversation with Bezos I thought Mossberg wasted time with self-referential silliness, like when he expressed surprise that Donald Graham didn’t approach him, Mossberg, to save The Washington Post, given that he, too, had been a friend of The Post’s owner for 15 years.
Mossberg at another point suggested he might have written something that Bezos didn’t like, which led Bezos to reply, “My wife says ‘If Jeff is unhappy, wait five minutes.’”
“You haven’t been unhappy long enough to pick up the phone and tell me,” Mossberg countered.
“I’m not so unhappy that I’m not here,” Bezos said.
“Right,” Mossberg replied. “That’s true—every eight years.”
That generated a brief, unconvincing laugh by Bezos, followed by “You better watch it–I might switch to nine.”
The Mossberg interview did generate some information not mentioned in the much stronger, in my opinion, interview done two weeks ago with Bezos by Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, which Bezos owns.
Of particular interest to me was Bezos’s articulation this week of exactly what Amazon is trying to figure out with its bricks-and-mortar bookstore experiment in Seattle, with another due to open in San Diego.
The AmazonBooks Store is highly curated, with far fewer books than traditional stores, Bezos said. It’s a store where you might not find a specific book you are looking for. “If you know exactly what you want to buy, we have this thing called Amazon.com that’s very, very good at satisfying that need,” he said.
Instead, the purpose is to allow Amazon to experiment with different browsing experiences and the fun of discovery in a physical space.
“Isn’t that what all the bookstores said when you started killing them?” Mossberg interjected.
And so it went. If I had to guess, I’d say it might be another decade before Mossberg gets another chance to sit down with Amazon’s CEO. Then again, more than five minutes have gone by, so Bezos may have already let it go.