Earlier today, Viz announced that Shonen Jump Alpha will begin releasing manga chapters simultaneously with the Japanese release. Beginning January 21, the magazine will publish chapters of their titles on the same day as their Japanese debut. In October, Viz Media’s Executive Vice President of Publishing Alvin Lu mentioned that they would adopt a simultaneous publishing model, though he declined to mention a specific date for the switch.
Viz’s shift to a simultaneous model shouldn’t surprise anybody, to be honest. In the past years, we’ve seen the anime industry shift to somewhat of a two tier model. By this, I mean that we have each title see some form of vetting in the primary market via simulcasts. Those that perform strongly enough are then pushed to physical media releases, for a larger profit margin down the line. In the manga industry, we’re seeing books get pushed back, the premier manga magazine was shuttered for digital alternatives, and shelf space continues to shrink. It’s only natural to see the business model evolve from its current format.
We have seen a few experiments with simultaneous publishing in the past, with various results. However, Shonen Jump Alpha appears to be the first earnest attempt to shift entirely into the model. Whether it succeeds or fails, Viz’s foray will be closely watched by those within the market. If the format works out for the company, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see other organizations follow suit. Similarly, if this proves to be a losing bet for the company, we’ll likely see it tossed to the wayside until distribution methods and translation efficiency improve further.
Unfortunately, since Viz isn’t a publicly traded company, we won’t receive the normal indicators that one could go by when examining situations like this. Items like financial statements, earnings reports, and other disclosures will be rare, if they ever surface, since the company isn’t required to release them on the level of a publicly shared corporation. Because of this, it will fall upon the market (or, rather, the fourth estate) to comb through press releases and news announcements, release calendars and other information for clues on the line’s performance.
It will be interesting to see how the project shapes up. Going forward, I will be keeping an eye on the overall performance of Viz’s latest venture.