Line’s User-Generated Sticker Market Made $75M During Its First Year

Last May, messaging app Line launched its Creators Market, a platform that lets all users make and sell stickers. Now Line has disclosed how the platform performed during its freshman year (a followup to its six-month report released in November).

Between May 8, 2014, when stickers first became available for purchase, and May 7, 2015, over 390,000 creators from 156 countries registered stickers for sale on the platform. Combined, they made a total of JPY 8.946 billion (about $75 million).

Line did not disclose who the market’s best performers are, but it did say that the makers of the top ten selling individual sticker sets earned an average of JPY 50.5 million (about $421,000). Many creators have multiple sticker sets for sale and, from that group, the top ten sellers earned an average of JPY 109 million (or $909,000).

The company did not say how much all sellers made on average. Like most other open marketplaces, there will be a handful of breakout stars while most sellers remain relatively obscure and make much smaller sums.

For its top performers, however, Line Creators Market is a valuable platform that exposes their art to 205 million monthly active users.

In its release, Line said that “many characters originally designed as creators’ stickers have received merchandising and publishing deals, and more still have gone on to collaborate with other corporations, proving that the sticker-based platform has become an incubator for creativity and nurturing new ideas.”

Squeezing More Money Out Of Stickers

This “incubator” is also another way for Line to hatch more revenue. The company, which delayed an initial public offering last year to focus on increasing its revenue and profit, announced that it will launch a service called Line Creators Management, which is meant to help sticker creators apply for trademarks and sign merchandising deals with other companies. Line said the service has already struck partnerships with Tokyo toy maker T-ARTS Company.

Line didn’t reveal what kind of revenue-sharing plan will be put in place for Creators Management (TechCrunch has contacted the company for more information). The Creators Market originally gave sticker makers a 50 percent share of revenue, but lowered that to 35 percent for stickers registered after Feb. 1.

Line Creators Market

Line said it needed more funds to enhance the Creators Market. Today it revealed that these improvements will include making the messaging app’s sticker market easier to search and displaying Creators Market stickers alongside “official” stickers, which feature characters from Line and companies it has licensing deals with, such as Disney. This is a potential boon for sticker creators, since their offerings are currently lumped into a separate category.

Beyond Stickers

Stickers are a Line signature and key to its popularity in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand (its top three markets), but they represent just a part of the $656 million in revenue it made in 2014. Games users play through their Line accounts currently make up 60 percent of Line’s gross sales, but the segment has suffered from weaker performance over the past few quarters.

It’s important for Line Corp to find new monetization streams as it tries to increase its valuation. The company has been investing in everything from mobile payments and streaming music to food delivery, taxi calling, and even indoor mapping. The aim of this multi-pronged approach is to turn Line into a lifestyle platform packed with essential services that will keep users coming back even after the novelty of stickers and games wear off.

It’s still early to tell how well this plan (which includes a $42 million fund to invest in startups that can potentially be integrated into Line’s apps) will pay off, but similar growth strategies are being deployed by other major Asian messaging apps, including WeChat and KakaoTalk, and in turn influencing Western products like Facebook Messenger.