Creators cash in on Line’s stamp economy

Reuters file photo
A Man walks in front of a Line logo and sticker characters in Tokyo in October 2014.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The new culture of nonverbal communication continues to evolve from the stickers —known as “stamps” — used in chats on the popular free mobile messaging app Line, creating new business opportunities.

In Line, which has more than 190 million subscribers, some users actively create and sell unique stamps in a form of “creator economy,” where individuals earn income from their creative activities.

Juno, one of those who fashion and sell original stamps, is known for the popular “Samenyan” kittens wearing shark costumes. “I found we can produce beloved characters from Line stamps, rather than from established media such as anime and picture books,” Juno said.

Juno started creating illustrations including those of cats as a moonlighting job. The works began to attract attention after the creator produced stamps through interactions with fans on social media. Currently working as an illustrator as their main line of business, Juno produces and sells pieces, including in Taiwan.

“I want to market character goods [created from stamps] overseas, not only to Taiwan,” Juno said.

Tokyo-based Line Corp. started offering iconic stamps in 2011, touting them as a better way than emoji to communicate what cannot be expressed fully in words. The service debut came during a shift in Japan from flip mobile phones to smartphones, equipped with larger screens.

“Moon,” the first series of stamps that came into wide use, was created after in-depth discussions on what a character that can simply express facial expressions should look like.

In 2014, Line set up a platform where any users can create and sell stamps. The number of registered creators has reached approximately five million worldwide, with cumulative sales from stamps since the service launch totaling some ¥120 billion. About 200 creators have posted sales of ¥100 million or more.

Currently, a host of comical and innovative stamps are available, allowing users to express subtle emotions that are difficult to deliver through text alone, adding color to mobile messaging.