HYBE tries to decrease dependence on BTS… Experiment with dedicated communication app to highlight new girl group “NewJeans”

HYBE, which is strengthening its multi-label system, has launched a communication app exclusively for ADOR’s rookie group “NewJeans” through Weverse Company. 

This is the first time HYBE has created a separate app for an individual label or artist. Unlike its other artists such as BTS and SEVENTEEN, which entered the fan platform Weverse, NewJeans began communicating through the app “Phoning” for their own fandom at the same time as their debut. HYBE said that there are no plans to release separate apps for other artists. Although NewJeans is a rookie group that has not yet had much influence, the fact that they have a customized communication foundation for their fandom conflicts with HYBE’s existing platform strategy, which was concentrating on Weverse. What is HYBE’s strategy through ADOR?

# “Shared phone” with idols…”Phoning app” with analog vibes


ADOR (abbreviation for All Doors One Room) introduced the new girl group NewJeans last month and unveiled the app “Phoning” exclusively used by NewJeans’ fans. ADOR is an independent label that was newly established in November last year and is a wholly owned subsidiary of HYBE. ADOR was created when HYBE took over 100% of the shares through an investment worth 15.4 billion won after it was spun off from Source Music last year. 


Phoning follows the concept that group members and fans share a single mobile phone. It is equipped with functions such as real-time lives, which are provided in the form of video calls, photo albums and calendars that share photos and schedules. In particular, UX (User eXperience) such as layout, color and font was produced in a trendy way. In the case of video calls, it is similar to “V LIVE”, which was recently acquired by Weverse and incorporated into Weverse 2.0, and it is decorated like real video calls by adding a call end button.

Compared to other functions that are not much different from Weverse’s existing services, what stands out is the chat function. Weverse does not provide 1:1 individual chat services such as SM’s paid message service “Bubble” or the function Private Message of NCSoft’s fan community platform “Universe”. Instead, artists and fans have been applying communication in a way that shares texts and photos in open spaces.


When a chat notification appears, Phoning’s users can participate in a “group chat room” with members. Although it is not currently a complete two-way communication form, photos and videos shared through the chat window can be stored in the photo album, and supportive messages can be sent through comments on schedules entered by members.

# Is HYBE proving its planning capabilities with “2 consecutive trending girl groups”?

The success of ADOR and NewJeans is expected to be a measure that HYBE uses to check its own labels’ ability. Following the first girl group LE SSERAFIM created in cooperation with its subsidiary Source Music, HYBE took on the challenge of proving its presence in the girl group market through NewJeans.

le sserafim

After HYBE co-founded BELIFT LAB with CJ ENM in 2019, it has secured artist IP (intellectual property) by acquiring various labels including Source Music, Pledis Entertainment and KOZ. In this process, HYBE was criticized as “it was in a hurry to get bigger even though its management of artists was insufficient”. This is because some artists’ investments and activities decreased after they were incorporated into HYBE’s affiliates.

ADOR is the first sub label to be independently established under HYBE’s multi-label system rather than a co-foundation or acquisition. ADOR is led by CEO Min Hee-jin, former creative director of SM Entertainment. New Jeans pursues a different debut strategy from other groups, including producing music videos for all four songs in the debut album. Three of which are title tracks. In a situation where 4th gen girl groups from SM, JYP, and Starship are already dominating the market, HYBE seems to feel the need to help ADOR and New Jeans secure a fandom in a differentiated way. 

Min Hee Jin

Moreover, nowadays, it has become more important to build a fandom quickly and firmly as the period for rookie groups to stand out and make profits has been shortened. Lee Hye-in, a researcher at Yuanta Securities, said, “Recently, there is a trend in which physical album sales of rookie groups explode from the early days of their debut. After the development of a new IP, the payback period has been shortened.”

# Phoning is the cornerstone of Weverse’s paid 1:1 chat service? 

The Phoning app, which is said to be capturing New Jeans’ emotions, was released on July 25 and downloaded more than 50,000 times from Google Play as of August 3rd.


Weverse Company, the backbone of HYBE’s platform business, participated in the development of Phoning in collaboration with ADOR. Weverse Company operates Weverse and Weverse Shop. HYBE divides its main business into three main categories:

  • Label (management/music content production)
  • Solution (secondary content business such as performances)
  • Platform

With HYBE supporting the development of Phoning through Weverse Company, the industry is paying attention to whether HYBE is interested in the “one-on-one paid communication” service. Weverse is currently operated in the form of an “official fan cafe” or a “closed SNS”. It is a different move from competitors that promote 1:1 conversation between fans and artists.​ The message service of Phoning can be a cornerstone for the introduction of 1:1 chat in Weverse in the future. 


Phoning is not yet a complete two-way communication, but it imitates the form of chatting, with members leaving messages and having group conversations in chat rooms.  Although it is currently a free service, there is a growing expectation in the K-pop community that some services will be converted to paid once the debut promotion period is over and actual chatting will become possible.

Others point out that Phoning is not a service with an advanced plan at the business level. In the short run, it is a marketing strategy to promote New Jeans, and in the long term, it is a procedure to check the operational feasibility of the chat service.


An industry official said, “Because of the nature of Phoning that the target is clear, it can cause operational problems.  From the agency’s point of view, if they run a separate app for each artist, various difficulties such as cost will follow. In addition, the 1:1 chat service puts a burden on the artists to communicate with fans. It is not easy to introduce a chat service for artists who are already on Weverse. It may be a process to try a similar service as a rookie.”

This interpretation has its own grounds. HYBE is expanding its secondary revenue channels beyond performances, videos, and MDs to games and cartoons. The industry sees the success or failure of HYBE’s business based on the cohesion of artist IP, original content, and strong fandoms. There is room for HYBE to introduce a 1:1 communication service within Weverse in a trend where intimate and private communication is becoming more important for securing a stable fandom and maintaining a sense of belonging.


Jung Deok-hyun, a pop culture critic, said, “In fandom business, the concept of a group is important, but communication is the key. As popularity is fueled by fandoms, how to build fandoms and create relationships has become more important. If there is a platform optimized for a single fandom rather than an existing app, and the platform fits well with the group’s character, it will be effective in building a fandom.”


He predicted, “An aggressive marketing strategy through a communication platform can shorten the profit recovery period. I think there is a possibility that such a service will come to Weverse. If New Jeans shows some kind of success, there is no reason not to use it for Weverse.”

Source: bizhankook

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