So a lot of people are reading Brian Hibb’s yearly BookScan analysis and saying it backs up what we’ve been saying about the change in comics sales patterns. Certainly, the generally healthy sales do back up the idea that comics are not dying.
BUt that doesn’t mean that some distribution channels aren’t in trouble. A week or so ago we kind of goaded Augie De Blieck on Twitter into writing about this and he obliged with this piece.
Is the business model for comics about to change again?
In the internet age, everything speeds up. It’s difficult to keep up with the changes, but if you don’t, you will surely die.
Industries may survive, but often at the cost of large chunks of infrastructure. You can still buy a movie or an album or a book, but the way you get it today — and the way you WANT to get it today — is vastly different from what it was 10 or 20 years ago.
What makes you think the comic book industry is immune to this? Why does the Direct Market deserve to live?
Augie runs down all the reasons that the direct channel is not optimized for growth these days – disruption, consumer buying habits changing, and, in general, the decline of people who want to pay $2.99 or more like $3.99 for a small part of a story.
It’s sort of what I’ve been saying here…but I’ve also been saying it for 14 years and comics shops are still here. I predict they will still be here in another 14 years, at least a few of them. The periodical has declined but it still has appeal. When I was in Portland a few weeks ago I met an 11 year old boy who owns five short boxes full of periodical comics. most of my friends kids and my relatives kids read comics; most of them are more into graphic novels, however. But, it’s not impossible for children to get into the buying habit. (I should note that his father is also a casual comics reader and takes his son to the store.)
One kid doesn’t change an industry however.
I don’t disagree with Augie, but the only thing I know is that my crystal ball is very cloudy. I know there will be comics in 5, 10 or 15 years. People will be making them and people will be reading them.
What I do know – and what Augie is saying – is that the direct sales market was created to address a certain problem – the decline of newsstands – and that business model is no longer the solution to a problem. It’s become a problem of its own.
It’s long been said that the surest way to grow comics sales would be to have more outlets. Back in the 80s there were more than 5000 comics shops by some counts. Now there are between 2000-2500. It’s hard enough for anyone to start a small brick and mortar business these days, let alone a comics shop with low, low margins.
Is what we’re seeing a shake-up, a shake-out or an earthquake? What do you think?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.