It’s July 1st, meaning it’s the day we celebrate the Beat’s birthday and today marks 11 years of daily comics news! It’s a very special day—I even ganked some clip art for the occasion.
I was going to write a long essay here about the State of the Blog but frankly, I’m too wiped out by this early Comic-con stuff. The short version is that every word of this Variety piece on how movie bloggers have gone mainstream reflected everything I’m feeling. While the nerd blogs have “won” they’ve also been co-opted by the system, and the rewards are dwindling as competition increases.
Nobody goes into blogging to get rich. Editors on some movie sites earn $25,000 to $70,000 a year, and many freelancers have to contend with as little as $25 a post, if they get paid at all. And though a successful site can sell for more than $3 million and make $50,000 in ad revenue a month, many owners struggle to keep the lights on. Take Gordon and the Whale, a well-regarded site that closed its doors in 2011, when the roughly $1,200 to $1,300 it generated in advertising revenue monthly barely covered the $900 it was shelling out to run its server.
“I was at Cannes, and it hit me that we had gone about as far as we can go,” said Chase Whale, the site’s co-founder. “There was still no money. We had like 21 people writing for free, and it made me feel like sh-t that I couldn’t pay these people.”
For those still toiling in the trenches, it’s more difficult to stand out from the armies of pundits who keep cropping up.
“If I was starting a movie blog now, I probably wouldn’t do it,” said Neil Miller, the founder of Film School Rejects. “It’s so hard to be noticed, especially if you don’t offer clickbaits and salacious headlines.”
While I often feel like sh-t too, I’m too dumb to quit and too stubborn to walk away. As this year’s comics media diaspora has shown, you’ve got to really love doing this and/or have a cheap rent to continue. It’s increasingly absurd for one person to continue to run a website, even a person with a staff of excellent (but mostly volunteer) writers who do their comics writing between their paying jobs. And instead of teaming up to fight evil, everyone insists on being a lone vigilante like me. I begged David Harper to team up with me so together we could rule the galaxy but no, he insisted on doing his own excellent and already necessary site. See you can still do good things!
Like I said last year, I keep doing this because I don’t see anyone else doing it the way I want to do it. And I’ll keep my archives online for as long as I possibly can so people can see what went on back in the day.. (I see the mysterious new owners of Comicon-com have wiped the servers, Goodbye cromlech.) This is hard work but I still think it’s valuable work.
There’s a lot more to be said about the devaluation of writing (does ANYONE make a living at it any more?) the generational shift from boomers to millennials taking over comics, but you’ll have to catch me at a party at Comic-Con to hear all about it.
Not that I’m complaining! We’ll celebrate our birthday the way we always do, with some cracking good content, including what I believe may be the first ever look at comics in Almaty coming later today, a Terminator Genisys review, a sales chart and all the usual fol de rol. I like to complain but this is still the best job in the world and part of the reason is the Beat’s Elite Operative staff: Kyle, Hannah, Alex, Alex, Torsten, Edie and the rest. Wait until you see what we have cooked up for Comic-Con! You’ll need to go buy some new socks because your old ones got blown off.
And I invite you to attend our annual comics journalism panel to see who’s left standing:
Thursday, July 9 • 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Comics Journalism: It’s About Ethics in Comics Journalism
Gamergate, cheesecake covers and the objectification of women, barking puppies at the Hugo Awards, punching down at Charlie Hebdo, diversifying the multiverse – ethics has become one of the hottest issues in pop culture today, and fandom has converged on comics news sites as a battleworld for debating who should win the culture wars. The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald, CBR’s Joe Illidge and Casey Gilly, Comicbook.com’s James Viscardi, Hitfix’ Donna Dickens and other leading comics journalists discuss what, if any, ethical principles should shape news stories affecting the comics community. Attorney and ethics professor Jeff Trexler moderates.
I ceded the moderating to an actual ethics professor so this should be a good one! Sadly the Bleeding Cool panel is at the very same time (qua?) so Rich sends his regards.
Anyhoo, thanks for stopping by every day or so, thanks for commenting intelligently 90% of the time, thanks for advertising, thanks for the many kind words on show floors and in email. Thanks for the tips and hints. Thank you INCREDIBLY for supporting my Patreon. Thank you thank you thank you. Stick around, there is always more to come, and it’s going to be fascinating.
Drawing by Igor Zakowski
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.