The Penny Arcade Report is a video game news and commentary site run by….well, we’ll let you figure it out. Yesterday editor Ben Kuchera ran down the economics of running a website in dollars and cents. Although he’s talking about video games, it all applies equally to comics journalism:
So now it turns out I need around 1,500 readers to get that $5 for my hypothetical site. Say I want to pay myself $500 for the month. It’s not a ton of money. I need 150,000 page views. That jumped right up there, didn’t it? Now look at sites that employ a number of highly skilled, professional writers that are full time and making a livable wage. You’re suddenly looking at millions and millions of page views required to keep everything afloat, much less expand. Tens of millions of page views. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of unique readers.
Kuchera makes the argument that running lots of cosplay galleries to pay for journalism is the way to go:
But let’s get back to the general ecosystem out there: How do sites justify running longer, in-depth stories that won’t bring in the huge page views? I have bad news. They write shit. Popular shit.
I stopped getting mad at the “Top Ten Japanese Panties I Jerked Off To Last Night” stories on certain sites when I realized that the hundreds of thousands of page views those articles received helped pay for a writer to spend a week gathering sources and do original reporting for a feature.
The “Sexy Cosplay” galleries are worth an epic amount of page views, and they get passed around social media, so the uniques aren’t bad either. The sad truth is that the content you hate on most gaming blogs is usually incredibly popular, and helps them pay for any solid reporting you do enjoy.
He also suggest that ad blocking is Very Bad and whitelisting site you like and sharing the content is the best way to support them. Hm. Sounds familiar. Anyway, Kuchera’s comments will come as no surprise to anyone who is in the interweb business, but he lays out the economics in a fairly stark fashion. It also explains why you usually have to monetize with physical goods rather than eyeballs, and why there is very little actual journalism on genre sites.
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.