If there was one big story bubbling under all the hoopla at the New York show it was digital distribution. Webcomics are going to be where it’s at in the emerging economy. Newwsarama had Marvel publisher Dan Buckley’s comments:
Buckley said that he feels that with online distribution of the comics, the entire market could see growth similar to what was seen in the days of broad newsstand distribution, saying that he feels publishers will see their readership grow tremendously as a result.
In terms of comics that Marvel will be putting online, the Publisher said that it will not be their entire line of books, “No one up here will put their entire line online,” Buckley said, noting the others present on the panel. Buckley said that along with other titles, Marvel will be aggressively work to get comics of their Marvel Adventures line online, as well as their Classics Illustrated line which kicks off soon with adaptations of literary works, such as The Last of the Mohicans.
Buckley concluded his comments by saying that Marvel has done the research that suggests that even though the comics can be bought online, readers who find Marvel product online will convert and begin buying the monthly titles as well as trades, reflecting a theme of the entire panel that readership will grow as more people become familiar with the material.
That Marvel embraces the “Try one for free” model shows how far along digital distribution has gone. DC is being much more coy about their investment, although according to the grapevine they have hired an Online editor to develop new web content.
Webcomics observers and authors Todd Allen and T Campbell offer their own views of the programming devoted to webcomics at the show:
So what are we learning from the latest round of announcements? Digital comics are now universally considered important, but nobody is quite sure what to do with them yet. There is still no universally accepted price point. We don’t know that digital downloads are necessarily the best way to go (although they might simplify royalty arguments), we just know that a fourth ongoing entity has committed to them. Marvel’s rhetoric does make it sound like an arms race is brewing, however.
But perhaps there has been too much emphasis on the corporate side of the web comics phenomenon. Certainly, the web comics panel was corporate in nature, and didn’t have an actual cartoonist on it. Similarly, one wonders how much of their respective time Richard Brunning and Scott Rosenberg spend specifically on digital issues. In Rosenberg’s case, he recently bought a web comics portal and its unclear his involvement goes past investment. Rosenberg also uttered an incredibly demeaning and ridiculous statement – that the sales of trade paperback collections by independent web cartoonists should be looked upon as acts of charity by the readers. One wonders if he considers print editions of the comics on Drunk Duck to be acts of charity too? Heaven forbid if someone likes a strip well enough to read it every week, they might like it well enough to buy something from it.
And Campbell who points out that he his had some business dealings with almost everyone on the panel:
Despite the slightly wary enunciation of a new English speaker, Chung appeared proud and confident, and not without some justification. His South Korean company, ecomixmedia, has over one million subscribers. All of its comics are online and roughly one-third are online exclusively– a way of doing business familiar to independent artists, but completely alien to established American corporations.
Griepp briefly broke out of his moderator role to point out that South Korean broadband penetration is the highest in the world, so in some ways, “South Korea could represent the future.” But such prognostications ignore the cultural differences between the nations– the West has proven more reluctant to pay for content than the East. The American arm of ecomixmedia, Netcomics, has only been in existence one year to its nine, but so far, its growth has been less impressive than that of its counterpart.
Being asked for metrics appeared to make everyone a bit uncomfortable. Bruning ducked the issue entirely, though he and Rosenberg seemed to share a joke at Alexa’s expense. “The dirty little secret,” said Rosenberg, leaning forward as if sharing a confidence with the room, “is that Alexa data is very wrong.” Rosenberg claimed tens of millions of pageviews, Chung claimed 2,000 daily visitors for Netcomics, and Ross claimed hundreds of thousands of uniques per month, with an average visiting time of 17 minutes.
[Links via Joey Manley who is keeping his own council.]