By Todd Allen
As you may recall, Graphic.ly recent re-positioned their main product offering to be a little bit more like Smashwords is in the world of eBooks. The idea is to be a little more transparent on the branding, let the company market itself as a digital product (as opposed to the brand of the digital app/format) and then concentrate on getting the material on as many different platforms as possible. Amazon/Apple/Barnes & Noble, etc. One of the more interesting applications has been integrating the comics reader into Facebook, as shown here with Archie’s Facebook page.
As they shift to this model, Graphic.ly is also going to start kicking out a lot more analytic information than people commonly see. The Graphic.ly software is able to monitor how many pages are read, where people stop reading, where they share via the social tools built in and so forth. While this isn’t built out across all the platforms yet, it’s already yielding some very interesting results.
Graphic.ly’s Micah Baldwin tells me that the average reading session is 8 pages, but there are lots of reading sessions. Now, the caveat should be made that Graphic.ly isn’t the Wednesday stop for new DC and Marvel releases (though it is for Image) and may have a bit more traffic from the elusive casual reader. I expect the reading session for a freshly downloaded new Batman from a more Direct Market-oriented fan might be a little higher. (And I probably should ask him what the numbers look like on a new Image title downloaded on Wednesday next time I see him.) Still, this would fit the general pattern of reading on the bus/train while commuting, during a lunch break or before going to sleep.
Baldwin points out that if this is how people are reading the content in digital format, maybe the 20-22 page comic isn’t the way to go online. The science of branding is all about repetition. If you want to get people into the _habit_ of buying your comic, Baldwin reckons it will take 6-8 touches to make someone a fan, so it might make more sense to release 8 pages 3x a month (almost weekly) or maybe 5 pages each week.
Coincidentally (or not), 5 pages per week is the format of 2000 AD and the Freak Angels webcomic that was pretty successful for Warren Ellis.
File that information under “keep an eye on it and see if it holds steady.” It is entirely possible consumption habits are a little different in the digital world.
The other really interesting application to the analytics is that page/reader analysis. To use a recent controversy, since he’s got a TV show right now, let’s pick on Kevin Smith. Wouldn’t it be awfully interesting to take that comic Smith wrote where Batman wet himself and be able to tell
1) how many people actually stopped reading the comic after the page where that happened
2) how many people forwarded a link to said issue/page immediately after reading it
3) how many people forwarded a link actually bought the comic after getting the link
4) then contrast sales on that issue, the next issue, and via social feed.
Now I’m not sure the option #3 is up and running, but you can suddenly look for evidence if a comic suddenly went off the rails (i.e. a large percentage of the audience stops reading at a certain page) and measure the “Howard Stern effect” where people get upset about something and sale go up and people show up to see what the fuss is about.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.