By Todd Allen

As you may recall, 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, is also going to start kicking out a lot more analytic information than people commonly see.  The 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.’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 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.


  1. I’m curious if this would actually work out in practice.

    One drawback to publishing multiple smaller digital comics instead of one longer one is that you may end up paying way more in payment processing fees. (And you have more covers to pay artists for, as well.)

    Personally, I read a lot of digital comics, but once I’m hooked, I’d rather buy a 200-page comic for $10 than the same book in five chunks. Sure, I might read 8 pages at a time, but the reader saves my place, so just save me the money and the clutter in my “library.”

    (Now, before I’m hooked on a book, sure, I still like to try a single issue or short preview or whatever.)

  2. It says “average session”. That doesn’t necessarily mean most people are reading 8 pages every time – it means all the session lengths average out to 8 pages. If one person reads 1 page and another person reads 16 pages, that averages out to 8. Many people could easily be reading single-issue sized comics in one go and all the people that read one or two pages and leave are dragging the average down. I’d rather see a chart of the percentage of sessions that read particular ranges of page amounts. Then you could see how many are reading 20-24 pages vs 1-2 pages vs whatever.

  3. I love reading digitally in 5-8 page installments, but I grew up with 2000AD in NZ. Not surprisingly I’m also a big fan of weekly installments. I find waiting a month for the next installment interminable, find I have forgotten where the story was at and more likely than not get bored on about page 10.

    Gordon, I don’t think each 5-8 page issue needs it’s own cover. There’s lots of interesting and fun ways to instead introduce the title of the story within the first page.

  4. It is very close to data I’ve seen as well. Very few complete reads of anything when it’s free.

    Even more interesting: people are not sharing comics online or commenting on them in Facebook very much. It appears that reading comics is a solitary experience unlike watching movies or TV.

    Comics just don’t seem to be the same sort of mass market as other media.

  5. We know the mean. What’s the mode and median? What the distribution, the standard deviation? What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

    Another positive effect of the 8-page weekly supplement: if you don’t remember the previous week’s story, you can go back to your digital library and re-read that 8-page installment!

    This is also the model many Sunday adventure comic strips were built on. Some newspapers might not run the dailies, so Sunday had to stand alone. Both Pogo and Li’L Abner ran different stories on Sunday. (This is why the last Li’L Abner strip, on a Sunday, features only Fearless Fosdick.)

    Regarding your Kevin Smith example, I would like to rename it “The Samantha Brown instance”.

  6. ” The 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. ”

    Does anybody else find this really creepy? It’s like having some guy look over my shoulder when I read one of their comics.

  7. “Another positive effect of the 8-page weekly supplement: if you don’t remember the previous week’s story, you can go back to your digital library and re-read that 8-page installment!”

    …but … but … I can do that with my paper copy of the previous issue, too.

    Or are you assuming my copy of the last ish is already winging its way to CGC to be graded and slabbed?

    I’m skeptical these micro-analytics of reading habits will be that useful.

    In TV ratings, for instance, the capability is there for fine-grained data, but people don’t seem interested below the 30-minute segment. (And by ‘people’ I mean advertisers.)

  8. Much of the analytics work we are doing is very early, and we hope to continue in providing interesting stats.

    Greg: I will see about pulling out average session times, and lay it out on a bell curve. But I will tell you the vast majority of readers are not reading 1-2 pages bringing down the folks reading an entire story. I have to go pull the report again, but its something like 70% or more read 8 pages or less per session (sessions tend to be ~10-20min).

    I think the reason for this is that with 1) distractions; and 2) so many more books on a single device, that our “reader ADD” has become off the charts.

    In terms of cost — this may be a great experiment for a subscription model. One of the reasons we are so bullish on Apple’s Newsstand is that you could put out a book a week, but charge a monthly subscription. Therefore the cost is the same.

    @andyg – would love to chat about the data you are seeing. I assume its webcomics, and you are using Google analytics or something similar?

    @masontganes – just have to publish your book using Graphicly. We give this data to our publishers.

  9. Micah: Yes, I was assuming the subsciption would be to buy in monthly chunks but to receive 5-8 pages weekly.

    Having said that, I’d like to be able to buy the first 5-8 pages at a low, one-off price. It’d be a great way to see if the comic appeals to you or not before subscribing. Exciting times.

    I had a go at reading the four #1 green lantern themed comics in 5-8 page chunks each week over a period of a month. The experience was so much more enjoyable and engaging for me and really worked well with (somewhat) linked titles in the same universe. Each of the titles were surprisingly easy to divide up into this format with one or two story beats happening every 5-8 pages so I don’t forsee a great hardship for the writers in converting to weekly releases (at least for these titles).

  10. If you want to draw any conclusions, you’ve got to compare the time spent reading comics to the time spent reading anything online. I’m not sure of any facts to support this, but it’s my impression that relatively few people read long stretches of text on their computer, phone, e-reader or what have you. How many times do you spend an hour or even a half hour reading one thing online?