Home Comics Joe Q sheds more light on digital delivery

Joe Q sheds more light on digital delivery


Yesterday’s installment of Cup O’ Joe was an especially timely one, with Marvel’s new Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada explaining a few things. For instance, of his new title, he reminded us that Avi Arad, the film exec much responsible for improving Marvel’s film profile in Hollywood, was the previous holder of the COO title; however, unlike Arad, Quesada will continue to be involved with the comics side of things, although he’ll be spending a lot of time in LA:

In a more detailed sense, there will be some significant changes. The most obvious one will be the fact that I’ll be spending a lot of time out west. There will be a ton of changes and some stuff that I need to get my arms around – some of it can be even be filed under, “The Great Unknown.” By that, I mean that there’s some defining of the CCO position that I’ll have to do on the fly. While Avi was our previous CCO and did a wonderful job, he wasn’t intimately involved with publishing and Marvel wasn’t under the Disney family umbrella. And that’s what makes this new job incredibly interesting to me. It’s the new challenges and opportunities that come with it as Marvel becomes a truly global company as part of the Disney family.

In even more incendiary matters, Quesada revealed that the INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL which is being released simultaneously for print and digital will have a HIGHER price for the digital version, as its three chapters will each be sold for $1.99. The print cover price is $4.99, while the total for digital will be $5.97. Whether you think this makes any sense or not, Quesada continues to pitch Marvel’s digital initiative as a way to get broader readership for its titles and hopefully drive them into brick-and-mortar stores.

However, Marvel has several more digital initiatives planned — this is far from a isolated test:

Wherever we see the opportunity to use the Marvel App and its contents as a tool to drive new customers into comic shops to pick up single issue comics trades, and any other product, we’ll take it. We have more test runs coming up over the next few months covering different aspects of our publishing line in order to test the waters. There are those guys who are saying we’re moving too fast, but I don’t feel that’s true. We’re slowly testing every scenario we can think of to find out what the best plan of attack is going to be. What generally happens when we do these things is the entire industry will benefit from our successes and mistakes. I mean, we could have gone slower and not have entered the App World at all, but in the end no one benefits from that. Since we’re really on the cutting edge of all of this, not only will retailers benefit from this, but so will creators, and just as importantly other publishers who will benefit by what it is that we do. But this is nothing new to us at Marvel, we’ve been leading the charge for a long time now.

  1. Does this make ANY sense at all to anyone? Theories? If you’ve already spent $1 more on the digital version, how would this drive you back to the print version? And if you can get the vastly-superior print version for less, why would you ever buy the digital?

    What could I possibly be missing to convince me that this isn’t insane?

  2. I can’t imagine anyone ever paying more for a digital copy of a comic. It just violates your common sense: for the one in the store they had to pay for the paper, for shipping, for Diamond’s mark-up, for my LCS’s markup. If all of those things are removed from the equation, how on earth does the price go UP? It just makes no sense at all.

  3. Do you know what’s funny?

    In europe (at least in Spain, dunno the rest) the 3 chapters will cost less than the printed version. The EUR/USD right now allow us to buy any comic in the Marvel App at 1,59 Euros each. So, that x3: 4,77 euros. :P

    I think it’s gonna sell more here than there.

  4. @Alberto Benavente: Assuming they don’t mark up the European price.

    -I too agree with Patrick and Jason. It just doesn’t make sense to have a digi comic at that kind of price point and certainly it won’t bring people back to the comic shops…

  5. This pricing only makes sense if you’re trying to sabotage or destroy the digital comics scene.

    You want new readers? Don’t rip them off. If non-comics readers find out they’ve paid more for the digital version than the printed copy, they’re going to be pissed off. Pissed off customers don’t come back. But they do complain, and loudly, which means they’re going to drive away potential business.

    You want non comics readers to come in and buy your books? Give away digital comics of Iron Man to anyone who buys the Iron Man movie from iTunes. Ditto for the XMen, Hulk movies on iTunes etc. In other words, aim at non comics readers!

    The audience of one movie outnumbers the comic audience 100-1.

    And for God’s sake, sell digital copies for half the price of the printed version.

  6. “Hello, I’m a random member of the public who loved the movie and am interested in Iron Man. For a number of reasons, I will not be going to a comic store to look at Iron Man material. What do you have for me, Marvel?

    Oh… fifteen minutes of reading for six dollars you say?

    Thanks. But I’ll just go rent Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 for a week and get my Iron Man fix that way. Bye.”

  7. Everybody needs to lose the assumption that anything involving digital comics is keyed towards people who go to the shop to buy the print version.

    Digital’s big promise is for people who don’t care to go to a shop on a regular basis/don’t have a shop near them. This is a much larger potential audience and they _might_ see prices in terms of units. (i.e. if 20 pages = 1 $1.99 download, 60 pages = 3 $1.99 downloads)

    This may or may not fly with the non-shop-frequenting set, but it’s something worth experimenting strip. Dear direct market, it’s not all about you.

  8. I recall reading a couple of years ago that Marvel’s regular issues that sold for $2.99 in the direct market were priced $3.99 on the newsstand. So there is a precedent for charging more for the merchandise aimed at those who don’t frequent comic shops.

  9. I feel like someone at Marvel still doesn’t get it.

    The reason I look towards digital delivery is because it promises a lower price point I feel more comfortable paying.

    Asking people to pay more for a digital copy is like publishing a hardcover book but then charging more for the paperback edition.

    If I can pick up, say, Jersey Gods for my iPhone for $.99 an issue, I’d gladly pay for it than trek to my LCS which may or may not have any current or back issues at $2.99 or more. My LCS (no offense meant to them) orders stuff that they think will sell; they’re less likely to order extra copies of an independent comic (even if it’s from Image) because it’ll sell less copies than Batman #700. Fine, I can deal with that. That’s the reality of the marketplace. But don’t expect me to pay a marked up price for a digital edition of an Iron Man Annual I had minimal interest in picking up in the first place.

    Back when the direct market was a burgeoning force, DC and Marvel both offered direct-only editions of their books. Marvel offered books like Micronauts and Moon Knight, while DC offered books like Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes. This is a strategy they (and Dark Horse and Image and Archie and etc.) should really consider. Marvel’s offering some books through their DCUO but so far none of those books have appeared in their iPhone/iPod app yet. What’s up with that? What they need is a digital comic offered across all their digital formats that potentially wouldn’t be attractive to my LCS but might do well online. Maybe an anthology series with good creative teams committed to each meeting deadlines for each release? Offer me a regular books like the old Marvel Comics Presents or Marvel Triple Action or Marvel Tales or Tales of Suspense with all-new material with good creative teams and good stories at a price of $1.99 and I’m there.

    And DC? WTH?

    Sorry. I’ll get off my soapbox now…

  10. I get why people are annoyed the digital version costs more. But why do people expect it to be less than the print version? No other digital entertainment media (music, books, movies) is cheaper in its digital form, why would comics be any different, at least at this stage?

  11. Funny you should say that, Joseph, since all other digital entertainment media are cheaper in the digital form, and for massively obvious reasons.

  12. @Paul – say what? I can buy a new CD at Best Buy or Amazon on day of release for $10-12, or at the same price on ITunes. I can buy a new DVD for $15 at those same stores, or download it for the same price from the XBox or PS3 online store. Digital books can be had for anywhere from $10 – $16 on the Sony E-store (or $10-13 for the Kindle), which is also what you can usually find them for at Amazon.

  13. “If you’ve already spent $1 more on the digital version, how would this drive you back to the print version?”

    Start by losing this fantarded fixation on anyone buying multiple copies. Regular people don’t do this, at any price. When publishers talk about luring buyers of digital copies into stores, they mean “to buy OTHER comics”.

  14. Jason, you’re overstating things a hair.

    I don’t think too many will be buying digital and print versions of the monthlies, but you’ve got a chance to people to come into the shops for the tpbs (just like you see people buying comic strips) and you may have a certain number of people that decide they’d rather have the print monthlies than the digital ones, but discover the digital versions first.

    Of course, your rule of thumb for digital spawning a physical purchase tends to be 1% across most of the industries experimenting, so it’s only a huge number if a huger number of downloads are sold.

    Does anybody know if Marvel figured out a compensation package for the downloads?

  15. There is going to be a ton of people with brand new shiney iPads that are just dying to blow a few bucks on an app that’s going to look cool on thier new toy. They will have seen the Iron Man movie, liked it, and look at the comic app as a sure bet at $1.99. Most of these folks may never have read a comic book or have been in a comic shop. They have no clue that this will be a third of a whole and that they can get it cheaper in print. They don’t even want the comic book!

    Marvel wins.

    A small percentage of these people (1-10%) get turned on by the comic and dicover comic books and end up in the LCS, then the market begins to expand.

    Everyone wins.

    I don’t see this as being about converting the choiras much as it is about exploiting an untapped market.

  16. Using digital copies of books to drive readers to buy printed copies of books makes about as much sense as teaching fish to ride bicycles. But then I suppose he has to say *something* to keep his primary market from freaking right out.

    Pricing them higher than the print copies is another little added slice of WTF. But I suppose if people are new to comics and just coming into it like this, then they won’t know the difference. Even so, will they feel like they’re getting their money’s worth from the comic, or will they wish they’d have bought six singles they liked instead? Or rented IRON MAN on iTunes?

  17. “I don’t think too many will be buying digital and print versions of the monthlies, but you’ve got a chance to people to come into the shops for the tpbs (just like you see people buying comic strips) and you may have a certain number of people that decide they’d rather have the print monthlies than the digital ones, but discover the digital versions first.”

    If they are willing to buy digital comics, the next move is not to travel to their local comic shop (which might be miles away), it’s to fire up Amazon in their browser and order the TPBs there.

    This idea that digital comics will push people into comic shops is one of the most fantastical bits of wishful thinks I’ve ever heard.

  18. what the big news you seem to be missing here is:
    “Marvel’s new Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada explaining a few things. For instance, of his new title, he reminded us that Avi Arad, the film exec much responsible for improving Marvel’s film profile in Hollywood, was the previous holder of the COO title; however, unlike Arad, Quesada will continue to be involved with the comics side of things, although he’ll be spending a lot of time in LA:

    So, expect a new E-i-c in 2 years. Wasn’t Joe also the chief for Marvel’s animation section?
    Joe Q is leaving comics in 2 years.

  19. I still question the validity of this testing methodology. I don’t really see what significant data can be obtained with a lone, randome experiment like.

    A real test would involve a multitude of comics released Day and Date for several months, wherein they could compare a wider array of sales factors.

    This just feels a little like marketing noise.

  20. I think the next step in migrating us to digital will be this:
    Crossovers to and from digital comics.

    In other words, BigEvent6, part 5, is only available in digital, at $2.

    The tie-in issue, BigEvent6, part 6, is only available as a printed comic from your DM comic shop. Okay, maybe newsstands too.

    There will be comic shop exclusives or variants that will keep Ye Olde Shoppe in the game.

  21. “Why should I pay more for a digital copy of a comic?” fans ask.

    Why not? They pay more for the single issues than they would for the collection of those issues in a trade paperback.

    Maybe people WILL pay $1.99 for a digital comic. Yeah, lots of people will grumble when the established $0.99 price disappears, just like they grumbled with the $9.99 Amazon ebook prices disappeared.

    It’s an experiment… if it works, ka-CHING. If not, Marvel still has data, tweaks the experiment some more, and tries again. Eventually, you blow up enough F-1 rocket engines in the desert and figure out how to send fifty tons of payload to the Moon.

    Maybe we’ll see tiered pricing… just like VHS tapes were sold… the first month or so, new copies (mostly bought by rental stores) were $100. Later, the cost was reduced when demand lowers. So, if you want you comics NOW, you pay a premium. Later, when the trade is issued, perhaps a bundle is offered, just like a music album online. Or we’ll see “quarter bins” online for really old issues. Perhaps the pricing will be dynamic… less popular issues will cost more. Or it will be “pay what you want” like Radiohead. Or you’ll get credit for writing reviews or posting to the message board or by getting kudos from other readers.

  22. Everyone send MARVEL a message and not buy the OVER PRICED digital comic, buy the paper beacuse it’s cheaper. I mean if it’s worth reading or looking at that is. Fans of comic books are not stupid.

  23. If people buy the digital comic, then by economic principles, it is not overpriced. It might be mis-priced (it does not generate the greatest possible profit), but not overpriced.

    As for the intelligence of the general consumer… I direct you to H. L. Mencken.

  24. Isn’t it going to be 3 separate downloads for $1.99 each? Then part of the question would be how much of the book people download. A lot of people may just download the first 1/3, decide they don’t like it, and quit there. Better than trying to convince them to spend $3.99 on something they don’t know if they’ll like.

    Also, please don’t bother trying to send a message here to people about not buying the digital version. If you’re reading this board, you’re not the target audience.

  25. I think the bottom line is digital comics will be reaching a FAR bigger audience than the puny 300,000 or so that buy from comic shops. If just a small percentage of these digital readers who are new to the medium get interested in traditional comics and TPBs that should mean a greater influx of new customers to comic shops, far more than the print readers who leave the shops for digital. My question is whether that will still be the case 20 years from now, as this generation is growing up accustomed to staring at a damn screen for everything.

  26. “They pay more for the single issues than they would for the collection of those issues in a trade paperback.”

    “They” being the tiny direct market audience that’s currently acting as the anchor around their necks.

    The people Marvel wants and needs, the non baby-men, *aren’t* buying the print version already. Offering a high priced product to a skeptical potential buyer may work… People waste money on all sorts of things… But all sensible thought points to it not.

  27. Funny thing happened on the way to the comic shop today: I drove up to the store only to find it wasn’t there anymore.

    I should preface this by saying I no longer go to the shop weekly. Marvel and DC were my reasons for shopping on a weekly basis because there was always ‘something’ for me to buy each week. Once there, I would impulse buy independant titles I wouldn’t normally make the trip for.

    I could list all the things Marvel and DC have done in each title I used to buy or how I listened to the bulls$!t that Quesada and Didio did during the past ten years that turned me away but why bother anymore. I was told to vote with my wallet and I did. Now I have nothing left to buy and I guess the store did too because now, there’s no store to buy from anymore either.

    Am I partially to blame?

    Sure and I accept my responsibility. While the shop wasn’t bankrolled on my weekly contributions alone, its obvious many others changed their shopping habits to contribute to the demise. Mind you, this is the third shop I’ve seen close in the past two years with no new ones rising to take its place.

    But as a customer, I’m not alone in this. Suppliers (in this case, Marvel and DC) need to give customers a reason to go and they’re just not doing it. Bad stories that make sense only to the EICs and a few flies, with horrible art and prices that are just INSANE aren’t very enticing to me and I’m not about to buy comics I don’t like just to keep a store in business. Because if I’m going to do that, I may as well just call it charity and as much as I love my shop, part of that charity money goes to Marvel and DC and they are just undeserving of it, imho.

    People are saying, ‘Comics are selling now better than ever!’ but its a sad trade off when individual readership is at an all time low and stores are closing — closing!

    If a business is thriving, more people would be buying and more stores would be opening but this isn’t the case. Instead, you have people like Joe Quesada posioning the industry with one hand then patting himself on the back with the other while people act oblivious to the slow, corrosive effect he has had on the industry and this thing with digital is only the icing on the cake.

    When are people going to start seeing this Joker for who and what he truly is: a con artist in every sense of the word?

    I thought it couldn’t be more obvious when he claimed he was breaking up the Spidey marriage so ten year olds can have a single Spidey to read about then went and made it so no ten year old could afford to read Spidey each month.

    But here he goes with his mickey mouse explanations, ready to proclaim that like everything else he has done, it’s only for the good of the industry.

    Well, look at your handiwork and take a bow, Joe. You must be proud.

  28. PS. Gerry Giovinco…

    You seem to think people sampling the digital at $1.99 is okay because they don’t know they’re only getting 1/3 of the story.

    And this ‘con’, this trick is going to make some people buy the other 2/3’s digitally then have a small percent going into comic shops which will bring in new readers? I guess you didn’t read your own sentance when you said many of them don’t want the comic anyway. And if the material is not very good, no one is going to be buying anything in digital or print. But then, listening to your logic, its now easy to see how your own Comico was plagued with problems and didn’t survive very long.

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