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Scans_daily story roundup

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Glen Hauman interviews the scans_daily moderators over at ComicMix, and it’s interesting on many levels.

ComicMix: What do you know about the circumstances of the shutdown? Has LiveJournal told you what prompted the shutdown? Were you given any warning, or any ability to address the situation?

Stubbleupdate: I crawled out of bed on Saturday morning (which meant that the community would have been deleted late evening/night on Friday, America time) and saw that my inbox had a lot of LJ friends requests from people on the community. I get that sometimes, but four overnight is unusual. They all wanted to know where the community had gone, which is the first that I had heard of it. A lot can happen in six hours on the internet.


We’ll drink to that. Later on, there’s this:

Rabican: We don’t have any hard data about this, but honestly, as moderators of an 8000+ member community … we didn’t really have the time. Still, the distinction needs to be made between 8000 people on an online community and 8000 people scattered throughout the comics-buying audience. Yes, many of us on s_d did share the same tastes (ironically, there was a strong Peter David fan contingent), but I would be surprised if any title besides the most popular, best-selling comics broke more than 1,000 buyers from our membership. (That’s just a ballpark guess, since we’ve never taken polls and have a lot of lurkers anyway.) Eight thousand people is a large number, but 1,100 buyers of New Avengers here, 600 people with Invincible on their pull lists there … that’s just going to vanish in larger market fluctuations.


We hadn’t realized that the scans_daily community was larger than the paid circulation of all but a handful of periodical comics not published by Marvel and DC (and more than quite a few comics published by Marvel and DC). To all those people who said that exposure on scans_daily meant greater sales, wouldn’t it make sense for periodical comics sales (other than stunt event comics) to be RISING rather than falling? Yes, we know that free sampling works, but we must have taken stupid pills today because we just don’t get it.

A few people have linked to this post at Mightygodking as being of interest, but we couldn’t tell you exactly why.

  1. “To all those people who said that exposure on scans-daily meant greater sales, wouldn’t it make sense for periodical comics sales (other than stunt event comics) to be RISING rather than falling?”

    Well, not necessarily. They might be slowing the decline. I share your scepticism, mind you, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be that simple to prove.

  2. To all those people who said that exposure on scans_daily meant greater sales, wouldn’t it make sense for periodical comics sales (other than stunt event comics) to be RISING rather than falling?

    Not necessarily. Because just because you get a free sample of a work doesn’t mean that you can’t tell a really bad deal when you can see it. And 22 pages of comic book story (usually amounting to 1/4 – 1/8 of a full story) for $3 is a bad deal no matter how you slice it up.

    Where you’d want to look is to see if such free sampling impacted the sales of the collected work where the dollar-to-entertainment received ratio gets past the “bad deal” level and reaches the “almost a tolerable exchange” level to make it a rational purchase to people who are outside the standard comic-buying subculture (i.e. “new readership”). Even there, measuring such things is so hard that any kind of discussion of these things reaches nothing more than anecdotal evidence and people wanting something to be true so much that they believe it must be true.

  3. “To all those people who said that exposure on scans_daily meant greater sales, wouldn’t it make sense for periodical comics sales (other than stunt event comics) to be RISING rather than falling?”

    no causality could be implied either way without a lot more data.

    You CAN argue that scans_daily caused sales however. I know it did in my case, and in the case of my girlfriend. In this particular case, i can say (whether you believe or not is another matter) with 100% certainty that i bought both periodical comic books and trade paper backs as a direct result of scans_daily.

    Whether scans_daily caused more people to buy comics than it caused to not buy comics however, is impossible to say.

  4. The exposure one receives through free scans is an argument for a creator or the person to whom they’ve ceded control coming to a decision whether or not to participate in that enterprise. It should be an argument for making that decision for them.

  5. “Comic sales have been RISING each year since scans_daily hit the scene.”

    Except last year. And when sales go down even further this year, some will claim the demise of SD caused it.

  6. It should have been rising? I don’t know about that.

    There are so many factors governing a marketplace that I would seriously doubt that one online community, no matter how popular, could change the general financial trend of an entire industry for better or worse. Which in no way negates the possibility that it brought in new readers or lost readers due to piracy or people reading enough of a scan to see something was bad. It’s just that there are so many other factors that go into the sales of the comic book industry beyond simply one website that I’m not sure why anyone would expect it to show up in an unambiguous way on an ICv2 chart.

    Furthermore, it isn’t as if all 8,000+ people all decided to buy the same books as a monolithic voter block. People on the same community often have very different tastes. Even if every single member of S_D picked up three new titles because of the community, those titles were probably spread out across the industry.

    Scans_Daily might well have made or broken a few comics with gray market free sampling, but there’s no reason to believe it would have some easily discerned megalithic effect that clearly showed up on all sales charts in order to have *some* more subtle effect for good or for ill.

  7. free sampling, no matter how unchallengable and magical, cannot compensate for a lack of effective marketing and distribution to those outside the tightly nit comics demographic. Nor can it compensate for an ongoing cultural stigmatization of the medium or the perception of a seemingly impenetrable wall of trivium that must be over come to enjoy stories. Cue twenty replies from people who have read comics since forever claiming that they don’t have any problems buying comics from one of two hole in the wall shops in town, so why should Suzy Q. Public? Cue twenty more saying that since Watchmen is now a movie that means all people really love comics and don’t think they’re for dorks at all. Honestly, selling comics is still an uphill battle, and even if Scans Daily had 10,000 readers you can’t expect that to make a gigantic dent one way or the other in the sale of every book ever. I think that sites like sd are more useful for generating interest and awareness than sales, its then going to be up to the publishers and creators to turn that interest into sales (or not).

    Not to mention the fact that comic sales WERE rising until the whole recession thing. Not every book, obviously, but enough to disprove the whole “comics are doomed where is your free sample messiah now?” thing. I’m pretty sure that Wall Street and Iceland weren’t downloading so many free comics that they went broke. The big problem facing comics now is the recession, not potential readers turned to semi-piracy.

  8. I did spend some time tracking the collections of 100 “sharers” in one of the most popular comic hubs on the DC++ network and talking to some of them about their habits.

    I’ve got a lot of data but have never had any time to do much with it because of time constraints – my *gut* feeling from taking a quick skim is that downloading affects the marginal big two titles – so people will still buy New Avengers, X-men etc because they are “important” but they will download and read Blue beetle and not buy a paper copy. What was a really common behaviour was to download literally everything simply because there was no cost (time/money/effect) to doing so.

  9. “Comic sales have been RISING each year since scans_daily hit the scene.”

    Yes, but throughout that period, the sales on individual titles have consistently been dropping. The reason for the overall increase is because of more books being published, or lower-selling titles being cancelled and replaced by higher-selling ones. But it’s not, to any significant extent, due to people jumping aboard titles which are already underway – and if Scans Daily had the effect people claimed for it, then that’s the sort of behaviour you would expect to see.

  10. (Oh, and there’s a third major cause for sales increases, which is a sales jump caused by a new creative team. But even then, you almost invariably get an initial jump followed by consistent declines. Steady month-to-month growth is extremely rare, which is my basic point.)

  11. “Yes, but throughout that period, the sales on individual titles have consistently been dropping. ”

    OK. I was only pointing out that during most of the time that scans_daily was in existence, comic sales — both in revenue and total copies sold – went up, not down.

    I’m not saying that scans_daily hurt or helped comic sales. I’m only saying that comics, unlike the music industry, has actually enjoyed a steady up-tick in both sales and revenue since digital downloading or file sharing hit the scene.

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