The Penny Arcade Report is a video game news and commentary site run by….well, we’ll let you figure it out. Yesterday editor Ben Kuchera ran down the economics of running a website in dollars and cents. Although he’s talking about video games, it all applies equally to comics journalism:

So now it turns out I need around 1,500 readers to get that $5 for my hypothetical site. Say I want to pay myself $500 for the month. It’s not a ton of money. I need 150,000 page views. That jumped right up there, didn’t it? Now look at sites that employ a number of highly skilled, professional writers that are full time and making a livable wage. You’re suddenly looking at millions and millions of page views required to keep everything afloat, much less expand. Tens of millions of page views. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of unique readers.

Kuchera makes the argument that running lots of cosplay galleries to pay for journalism is the way to go:

But let’s get back to the general ecosystem out there: How do sites justify running longer, in-depth stories that won’t bring in the huge page views? I have bad news. They write shit. Popular shit.

I stopped getting mad at the “Top Ten Japanese Panties I Jerked Off To Last Night” stories on certain sites when I realized that the hundreds of thousands of page views those articles received helped pay for a writer to spend a week gathering sources and do original reporting for a feature.

The “Sexy Cosplay” galleries are worth an epic amount of page views, and they get passed around social media, so the uniques aren’t bad either. The sad truth is that the content you hate on most gaming blogs is usually incredibly popular, and helps them pay for any solid reporting you do enjoy.

He also suggest that ad blocking is Very Bad and whitelisting site you like and sharing the content is the best way to support them. Hm. Sounds familiar. Anyway, Kuchera’s comments will come as no surprise to anyone who is in the interweb business, but he lays out the economics in a fairly stark fashion. It also explains why you usually have to monetize with physical goods rather than eyeballs, and why there is very little actual journalism on genre sites.


  1. I can sense the frustration about the number of site hits that are required to allow a site to be self funding, or even make money.

    But I am also irritated at newspaper ‘paywalls’ (you must subscribe to read the paper online). The problem with subscription digital access compared to picking up a copy of the daily paper at the newsstand is this: I can pay $2 for a copy of today’s physical paper. But I can’t pay (say) 50 cents online to read today’s paper, I need to subscribe by the month. No one day browsing. It is an inflexible business model. No casual readers.

    Maybe I am digressing from the main topic of this article, but the point I make is that there is work that can be done to allow money to be made on websites, without going the subscription paywall route, or stooping to getting high traffic by pandering to the fanservice crowd.

  2. I think the fan press will continue to shrink with ad-blockers becoming more prevalent. No one likes auto-playing videos set at max volume. They’re like those commercials that are five times louder than whatever show you were watching.

    A subscription/pay wall model from dedicated viewers could become the future, but I have doubts about that as well. Giant Bomb and Comicvine both tried to get that off the ground but their start-up ended up selling them to CBS, and the guys that started and owned part of those sites have said that without that buyout they would have gone out of business. And Giant Bomb has one of the biggest dedicated fanbases in the gaming community.

  3. I do not block ads because I want these sites to suffer revenue loss. The reason I block ads is to stop third-party tracking. I keep a low profile so these tracking services don’t build up a database about me. If there was a way to serve ads without third-party tracking, I imagine a lot of people would view ads who block them now.

  4. “If there was a way to serve ads without third-party tracking, I imagine a lot of people would view ads who block them now.”

    Unfortunately that’s about as realistic as “If there was a way to run ads without those ads asking people to buy stuff.” Data-mining is a fundamental part of the business model of online advertising.

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