200609280133This link has been making thr rounds, but it definitely qualifies as MUST-READING: MIT’s Henry Jenkins interviews Todd Allen about micropayments. Now we admit, micropayments aren’t a very sexy topic, and Allen can get a little technical on you, but he has been following the developments in developing revenue streams for e-comics for some time. And, it seems to us, that is indeed the central question of the future of comics: how can comics on the web be monetized? Allen starts out looking at methods that are working:

If I had to point to one, I’d point to merchandising. T-shirts, posters, printed collected editions (graphic novels, if you prefer)… selling things seemed to be the highest revenue generator when viewing the area from a high level.

That said, the more popular web comics – your PVPs and Penny Arcades – do quite well with advertising. In these cases you have high page view counts and higher than average CPM rates for the advertising, owing to a desirable demographic, particularly to gaming companies.

Ultimately, different revenue streams will work for different web comics. There will be differences in audience demographics and merchandising options from property to property that cause variations in the productivity of a revenue model. There’s no reason not to mix the models until one clearly overtakes the other. Initially, merchandising will be a better option for more web comics. Advertising becomes a more viable option as your strip’s traffic grows

Allen also discusses the FLYING FRIAR experiment (the comic was made available for purchase online at the same time as the print comic and at the same price with a 2% return.) He also looks at the broader spectrum of Marvel and DC’s uneasy flirtation with web delivery:

If you look at the whole world, the web opens up possibilities to all, but more to DC and Marvel. Why? Because DC and Marvel are recognizable brands. You will have a magnitude more people seeking out Batman and Spider-Man online, than you will something like Fear Agent or Queen & Country. Your smaller publishers will need to do more marketing to catch up, when using brands that are, effectively, unknown to the mass market. That’s not to say that something like Fear Agent couldn’t become popular with the mass market, similar to how the Sin City film turned people onto the comics, but its a longer and harder road.

All of this stuff is increasingly important with such developments as the debut this week of the Sony Reader :

The general outline of the reader has been known for some time: its use of E-Ink delivers a sharp, clear reading experience on a six-inch screen and it measures 5 inches by 7 inches, is half an inch thick and weighs about 9 ounces. The player can hold approximately 80 books and has enough battery life to support 7,500 page turns. Sony is using a proprietary system, which means that e-books can be bought only from the company’s Connect e-bookstore.

Publishers have enough faith in the reader to make about 10,000 titles available for the device.

Among those publishers: TokyoPop. And Engadget shows that you can indeed read I LUV HALLOWEEN on the Reader.

Would anyone PAY to read I LUV HALLOWEEN on the Reader? Perhaps that is even more so the central question of our times.


  1. I think what spelt my downfall was my serious love for Halloween. I even painted my living room and kitchen with orange and black Halloween/tiger stripes a couple years back for a party as proof of my ardor. I LUV HALLOWEEN was macabre and funny, sure, but darnnitall I want more from my Halloween revelry. Macabre and funny might be okay for smaller holidays such as Easter or Arbor Day, but Halloween needs all that and more.

    Like maybe some romance. And pirates.

  2. I like e-books — but I think the phone-gadgets will trump any late-comer attempt. I’m also feeling good about the possibilities for QR code (see Kaywa) and Semacode for putting webcomics on ketai and sending them easily to others. This is free software now — time to use a great industrial idea for art.

  3. The Sony e-reader only proves again how far out of touch the Sony execs have become in the past decade or so. Let’s think about this for a moment. It will cost you 350 US Dollars (so, probably 400 Euro, for everything is more costly in Euro-Land) to get a digital device that

    a) has a proprietory format (hey Sony, how did that one work out for you with the MP3 Players?) and is – from the specs I have seen – incapable of showing PDFs

    b) is only b/w

    c) doesn’t have any function other than reading, unlike, let’s say the cell phone/PDA hybrids or simple PDAs

    Oh yes, and the e-books you can get are not significantly cheaper than the printed versions, despite the fact that the cost of paper and printing is no longer there.

    Okay, can we all say D’oh together?

    It’s no wonder that with that much stupidity and greed corporations are losing against pirated content. The only way an e-reader, ANY e-reader will penetrate the market is the way cell phones have. The reader itself will have to be heavily subsidized, with a distribution system in place that is NOT entirely depending on a PC-Internet link. In other words, if publishers weren’t this stupid, they’d get newsstands to sign up for distributed downloads and allow people to get their books/comics/newspapers/magazines in e-format exactly at the same pitstops they have been buying their print product from.

    But that takes a bit more lateral thinking, I’d assume.

  4. Indeed, who’s want that piece of junk. My e61 has a fine sized screen for panel content. hum… I wonder…

  5. I think people are missing the fact that the Sony Reader is an e-paper device, which means the resolution is so high that it’s similar to reading newsprint. Which is why it’s just in black & white, as the technology isn’t there yet to use colour. However, Fujitsu has a working colour prototype, that is bendable that back in 2005 they said they hoped to release commercially in 2007.

    Meanwhile it is stupid for Sony to release their device as DRM only, when Philps is close to releasing their e-paper device the iLiad, which won’t be tied down to any DRM.

    This is just the first generation of e-paper devices and with colour bendable versions just around the corner, it’s certainly going to change the book and comic book industry. It’s only a matter of time.