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February 2, 2009
What Happens to Comics When Newspapers Cut Back?
Jeph, the writer of the webcomic "Questionable Content" has a long and thoughtful post on his LiveJournal about the unfortunate rift between comic artists who are working for print syndication and those who are working for online publication.
Jeph starts from the blog post by Neil Swaab that paints online comic artists as merchandisers first and artists second. It's true that most people who are living as Web comic artists do so not by selling the comic itself, but by selling associated merchandise.
Swaab seems to be making a bucket of broad assertions, each of which Jeph deals with in turn. Jeph points out that a comic artist can easily farm out the merchandising and online store maintenance, probably at less headache than dealing with print contracts and syndication details.
Further, he asserts that QC is making enough from advertising to cover his server and office costs. This is interesting in that ad revenue has definitely declined in the past year or more, and QC is far from a low volume site. Indeed, more traffic should help an ad-supported site, but it does also drive up bandwidth and server costs.
The majority of the post deals with the ideas of making Web comics pay-subscription, sponsored, and donation-driven. All of these are familiar ideas to Copyfight readers and there are a few examples of each of these models being attempted in the online comics domain. In my observation most places use a combination of these methods, but mainly subsist on merchandising.
Which is not, per se, bad, but points out once again that we're not making progress in figuring out good replicable business models for this stuff. What Jeph seems to appreciate most is his fans, and the need for artists who want to make it in this medium to adapt. Amen.
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