This is a guest editorial from Micah Baldwin, CEO of Graphic.ly, the parent company of iFanboy. Micah's views do not necessarily reflect those of iFanboy.
It was an amazing 2010. Digital comics grew quickly, and, pretty much, every single publisher tested the waters. Some more completely than others, but overall, it was a great year to be involved in digital comics.
As the year came to a close there were a wide range exclamations. Print is Dead! Long Live Print! Digital will be the death of comics! Digital will save us! But what about piracy? Piracy will kill comics! Piracy will save comics! But what about the comic shops? They are screwed! Wait, maybe digital drives more print sales! Yay!
Then the numbers came out in January, and our own Josh Flanagan, in his own Josh Flanagan way, wrote a great post about how not only are the comic book sales numbers significantly down from December, but also significantly down from last January.
And, if you listened just right, you heard an entire industry gulp.
It's just as we predicted! It's worse than we thought! Oh what should we do now?
It's simple. Stop panicking. The industry isnt failing. The sky isnt falling. Superman didnt find some Kryptonite in his Corn Flakes.
Over the past year, I was outside of Boulder for almost 200 days. Each of those days was spent with comic book publishers and creators. When talking to each one, the message was clear. We are doing alright. We cant sit on our laurels and do nothing as the industry shifts and changes, but our ability to tell an amazing story hasn’t been lost. We just have to be able to tell it to new (and in some cases) younger ears.
As many in the industry are looking to Hollywood as their golden ticket (and trust me, some of the best creators in the industry punched that ticket), the truth is that the consumer, and we can see that by the purchase patterns on Graphicly, still love great stories and are happy to spend money on them.
For us, we care a bit less about sales and a bit more about engagement. What we saw in 2010, is that the best stories, Irredeemable, for example, or Kick-Ass, were not read once, but again and again. That the best art was enjoyed on average 3.6 times over the course of just a few months. That stories like Mouse Guard were commented on 10-15 times and discussed over and over and over and over.
We live in a social world. The comic, by its very nature is social, and the industry is beginning to realize and react to that. It is no longer about the number of books you sell, but about the community you grow. The publishers and creators that will continue to thrive in 2011 and infinity and beyond will realize and embrace that.
The comic industry is not in peril, it is in transition. We are learning that to move forward we must first open our arms and minds not only to the new technologies, but to the new way people create, consume, enjoy and share content.
Personally, I am excited for 2011 and what it is bringing to the comic industry. I know that Ron, Josh, Conor and the hundreds of folks inside and outside the industry agree with me.
As always, I welcome the conversation, and can be reached at 720-248-8499 / firstname.lastname@example.org GTALK & email / graphiclyme AIM / @micah twitter.