Editorial: 2011 to Infinity and Beyond

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 / micah@graphicly.com GTALK & email / graphiclyme AIM / @micah twitter.

Comments

  1. Jordan0061 Jordan0061 says:

    I don’t get his point. What’s his point? Print comics are gonna be OK?

  2. stuclach stuclach says:

    I don’t think comics are going away.  I don’t think print is going away.  I don’t think single issue are going away.  I don’t think the industry is dead.  BUT, I do think it is evolving.  I think it is evolving into a digital and trade based industry (based on what I’ve seen in the data and heard from big wigs at panels).  

    I welcome the change and hope it helps creators create (profitably) and readers enjoy. 

  3. stuclach stuclach says:
    @Jordan0061  Not to put words in his mouth, but I think the point is: Don’t freak out.  There’re exceptional comics on the horizon for you to enjoy.  Things may change, but the industry isn’t going away.
  4. cahubble09 cahubble09 says:

    Overall, the total market has grown. But specialty comic book shops are going “bye, bye” unless they start stocking what the market is purchasing and find new ways tp engage with the public (i.e. internet and social media).

  5. Graphicly Graphicly says:

    @stulach – exactly

    My point is that if publishers dont realize that their readers have changed and the landscape has changed, the numbers of books that sell will continue to drop. No longer can a publisher rely on Diamond for distribution and make hay. They have to hustle and become a real part of their communities online. 

  6. stuclach stuclach says:

    @Graphicly  I agree completely.

  7. Print as a medium isn’t dying.  Year after year we’re printing more *things* as a civilization than at any time in our history. What we’re printing is changing. The size of print runs is changing. Printing needs are changing. I think print will be around for a long long time, but i think it will become more niche and special….higher end even than what we see now. 

    Digital needs to be really embraced with comics. Day and Date across the board will be exciting once they all figure out a business model for it thats really effective for them.  

  8. p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 10.0px Verdana} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 10.0px Verdana; min-height: 12.0px}

    Very sorry for the length, and I’m a first-time poster, but I think this is kind of important.

     

    Digitally delivered comics are interesting, but they’re far from being worth the price of admission. And I say that while also believing that the price of print comics is too high if the market wants to continue to entertain a new fanbase to replace the jaded and nostalgic thirty-somethings who make up a good chunk of the comic buying public today. 

     

    And they will have to get new people buying because sadly, nobody is really superhuman and lives forever. (Insert anomalies here.)

     

    You can tell me that digital is the future, because it’s true. Just like iTunes and Amazon MP3 and whatnot are where retail music is going. But it’s also true that iTunes et al are terrible if you want to continue to develop an industry with sustainable value. Because just like downloaded music, when you buy a comic for $2 or less from a digital proprietor, that value is going one way only. You don’t own anything you’re buying. Why? Because you can’t do with it what you please. It’s more like a lease. You have no assets or inventory whatsoever. Buy a hundred or a thousand digital intangible files of anything, and try to resell it. Nobody wants it? Oh. Damn. Too bad.

     

    It’s more like a rental situation, which, okay, fine, do that, because I think it’s naive to think that people are going to pay $1-2 an issue ad infinitum, plus any applicable inflation. So either there’ll be a system like Netflix for comics, where you pay one low fee for a month of all-access SERVICE from every provider (with exceptions, because of suit-and-tie executive stupidity), or it’ll fail, because good luck getting the bulk of people with decent-sized weekly/montly pull lists to pay 50% or so of what they’re paying now for what is essentially an infinitely greater loss than their getting sold now.

     

    You might say, but look, Amazon is doing well with its ebooks, so you know, it can happen, digital can succeed. Well, let’s see how long that lasts. Because you cannot deny that most digital music today is gotten through illicit means. The same will be for every other media, unless it’s so cheap to get legitimately that, again, it’s more like you’re paying a nominal service fee to agree that you don’t own anything and that you won’t steal anything. (Also maybe worth noting, the public clearly values certain media over others. Movies are bigger than music. Music is bigger than text-based books. And text-based books are bigger than comics. So, you know, the value proposition just seems to drop precipitously when factoring in their intangibility and the elimination of scarcity in an industry that is becoming a rounding error.)

     

    I will be the first to say that I love print. Mostly because it’s a beautiful presentation medium. You can do so many things with it that you can’t with a generally universal screen size/dimension. But I understand digital is a convenience that is inevitable. Yet, to think that print is going to go away because of it, is just not long-term thinking. I’m far more privy to believe that there will be a resurgence in an attention to quality of delivery. Because people are quickly going to be fed up with buying things that they can’t even get rid of for few bucks at a garage sale. Or give away to Good Will. Or give their kids, or their kids’ kids. (Formats change, but from what I’m aware, a 100-500 year old book is still visible and readable. Good luck to Adobe getting their technology to last so many centuries.)

     

    Apologies to the dead trees, but if anyone is going to try to convince me that 6-7 billion people will happily live on a diet of a 2-5 year cycle of portable PC manufacturing, tell me, which is a more sustainable model? I know, how about we dabble, and have some of both, and quit it with the drama of thinking it’s one or the other.

  9. Sorry for the nasty spacing/formatting ^^. I don’t know what happened.

  10. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @whatifwhatisisnt  It looks like you imported your comment from somewhere else, like Word or something.

  11. Cormac Cormac says:

    Digital comics just need to be cheaper, and on time. Let’s not overthink it. Cheaper, on time.

  12. Crucio Crucio says:

    Um am I wrong in thinking that January was a huge lull in the amount of books out. I bought fewer books in January but I bought everything that I usually buy when it comes outs, so the shortness in my stack was due to fewer books. This last week was great and I bought more books then any single week in January.

  13. @conor, Yeah, I took it out of the comment field (because of length) to double check everything. I pasted it into textedit. I figured a barebones editor would be fine, because I only noticed the problem after posting. So it was too late. Won’t do it again.

  14. Asteraceae Asteraceae says:

    “the best art was enjoyed on average 3.6 times over the course of just a few months”??

  15. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @Asteraceae  That means people read each issue an average of 3.6 times.

  16. Asteraceae Asteraceae says:

    @conor  doesn’t that kind of precision make you suspicious in this sort of statistic?

  17. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @Asteraceae  Suspicious… how? The comics are hosted on Graphic.ly so of course we’d have metrics on how many times they’ve been opened and each page accessed.

  18. Asteraceae Asteraceae says:

    @conor  oh ok–that’s where i was confused, so this Graphic.ly ((why is it written that way???)) thing does that, i see…well anyway, is that really great news for them? 3.6 times over several months must be about 1 time per month and surely that is quite low?

  19. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @Asteraceae  As someone who never re-reads a single paper issue I would say that reading a digital comic 3.6 times is rather high.

  20. Asteraceae Asteraceae says:

    @conor  so you mean 3.6 times per person? well that makes more sense, thanks…good stuff.