Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

March 12, 2013

Additional Notes About The Marvel #1s Promotion At comiXology

imageSo this promotion by Marvel and the digital comics distribution service comiXology whereby a massive number of #1 issues and related offerings would be made available for free for a limited time didn't come off as planned, as crushing demand squeezed the affected servers like little kids with strong hands set loose on a table of modeling clay. The service shut things down and issued an apology. I could conceivably see them doing some more formal spin and outreach through the mainstream-oriented comics press this morning, although I haven't noticed any at this writing.

If there's some sort of rational solution in terms of how to make this up to affected customers -- a plan both smartly conceived and well-executed -- it's hard for me to see this as a huge deal in terms of comiXology and its relationship to its existing and potential customer base. There's a lot of heat that may result when you're denied something you've just been promised, but I'm not sure if it isn't more flash paper than four-alarm. There are no real rivals for comiXology on this particular playing field to swoop in and snag this audience, it's the kind of thing that can be made up to those customers with an exact or near-exact or even enhanced version of what was originally promised, and if all of that goes well there can be some PR benefit to be found in something failing because of massive demand. It's a memorable moment. I'm usually horrified by that last one, but I don't really see people truly inconvenienced here in a way that's resulted in my wanting to barf in the past when that particular swerve was employed. I think there's enough basic appeal in what comiXology does and what they can do with a promotion like this one, which is give you digital copies out the wazoo, and I think the site is easy enough to use that I believe people will give them another shot even if they're furious at them for a little while.

This seems a bit more compelling on the company/publisher level, as comiXology needs to be able to keep their promises to companies like Marvel in part to dissuade them from eventually taking this business back in-house, or at least entertaining that idea. Or just partnering elsewhere. The service may also need added cooperation from the publisher to execute this popular promotion -- if the time limitation was a big deal to Marvel, say, this could have some effect on how comiXology makes good on that initial promise. We'll see. It's worth noting that this is also one of those things where the huge demand may open more doors than the botched execution may shut. I would imagine that if Marvel eventually gets these books into the hands of fans and that this results in a bunch of different sales of subsequent issues, or maybe even if it doesn't, they'll not only be happy but other companies will seek to employ their back catalogs in similar fashion. If they find some immediate, workable solutions and everyone gets on board, it might turn out that facilitating such sales is something for which comiXology becomes known in a positive sense. That's a while off, though.
posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink

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