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Eight Stories for '05 #8 -- Webcomics Models Still Up For Grabs?
posted August 28, 2005

imageI'm going to end with the webcomics point, because it's by far the one about which I'm the most profoundly ignorant. In fact, I've started to write about stories about webcomics and had to stop because I'm just too uninformed to parse what I'm hearing in a responsible manner. But my hunch is that the big story in webcomics this year isn't so much about content but that the basic economic models and to a less extent the delivery system that are tied up in them. This has the added benefit from my perspective of bleeding over into newspaper strip syndication. The year began with Michael Jantze receiving enough subscriptions to continue his The Norm strip on-line for what I'm going to guess is a level of money raised pretty darn close if not far exceeding the money he was receiving as a strip cartoonist. King Features recently stopped displaying comics at its main site for free and in return received a boost for its pay package site -- even though some newspapers like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are still carrying any King Features strip for free everyday. Both stories indicated that there may be greater value in the on-line distribution of strips than many people thought; finding the right delivery model for long-term returns should prove to be quite another matter.

imageThe mainstream of webcomics publication is where my knowledge, so please take the following with a grain of salt the size of a Toyota. It might be a cop-out, but it seems the primary characters driving webcomics proper is so much is unsettled. You have collectives like Blank Label that seems about both maximizing traffic and pooling resources for wider exploitation; you have big traffic generators settling into a strategy of leveraging the brand in addition to providing content; you have smaller, artier projects perhaps interested in micropayment models; the subscription still seem useful especially for cartoonists who have either generated or are burning through a lot of specialized serial content; and now you have Joey Manley's attempt to facilitate single proprietorship types through Webcomics Nation. What this says to me other than I have been a lazy bum when it comes to figuring this stuff out is that a lot is still up in the air, except perhaps certain types of content and personalities leaning towards certain models. Whereas I used to think that one or two models would eventually present themselves, now I'm of the mind that the rainbow of options is a sign of where we'll end up rather than an intermediate step.

(If that was too lame, um, well, comics reprints are in a golden age now, too, with even some rarely reprinted mainstream comics material available for cheap. It's just not as important as the webcomics thing. I think.)

1) Seeing more than a few Franklin Fibbs will cost you
2) from Wapsi Square on the Black Label site