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

February 9, 2011

Diamond Partners With iVerse For DM Digital Initiative

You can read Diamond's announcement they'll be partnering with iVerse Media in an ambitious digital program designed to include established comics retailers here:


It strikes me as one of those program where the fact of its existence is about 1/10,000th as important as its execution over time, even though reaction will be frontloaded to engage the former.

imageLet's play, anyway.

Three things jump out at me.
1) Unless I'm reading the PR poorly this program would seem to offer material over multiple platforms but would focus on one reader -- iVerse's ComicsPLUS.

2) Publishers are apparently going to be asked to respect a 30-day exclusive period on material offered through the program.

3) This program seems to involve a trip to the store to buy the digital product.
What strikes me about those three keys as I pull them out and stare at them is that they may operate in opposition to the general thrust of Internet culture and commerce, at least as I understand those things as a consumer and participant in that culture. As for #1, on-line consumers like to decide on their own technology if they feel they have options, and some feel that way even when they don't. As for #2, publishers working on-line may have all sorts of reasons not to want to grant brick and mortar stores a 30-day exclusive on material, or may want to do so partially, or may want to do so with strings attached. As for #3, going to the store to buy digital material seems potentially problematic to me: a physical trip is not the way I purchase anything else on-line, this cuts out international participants (a positive area in digital purchasing thus far) and all those not served by a store, at least initially. If this ends up a program that serves all the comics stores but not all the customers, which it may even optimally executed, you have to, for instance, market to two audiences 30 days apart.

Even if I'm 100 percent right about that initial reaction, it's not a deal-killer: comic stores act in opposition to most current buying patterns already, the publishers' desire to assist the direct market retailers may outweigh all other factors, and nothing at all when it comes to Internet commerce is set in stone. Still, the notion that a program designed to meet the potential raging river of new commerce that is on-line readership may be doing so by swimming upstream concerns me.

There are three wild cards in my view, although admittedly what seems like a wild card to me may be something that others see as a certainty.
1) This seems to me a very different program depending on 30 percent, 50 percent, 90 percent participation. So watch those sign-up figures.

2) It further seems to me the availability of digital-plus material, by which I mean a purchase of digital material tied into the physical copy, could range anywhere from being a key element of the program as it unfolds to a total non-factor. Depending on the logistics, reach and publisher enthusiasm, emphasis on those aspects could even represent a fallback position for the program, where stores are tied into or able to strongly emphasize digital bonuses whereas digital copies will be made available in a wider number of places day and date. (For instance, two years down the line you may be able to buy digital comics of serial books anywhere, but only through the remaining elements of the program announced today you may be able to buy a course of serial comics that gives you 40 percent off the physical trade. That sounds really appealing to me.)

3) With a 30-day exclusivity window involved you could see any number of marketing schemes to go with this, which I could potentially see drowning that market in a kind of sales dissonance before it gets firmly established.
As a bonus, we also learn through this PR that Diamond believes there are 2700-plus stores, and that they're sticking by a $1.99 on-line comic (purchased on its own) as the natural/baseline price point. I'm not 100 percent convinced that price point holds. Also, in a more general sense, this program continues to make the comic book and/or trade the default units for reading material on-line, which I'm also not sure holds over the long-term.

There should be a ton of stuff about this initiative at the forthcoming ComicsPro meeting. While my mind turns automatically skeptical when any press release passes in front of my face, I'm also generally of the mind that in almost every case a program in place is better than five programs that exist in the perfect world of conjecture, so good on everyone involved. I'm eager to see how this works out.
posted 11:00 am PST | Permalink

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