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

October 20, 2004

King Features Commits to


King Features Syndicate, the grand old man of newspaper syndication in North America, will unleash its on-line subscription service on November 1. The announcement could be found as early as October 6 in the tech weblog of the Milwaukee Journal, and as usual hasn't shown up in the syndicate's own web site press room yet, but most comics-interested people have now found about it via the news release published in places like Newsarama.

I think it's fair to say that King Features has agonized over its on-line strategy for years. I believe their basic strategy has been to run a selection of slightly out of date strips on-line, through their own site and through clients, and letting some newspaper sites publish strips they purchased explicitly for that purpose in a more updated fashion.

imageAlthough has provided a similar service using the United Media properties, this is interesting for several reasons. One, King Features has a staggering catalog of old strips from which they can draw to provide the kind of overwhelming exclusive content that might wear down natural resistance to a pay feature work. Two, a lot of the strengths in any King Features line-up is in those strips performing at the 70- to 100-paper level -- surviving but not thriving. Editor Jay Kennedy, also an expert on underground comix, has a consistently good eye for accomplished art.

With the recent tipping of the balance away from dial-up connections and into DSL and faster ways of access, services like these stand that much more of a chance of being maneuverable and worthwhile. So while performance and follow-up will be crucial, and the way classic content will be provided should prove interesting, King Features finally making a bold move in the on-line arena is very worth noting.

If you haven't seen it yet, scroll down past the Newsarama-posted press release posting one more time for a first word from syndicate critic and successful on-line strip creator Scott Kurtz.

Photo of Jay Kennedy by Whit Spurgeon. John Cullen Murphy art from this fine-looking collection; it's so perfect I hope they don't mind my borrowing it.
posted 7:23 am PST | Permalink

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