Saturday, December 27, 2008

Comics and the Internets

Apparently comics in newspapers are having the same problems as songs on CDs

What do you do when the distribution method you have relied on for more than a century begins to falter? ...

“Newspapers are declining,” [cartoonist Steven Pastis] says. “For a syndicated cartoonist, that’s like finally making it to the major leagues and being told the stadiums are all closing, so there’s no place to play.”

Distribution channels -- courtesy of the internet -- are changing for everybody. Television. Movies. Recordings. Also newspaper comic strips.

In November, United Feature Syndicate, which distributes 50 comics, including “Peanuts,” “Dilbert” and “Get Fuzzy,” made its full archives and portfolio available free on its Web site. The company also added social networking features for tagging and rating comics. Visitors can have comics sent to them via e-mail or RSS feeds.

... Today, serves more as a marketing tool than a significant source of revenue. Ms. Wilson says the site does bring in money from advertisers, which include cellphone companies and Netflix. But its primary function is to build a fan base — and to provide links to sites where fans can buy books, calendars and other items featuring characters from the comics. No one expects to fully compensate for what Ms. Wilson calls “declines on the print side.” The site, she says, is “a platform for what comes next.”

Face it, the internet has made it possible to by-pass middlemen. You have a hot idea, you can climb on board the worldwide web and launch the idea all by your little self.

But it also means you have to own a savvy, up-to-date business model. If you're a news or recording company built along 20th century models (vinyl records, CDs, newsprint), you will quickly become history. Record conglomerates like EMI and Warner Bros. have discovered they can't resucitate the old way of doing business (one CD to one consumer) by suing music fans who download off the web. And newspapers aren't going to compete with the Huffington Post, or Talking Points Memo if they don't streamline and change their older business practices.

And so it is with comic strips, a century-old subset of newspapers.

Mr. Pastis, who recently created a Facebook page for [his comic] “Pearls Before Swine” and is in talks about animating the strip, says it is challenging to appear simultaneously in newspaper comics pages, which have what he calls a “1950s sensibility,” and in a media universe where the younger readers he wants to attract can download episodes of “South Park” to their iPods ...

It might be challenging, but it's also essential for survival. How does that old saw go?

Adapt or Die.

You either clamber aboard the new paradigm, or you perish at the station.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Pastis also works for the Schulz people. Drawing a strip hasn't paid the bills long, long, LONG before the internet began sinking newsprint.

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