An interesting article on the changing business model.
The article’s accuracy isn’t bad, but like most journalists waking up to an Internet phenomenon, it’s a bit late to the party. Of the webcomics listed, Penny Arcade launched in 1998, and its associated convention, Penny Arcade Expo, has been running since 2004. SMBC and Ctrl-Alt-Del both launched in 2002, just over a decade ago. xkcd is a relative newcomer; it’s only 7 years old.
At this rate, we’ll see journalists beginning to notice what a profound impact social media has on society around 2014 or 2015.
Quite so. However, the article is still perfectly well timed. Over the last 15 years or so it has become possible for web comics based businesses to be significantly profitable. Allowing artists to live solely off of that business and making a few of them millionaires. However, there has been a heated rivalry between the upstarts on the web and the traditional, big syndicates, with a lot of folks still touting the syndicate route as the best way for young comic artists to make a living and make their mark. However, as the news paper business has continued to implode at an ever faster rate this debate has become increasingly one sided. And today only the most foolish would imagine that there’s a significant future in the syndicated cartoon route. Right now we’re in the transition period where a lot of readers and artists, maybe even a majority of both, aren’t fully aware that the future is self-hosted content on the web. For those folks this is still a brave new world, and that justifies an article like this being published even today.
“Meanwhile, the American newspaper industry, home of the cartoon strip, now makes less in advertising revenue than at any time since the 1950s.”
There is probably a large number of people who only subscribed to newspapers for the comics. Now they can go to Gocomics. But the aesthetics of looking at a page filled with comics is superior to cramming one comic on a web page.
“But then, as Bill Watterson pointed out, money and stability, combined with insufficient competition, strangled cartooning. Bored of fighting with his syndicate, and unwilling to let “Calvin and Hobbes” become stale, he gave up his strip in 1995 and retreated into the woods of Ohio to paint landscapes.”
This sounds like a movie plot similar to Commando. A helicopter lands in his back yard and Watterson is told that his country needs his help one more time.
The last comic that I read with any regularity was the Phantom. I actually subscribed to King Features just to get it, but I stopped renewing after the strip ran a tribute to Earth Day.
I still, on occasion, get the Washington Post, but I only pass over the comics. Most of them are either long past their use by date (Beetle Bailey, etc.) or politically correct(Candorville, and a host of others). I haven’t gone to the web based comics in a few years, since the last time I looked, most of them were very poorly drawn. Perhaps that has changed, but for now, I get more laughs reading the opinion pieces masquerading as news articles.
How can a magazine called The Economist do an article on webcomics without mentioning Sluggy Freelance (fifteen years old, one of the first commercially sucessful webcomics and Pete is one of the first if not THE first to make his whole living of of it) or Order of the Stick’s $1-million-plus Kickstarter campaign?
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