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BitPass Shuts Down

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 8:27 am

Micropayments enabler BitPass, once championed by Scott McCloud, has decided to shut its doors.

Via Comixpedia


Dirk’s Platinum Investigation Concluded (?)

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 2:14 pm

Dirk Deppey gives us the fruits of his investigation of CowboysAndAliensGate today on Journalista, in which he talks, among others, to one of the head honchos at Platinum Studios, Brian Altounian. I have some thoughts and theories about what Dirk was told by the Platinum guy, and what was really going on, and where those two don’t exactly match up in the real world — and I even submit that my thoughts and theories are unavoidable, if you read Dirk’s piece — but I will keep them to myself, because I am in no position to really, objectively know the things that I can’t help but believe. And that’s about as diplomatic as I can be, isn’t it? I guess it is.


Wax Intellectual on Measuring Success

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 1:31 pm

Lewis over at the group blog Wax Intellectual has a good post that sums up what’s on a lot of people’s minds, I think:

If you are in a situation like mine, you are probably most interested in measuring your success in terms of just the size of your readership, and also by treating that as an indicator of how well you are executing your comic, which may be your primary objective. So, as a result, I look at my referrer logs pageview totals and the like somewhat obsessively. And while there is an upward trend, I don’t have a good idea of how quickly I should be expecting the audience to grow.

I think there’s a logical flaw here: readership size is not necessarily an indicator of how well you are executing your comic. It’s an indicator of readership size.

Okay, let’s head off the flame war right here: I’m not saying popular comics are crap. It’s true that your comic will probably not be popular unless it’s good.

But it’s not strictly cause-and-effect: your comic will not necessarily be popular if it’s good, or just because it’s good. There are a lot of great comics that aren’t popular. And there are a lot of factors that play into popularity. For that matter, there are a lot of factors that play into, um, goodness. None of these factors can be quantified easily — no matter how many Alexa charts or graphs or whatever people like, well, me, post on their weblogs.

Wish it were otherwise, but it’s just not.

I don’t want to sound like I’m coming down too hard on Lewis, though — I don’t mean to. When you put something out there on the web, you want to get something back, whether it’s money (for some) or popularity (for some) or the respect of your peers, or whatever. Your actions deserve reactions. Spending too much energy worrying about that, though, can lead to frustration and burn-out. That’s all I mean to say here. Measure success by how you feel about the work — popularity, money, etc., those things happen, or they don’t happen, in ways that you can influence, slightly, but never, really, control. You can control how much time and effort and energy and love you pour into the work itself, though — and that’s all that matters, finally.

Finally, a Forum and Posters for Sale

Filed under: — Victor Daniel @ 1:50 am

So after having my webcomic The Vanguard up and running for about 9 months or so, I’ve bitten the bullet and gotten a forum right here at TalkAboutComics. I had a tagboard up before, but it broke my comics site after working well for months, when I tried to put in ad code for the Project Wonderful ad system.

So, feel free to surf on over to the forum and leave your two cents, just mind the (relatively few) rules and don’t be a total asshat. If you’re already registered on TAC, you’ll be able to post right away, if not, registering for the forum won’t take very long.

In other news, I’ve got a couple of Posters for sale at WCN’s small press swapmeet. They’re 11 x 17 miniposters with a couple of my favorite scenes from my webcomic, featuring a few of the main characters. Check them out and see if you like them. Your buying them will go a long way towards supporting my continuing work on the comic, and I thank you in advance for doing so.


More Meaningless Numbers

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 3:31 pm

The phrase “my webcomic” returns 113,000 results in Google.

The phrase “my blog” returns 44,700,000 results in Google.

I have started a spreadsheet. I will revisit these two queries in the future and chart the results, just to see if the gap narrows or grows wider. Just because.

Another meaningless tidbit: the third result for “read my blog” goes to a webcomic.


The Number of Webcomics in the World

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 6:03 pm

In a recent comment thread here at TAC, Chris Crosby said that Comic Genesis hosts 8,000 webcomics, and that DrunkDuck hosts 4,000 (I’m not sure where he got that latter number, but I believe him). On its homepage, SmackJeeves claims 4,000. I also believe them. WCN has about 2000 comics at this moment. So that’s 18,000 webcomics just on four free webcomics hosting services. That doesn’t count comics being run on invitation-only portals like Modern Tales, Keenspot, etc. There are also many comics being run on services like LiveJournal and Blogger. The most popular webcomics, of course, aren’t on any such services — and many people wish to emulate the success of the stars — so I’m guessing that there’s a very large number of additional comics on private domains. Any guesses as to how many comics there are out there, above and beyond the 18,000 we can identify and count quickly on the free hosting services? My impulse is just to double the number and say there are 36,000 webcomics, but I’d like to be able to back that up with evidence — not sure that such evidence is available, though. Thoughts?


Hits Do Fade

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:55 pm

Homestar Runner was, for a long time, the poster child of outrageous success for homegrown media. You don’t hear so much about it anymore. It was a massive, unexpected hit — and made a lot more money for its creators than they probably ever expected. But hits tend to fade over time (this has always been true; even the most evergreen properties — say, The Beatles’ White Album — don’t stay at the very top of the charts forever). Here’s the picture of Homestar Runner’s rise and fall over the past few years, per Alexa:

Their traffic is still respectable — don’t get me wrong! But it’s not what it was. It is likely that at least some of the current hits in the webcomics field will see a similar fading over time. The smartest thing to do, given that reality, would be to use the brand name from the hit comic to launch something related-but-independent with a high revenue potential — like a consumer videogame conference for example — which would be able to continue growing even if the original hit comic has faded.


My Webcomics Predictions for 2007

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 2:22 pm

10. Further entrenchment of the “A List”: in 2007, the six to twenty outrageously popular webcomics (you all know who they are) will get even more popular than they were before. This popularity will not trickle down to the rest of the field — or, if it does, not in any meaningful way, because audiences will quickly atomize as they spread out to the thousands of second-tier webcomics (that is, all the great stuff that isn’t outrageously popular), not to mention the tens of thousands of third- and fourth- tier webcomics.

9. Despite this fact, the number of people making a living from webcomics will go from the one or two dozen to the three or five dozen range. Many more — possibly hundreds — will claim to be making a living from their comics, but most of them will be lying.

8. Three or four webcomics businesses will emerge that have significant outside investor backing — these will either be currently-existing businesses growing larger, or completely new efforts. Some of these will get their backing from the comic book industry or Hollywood. Some will get their backing from Silicon Valley. The strategies employed by the former group will be in line with fairly traditional comic book publisher’s strategies — owning intellectual property rights to characters, stories and “worlds,” and monetizing those rights online, in print, and via licensing deals to other media. The emphasis in the latter group will be on providing services, technology, and platforms for entrepreneurial creators to be their own publishers. The latter group will probably do better than the former group, unless one of the traditional publishers accidentally happens on a huge hit, in which case all bets are off, by definition. Interestingly, the comic book industry types and the Silicon Valley types will not compete directly with one another — in fact, the comic book industry types are likely to look to the Silicon Valley types to provide them with the technology they need to get up to speed. Note: this prediction may take four to five years to come to full fruition. Also note: most of these businesses will fail miserably.

7. The trend of experienced creators from the various print industries (mainstream comic books, “alternative” comics, manga, alternative newsweeklies and daily newspapers) launching webcomics of their own will speed up.

6. Marvel and/or DC will do something interesting and meaningful in the webcomics space which will not be very exciting to webcomics insiders — their projects will probably be fairly analogous to what the leaders from that other “comics industry,” King Features and United, are doing with their sites.

5. Rocket Pirates will actually launch and will be quite popular. The webcomics world as we know it will not end because of this fact.

4. Project Wonderful will be purchased by Google or some other similar company.

3. I will, at some point — possibly even in a response to this very post — be called an “asshat” by an asshat.

2. There will be ten times more webcomics at the end of 2007 than there are at the beginning of it.

1. At least 8, maybe 9, of these predictions will not come true, at which point I will depublish this post.

A Cautionary Note for Webcomics Businesses

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:43 pm

Over the past couple of months we’ve seen a lot of new webcomics and comics-related businesses spring up trying to position themselves in the “Web 2.0″ space (we’ve also seen at least one existing business reinventing and reimagining itself in this vein), very probably in an attempt to pull in investment capital from angels and VC’s hopping on the new consumer-web bandwagon. Yes — that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. And still am. There are moneyed suitors aplenty, and now is the time to do this, surely. Those of us who lived through the first dotcom boom have been able to convince ourselves that this time, it’s different. I’d be surprised if others aren’t thinking along these lines as well. I still believe that it’s the right strategy for my own business, and the right time to implement it … but this splash of cold water from Paul Kedrosky makes a lot of sense to me, too:

Because the main difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 is that we have higher risks with lower payoffs. It is the concentration of risk, the narrowness of the exits, the low cost of market entry, and the ephemeral nature of consumer markets that makes this a more perilous time.

In other words: this new web boom may be different from the first one not because it’s less dangerous — but because it’s more. Anybody entering into a conversation with any investor, where significant parts of his/her company are on the table to be exchanged, should take this into strong consideration. Building cool things is fun. Losing them in a market collapse is not. In a worst case scenario, one is more likely to lose things if investors are attached than otherwise. No?

I know a lot of you are cartoonists, so here’s an analogy to illustrate my current predicament.

Let’s say you’ve created a comic. If you own it and are self-publishing, you can probably do so, in one form or another, for the rest of your life, regardless of what happens in the larger marketplace — but your chances of success are very slim. If you sell all or part of your work to a publisher, you gain his/her/its muscle and power and money, which may improve your chances of success (though, to be honest, success is always difficult), but the publisher will be more vulnerable to bad market conditions than you, personally, are. You can publish at a loss, or at a slim profit, because it’s your baby. The publisher is only publishing to make money, and will have to do so — and do so significantly well — in order to justify continued effort.

So if you are a pessimist, and always expect the market to collapse, it’s best to hang onto what you’ve created.

But if you’re an optimist, and always expect the market to grow, there’s no reason not to sell some or all of the underlying ownership of your work to a publisher, who can help you grow even faster, and position yourself for your next big move or big project.

Now replace “publisher” with “investor” and replace the idea of a comic you’ve created with the idea of the thing that I’ve created, and etc. That’s the predicament I’m in. Do I give up significant amounts of ownership right now, in the hopes that the market doesn’t collapse, and take my investor and my business with it, or do I maintain full ownership, with the understanding that I’ll therefore be pretty much guaranteed to keep my job — and my project — for the rest of my life?

Advice appreciated.

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