Monday, September 30, 2013

Ten Million Readers Redux: A Postscript

Before we get started, I really wanted to thank everyone who chimed in on the series of posts I did a couple of weeks ago about the comics industry. I thought there were so many good points brought up from both sides of the argument that I needed to address them. However, I promise this will be the last "serious" post for a bit. If you want to skip this, I will totally understand; there'll be a post on my favorite villains hopefully a little later this week.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How To Get Ten Million New Comics Readers In Ten Years

Over the past few days, I've talked about the problems that have both created and been created by the niche that the American comic book industry has worked itself into over the last twenty years. From expensive comics to an aging reader demographic to the inability to get the word out about non-superhero comics, there are broad, interrelated problems that all come back to the niche that comics have been forced into due to its overreliance on the direct market distribution system over the past 20+ years. That's going to have to change if we want comic books to survive and thrive. Today, I'll be presenting a roadmap for a distribution system that could help bring in millions of new readers, while still protecting and even helping the local comic book shops that have served the industry and its fans so well over the years.

Artist's rendition of my chances for getting paid
Before I begin, some disclosure: I am a project manager at a company that has developed an analysis tool for e-reader software called Hero Analytics. However, our software is not necessary for this roadmap to work; it would merely enhance an idea that can be successfully implemented with what the publishers already have available to them. While we could potentially be asked to work on a project like the one I'm about to describe, it's kind of a longshot. I just want to be upfront that, while the idea I'm presenting is something intended to help a hobby I love, there is a chance I could see some money out of it. I believe transparency is important.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's Not All Superheroes, So Why Do Most People Think That?

This is post is the third in a four part series discussing how to get the medium of comic books out of the niche that they're stuck in. Previously I took a look at how the niche is both the cause and the result of the high price of comics as well as the aging comic reader demographic. Tomorrow, I'll be detailing a potential solution for getting comics out into the mainstream.

For today, however, I'd like to discuss the perceived lack of diversity in comics. Now, I'm not talking about racial or gender diversity; those are worth exploring, and I have talked about them in the past on this blog. What I'm talking about is this: if you ask the average non-comic book reader to name a comic book, 95 out of 100 of them will pick a superhero title, and the last five will probably say "The Walking Dead" or, rarely, "Sandman." That's kind of a big problem.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Comic Books Aren't Just For Kids Anymore! That's Not Entirely a Good Thing.

This post is part of a larger series I'm writing this week talking about how the niche that the comic book industry has worked itself into is both the cause and the result of several other closely linked problems.  If we want to see comics standing toe to toe with larger entertainment fields like TV, movies, videogames, novels, and music, we're going to have to face some unpleasant truths, and the companies are going to have to change how they do business. However, I fully believe this is something that can be done, and in a way that could see a population of millions of comic book readers by the end of the decade, if we get started soon.

On Friday, I'll be presenting a possible solution, one which I think the major companies could implement relatively rapidly and inexpensively. However, I wanted to talk about some of the major problems first. Tuesday's post laid out the first problem: comics are expensive because they are niche, and comics are niche because they are expensive. For today's post, I'd like you to indulge me for a moment and cast your mind back to the 80s. I apologize to those of you old enough to remember them firsthand, as I know what I ask is painful. It will be worth it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting Comics Out of Their Niche

Comics are a niche entertainment choice.  I don't know how anyone can reasonably argue with this statement. I'm not saying that there aren't choices that are more niche, but for the amount of impact comic books have had on pop culture as a whole, the number of people who actually read comics is tiny. A book at one of the major publishers is usually considered successful enough to stay in circulation if it can maintain ~20,000 readers; it's a wild success if it can sustain 150,000 readers for more than a few months. There are only a few hundred thousand regular comic book readers in North America. If we include digital and trade readers, we could generously say that there may be as many as one million semi-regular readers. For comparison, there were 20,000,000 opera tickets sold in 2007 in the United States.

Let that sink in for just a moment: unless the average opera-goer went to 20 performances a year, that means comic books are more of a niche entertainment choice than opera.

How did the industry get to this point? How can we fix it? I think I have the answer to that last bit, but understanding the road that's taken us here is vital if the solution is to make any sense. Let's start by saying, first, that the niche the industry is stuck in is both the source of its problems and the result of them. Over the next few days, I'll be examining three of the main problems with the industry, and all of them share a similar pattern: the problem exists because of the niche nature of comic books, and the niche nature of comic books causes the problem. On Friday, I'll be presenting a model that can be technically implemented with perhaps six months' to a year's worth of work, but which could see the addition of millions of new and returning readers by the end of the decade.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: Mighty Avengers #1

Hey folks!  I've spent the last couple of weeks either traveling or preparing to travel, and it's good to be back. I was out in New York for the first time, which was a lot of fun, and I got to swing by Midtown Comics. Their Times Square shop is great, and I recommend it if you ever get a chance to visit. I got a big stack of trades there that I'm slowly making my way through. And on the flight home, the TSA was kind enough to put "Notice of Baggage Inspection" flyers in all of them when they rifled through my checked luggage, so I have plenty of bookmarks, too! On a less Orwellian note, I also picked up a copy of Mighty Avengers #1, and the series seems to be off to a pretty good start. There will be a few very minor spoilers in here, but most of them are about things that have already been unveiled in the previews for the book.