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.

For those of you sticking around, I'd like to throw a particular shout out to the folks on reddit's /r/comicbooks subreddit who had a lot of interesting stuff to say. Let's start with some of those:

I'm just not sure there are really 10 million people out there who would be comic fans if only they had a service like this. I don't think there are, either. However, I think there could be if we start now. In the first year, I'd be amazed if there were more than  few hundred thousand new readers. It's not a plan for "how to get 10 million new readers in a year." I expect there will be a slow rise to the curve over the first few years, then an explosion after a tipping point has been reached.

Storage is cheap, but bandwidth is expensive. True, but this is sort of related to the last comment. If the service had to handle 10 million customers in the first year, it probably couldn't; but over 10 years, bandwidth will get chepaer and cheaper. Netflix serves 20 million users in 2013. They couldn't have bought enough bandwidth for love or money to do that back in 2003. Imagine what will be available in 2023.

TV isn't free; you have to pay for cable. The older of you in the audience are probably chuckling at this. While few people do so these days, when I was a kid, you could hook up the rabbit ears to your TV and get limited service. In most places, you can even hook up to an inactive cable outlet and get your local broadcast channels. So, yes, TV can be free, but what's even more interesting is that paying for cable service has become so ubiquitous that most people don't even think of not doing so anymore.

Is this the only way you can see comics thriving? No, not at all. It's just a solution that I think will work most effectively. There's always the possibility that Marvel Unlimited's "Netflix for comics" idea will work on its own. While Comixology's setup really seems to simply be a recreation of the direct market in a digital format, that's still more convenient than going to an LCS. DC's 99 cent digital content proves that cheap content can be made available, and it's also some of the most charming and new-reader-friendly content that DC is putting out. Possibly the most promising idea is the ComicPlus Library Edition which makes content available to libraries very cheaply, and which seems free to library patrons. It answers a lot of the same problems I mentioned in my earlier posts with a different, but still potentially effective solution.

Seriously, y'all. Batman '66 is a hoot.

DC and Marvel are too risk-averse to try this. Possibly, yes. However, both companies have been trying new things in the digital arena over the last few years, so this isn't necessarily true. Failure to act can be as dangerous to a career or a company as acting incorrectly. Beyond that, it's not like all of this content isn't already out there free through torrents to begin with; it's just free in a way that doesn't help the companies.

That covers most of the highlights.  Thanks again for listening to me nattering on about the subject, and I'll see you a bit later this week to talk about the charms of villains with a code. Have a good week!

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