Cartooning- specifically comic strips- has taken an odd turn over the past couple of decades. The decline of the newspapers as the #1 source of information for most Americans has a lot to do with it. Way back (not THAT far back) when every major city in America had at least two newspapers, the value of any single comic strip or writer’s column could be measured in dollars gained or lost when a newspaper quit publishing it or started publishing it. If one paper quit publishing Doonesbury, for instance, and it’s sales and subscriptions declined while the other local paper picked up Doonesbury and its sales increased, then you could say that Doonesbury had a particular instantly provable value to a newspaper.
These days, not so much.
A writer I work with is also an auditor of newspaper circulation. Circulation (sales of newspapers, eyes available to advertisers in that newspaper) is how the newspapers set their advertising rates. Subscriptions and sales don’t generate a newspaper’s main income stream- it sets the scale for the newspaper to generate it’s main income stream… advertising. The newspapers are really good at inflating their circulation numbers in lots of ways, so they can charge more for the ads they run and therefore stay in business.
But I mentioned the decline of the papers, right? There’s that whole supply-and-demand thing. If advertisers are now running off to other venues, then the newspapers have to either drop their ad rates no matter what their circulation numbers are, or create a new value to advertising within their pages.
I hear from a lot of people (editorial cartoonists, newspaper illustrators, random newspaper employees, and circulation auditors) that the average newspaper’s decision makers are unwilling to make their jobs any more complicated by doing things that might attract readers. In other words, they’ve already given up. Sometimes, it’s even a matter of not backing up to a pre-automated method of doing things that’s the hang-up. Specifically, the idea that newspapers might draw in just the sort of interested reader they want to/need to by using webcomics on their comics page- hip, attention-grabbing, high-traffic comics used cheaply because it’s just another revenue stream to THOSE cartoonists- not the be-all, end-all of their income like for syndicated cartoons. The editor of the comics page of the paper I’m talking about said that it wouldn’t work because they now use a computer program that automatically drops in the daily comic strips and no one has to do any work. If the newspaper used webcomics, then the page would have to be worked on by someone every day, and then they couldn’t continue to leave at 2:00.
Of course, the other side of this is that it used to be that the only way to make a comic strip earn you a living was to be syndicated. You could draw a comic strip for your local paper, but one paper doesn’t make a wage out of one comic strip. The new thing is webcomics, where you have to be your own syndicate and sell anything and everything you can- T-shirts, hats, books, comics, sketches, originals, and of course, advertising- in order to make a fraction of what the syndicates used to be able to do for you. Stinky, for most would-be cartoonists, but it is an option. It’s a whole new business to be in.
There you have it. If you’re an old-guard syndicated cartoonist, it’s the beginning of the end. If you’re a young cartoonist who has time and energy to float a webcomic and work it like a business, it’s the beginning of the beginning.
And that brings me, in a hugely roundabout fashion, to my point:
Hubris has another ad on the site. There are some Google ads which pay a tiny bit every so often, and a Foxy Bingo ad which will stay up for at least a year per agreement, and now I have a Project Wonderful ad. It’s over there on the right hand side just below the Hubris Book Ad. Right now, the bidding is young and tiny, but if you see anything keen on there you’d like to read, by all means, click that thang and check it out. The more click-throughs there are from Hubris, the better reputation I get for being a good adspace to run in, and the revenue goes up by tiny bits.
And there you go. The business of Hubris.
Also, I’m about to add stuff onto the Outdoor Galore Store Zazzle page, just in time for your Christmas shoppin’.
Ugh. I’m a money-grubbin’ hack now. Gotta go skate.