27 October 2009

How Economics Shapes a Web Comic (Literally)

Todd Allen, author of The Economics of Web Comics, laid out some of the economics behind his own new web comic, Division & Rush, in an article for Publishers Weekly:

Going into this, my built-in revenue stream is a set CPM rate based on traffic. (CPM—cost per thousand is a standard unit for Web advertising.) Think of it as the digital equivalent of royalties off sales. This isn’t an unusual arrangement for online content, but it does have certain implications for comics.

The language used in my initial meeting was “graphic novel,” which connotes comic book-style pages. That’s a lot of art work for one page view. If you write a long text article online, the article gets broken up into pages of roughly 600-1000 words, depending on the website. I decided the thing to do was set up the comic as comic book pages laid out on a grid system. Two columns and two or three rows (4 panels or 6 panels). Then each row would be shown as a single page for viewing.

  • Most of the general public is still used to reading comics as a strip format, and this closely approximates the strip format
  • It increases the page count, which means it increases income (artists need money)
  • It’s still focused on a page, so when it’s time for a print collection, less fuss.
In terms of delivery, I’ve bought into the idea of the “satisfying chunk” of comics reading. . . . With this in mind, I settled on 5-page chapters, one chapter per week, and roughly 12 page views of strips.
Allen acknowledges that he’s in the fortunate position of creating this comic for the Tribune-backed site ChicagoNow, so he doesn’t have to draw an audience from scratch.

He goes on to discuss the other web comic revenue streams of merchandise (e.g., “t-shirts spinning out of the gag strips”) and paid downloads (“The x-factor, right now”).

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