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Baltimore Sun drops full page of comics

A cartoonist forwarded me an email he received from a fan reporting that the Baltimore Sun had dropped a full page of comics. Comics Curmudgeon’s Josh Fruhlinger is also reporting the news and has the specifics. The Sun has picked up four features:

  • Fox Trot
  • Get Fuzzy
  • Pearls Before Swine
  • Zits

Dropped features include:

  • Apartment 3-G
  • Barney Google and Snuffy Smith
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Gasoline Alley
  • Herb and Jamaal
  • Jump Start
  • Kudzu
  • Mark Trail
  • Marmaduke
  • Mary Worth
  • Momma
  • Prince Valiant
  • The Lockhorns
  • The Phantom
  • Willy N’ Ethel
  • Ziggy

Correction: As pointed out in the comments, I linked to the wrong page over at the Comics Curmudgeon. The correct link is here. Josh confirms that the Sun has whittled their comics down to one page, but aside from Apartment 3G, Rex Morgan MD, and the Phantom, not a lot is know about the specific features that were dropped. If you have specifics, please post them in the comments or email them to me.

Community Comments

#1 Tucker McPherson
August/14/2008
@ 2:19 pm

I think that post was from 2004.

#2 Charles Brubaker
August/14/2008
@ 2:24 pm

Yes, that’s 2004. The fact that “Kudzu” is in the list of dropped strips should tipped you off.

To brighten the mood a little bit, I figure I’ll mention that Atlanta Journal-Constitution is going to add SIX more strips to their Sunday comics, starting August 24.

#3 Jesse Cline
August/14/2008
@ 3:32 pm

I was like wait a minute, the first time I saw Get Fuzzy was in the Sun, and that was a few years ago.

I think they meant this post:

http://joshreads.com/?p=1675

They dropped the soap opera comics.

#4 Eleanor Ruskey
August/14/2008
@ 5:46 pm

Mostly older readers buy the Sunpaper. Old people liked seeing the Phantom in the comics. This will make me drop my subscription to the Baltimore Sunpaper. Thanks.

#5 Mike Donahue
August/14/2008
@ 7:31 pm

It’s stories like this that make me glad I get my comics online.

#6 Bob Quick
August/15/2008
@ 7:35 am

Ouch! I don’t like it. I can see why soap opera or
adventure strips are having a rough time but
dropping Dennis? Editors are crazy.
With the news so readily available on line…
they should be, if anything, hyping and expanding
comic features. They are one of the main reasons
I bother to subscribe to “snail” print in the
first place. Dropping strips..reducing strips like
Valiant is bad thinking.

#7 frank white
August/15/2008
@ 6:50 pm

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to start a seperate comics section in papers again , solely supported by advertising, like a free comic book? You could practically have al the syndicate’s features in there. You could even forego the advertisers and just use it to advertise the merchandise/books of said particular strips with the associated licensing companies / syndicates / publishers footing the bill. I’m sure a scheme like this would pay dividends.

#8 Rod McKie
August/15/2008
@ 7:28 pm

Can we clear this up? Frank, you said you live in the UK, in which case you won’t have seen many US papers and so you won’t know many already have a ‘comic inserts’. So what do you mean, ‘comic inserts again’, are you talking about old Sunday Funny-style inserts?

It is worth bearing in mind that although my US chums complain that the comics pages are no longer what they were, they often contain pages and pages of comic strips. Of course they are small in comparison to the Topper Comic-sized 1/2 inch thick Sunday Funnies I got my grubby little hands on in the 1960s, but they are massive compared to anything ever seen in the UK – in most cases.

Now the comic insert that Watterson (a great fan of Peanuts) suggested has actually been done, I was surprised to discover, and young Charles Brubaker above posted some on his blog. I think I’m right in thinking they were unsuccesful.

And of course there is Mort Walker’s free magazine that Alan posted about on this very site:

http://dailycartoonist.com/index.php/2007/07/23/mort-walker-creates-free-magazine/

#9 Charles Brubaker
August/16/2008
@ 1:32 am

The blogpost Rod is talking about above is this one, if you care to look.

http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/2007/12/sunday-comic-books.html

#10 frank white
August/16/2008
@ 10:20 am

There’s only one reason I can see why newspaper editors are dropping comic strips – JEALOUSY!!
Reporters are jealously guarding their space, they only get printed once (many not syndicated) and they see a comic strip often get as much space as their small article.
Think about it, they always go and on about space restrictions in newspapers and how they need to keep it for advertisiers – fair enough…..but have you seen (especially in the last decade or so) how gigantic they print photos nowadays?? The size of those could be reduced. Sometimes the photo is of a well-known celebrity/ policitian and the size of the photo almost covers the same space as the article it accompanies. So save that space and print the cartoons at double the size you are printing at currently editors – trust me , you’ll gain a lot of readers, word of mouth gets around. Also cost of the features is a pretty common complaint I hear banded about often. The average price for a small daily is about 15 dollars a week. What small paper can’t afford that shouldn’t really be in business. The bigger the circulation the more they can afford to pay.

#11 Rod McKie
August/16/2008
@ 12:47 pm

Well let’s imagine your figure is an underestimate for a small circulation paper -with large circulation papers paying a lot more. So let’s say it’s $20 a feature a week and they are running 30 features, so that’s $600 a week, or $31,200 a year.

Since newspapers plan on being around and since comic strips run for decades they are likely to budget that way so they probably think of that as $312,000 and maybe more, over the next 10 years, or $624,000 over the next 20 years. That is certainly how the bean-counters see it, rather than in terms of weeks or nonths.

So Mister Bean-Counter comes out his office and says ‘you know what, we cut the strips and we save $312,000 over thge next 10 years, at least, and if we give one page over to advertising it becomes an earner for us and cancels out the income loss from the readers who stop buying the paper’. Even if the Editor loves the comics section, he still has to provide a counter-argument to Mister Beans.

The true cost of the strips to the paper is the $31,200 it pays for the strips, and the money it, theoretically, loses by not covering those comic pages in advertising – something the syndicates factored in long ago when setting their prices.

There is, as always, no simple solution.

#12 frank white
August/16/2008
@ 1:47 pm

Well Rod let’s take your figures of $20 a week a feature x 30 features = $31,200 a year. Now let’s say a newspaper gets just a measly 1% increase in readership by just doubling the size of comics….. say 500 new readers a day ? multiply that by the newspapers cut of the cover price (about a third of a dollar say?) and for every day of the year
500 x 0.33 x 365 = $60,225

so as you can see the actual minimum increase in readers would actually bring in enough revenue to pay for all the features a year nearly twice over.

#13 Rod McKie
August/17/2008
@ 3:55 pm

I suppose you’ll think I’m nit-picking if I point out you just increased the cost of printing by doubling the size of the comics and if you meant twice as many strips you doubled the annual cost of the strips to $62,400 a year which cancelled out your hopeful rise in circulation, Frank.

You can’t just imagine that more comic strips will add to the circulation of a newspaper. You are assuming a core readership that is sitting around not reading newspapers but silently demanding more comic strips and then they will do so. Or you are imagining a readership that drifts from one newspaper to another newspaper to. One scenario flies in the face of the statistics in falling readership figures and the other would mean one paper losing out as another attracts its readership, which defeats the purpose.

If there was a simple answer it would be out there, better minds than mine, or yours, have considered the problem over many years.

#14 frank white
August/18/2008
@ 9:50 am

Rod, of course bigger comics would improve the circulation of any newspaper, the internet is proving that with webcomics, making more money too I might add.

#15 Howard Tayler
August/20/2008
@ 12:19 am

If there was a simple answer it would be out there, better minds than mine, or yours, have considered the problem over many years.

Disruptive technologies do this kind of thing to markets, and sometimes the very best minds in a given market fail to come up with a solution and they all go out of business.

This is usually because the solution is to migrate the entire business into the new market created by the disruptive technology. It’s expensive, you lose customers, and you’re not as profitable… at first. But you stay in business, and eventually the profit margins return in new and wonderful ways. (And then it starts over.)

I’m a full-time webtoonist whose income has been steadily on the rise since 2004. While I don’t know the solution for newspapers, I’ve got a working solution for cartoonists.

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