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AAEC convention plans shaping up

Over on The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists web site is posted more information about this year’s convention in Seattle. Ted Rall, AAEC president, provides a fiery letter to its members about the need to attend and discuss solutions out of the present industry crisis.

He writes:

This year’s panelists and speakers will focus on how to survive and plan out your career in an era of uncertainty. You’ll learn what to do if you lose your staff job, how to sell your work online, the future of syndication and how to brand yourself and your work. We’ll hear experts discuss the brightest segment of cartooning, the graphic novel market. There will even be some surprises- all of them, unlike the news lately, good ones.

We’ll also discuss the future of the AAEC. Given the current newspaper environment, should we abandon the newspaper sponsorship model in favor of pay-as-you-go, as does NCS, or turn to conventional corporate sponsorship? There have been suggestions that we merge with another group of artists or journalists, or that we transform the AAEC into an organization that looks more like a guild.

Also mentioned is the Herblock Foundation picking up the sponsorship slack after previous sponsor The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s press stopped rolling.

Speakers this year will include:

  • Jennifer Sizemore, editor of MSNBC.com and Lincoln Millstein, Hearst vice president for new media and former editor of the New York Times web site on the topic of finding a home on the web.
  • Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com will speak about the new world of publishing.
  • Alison Hemming, founder of The Hired Guns and author of “Work It! How to Get Ahead, Save Your Ass, and Land a Job in Any Economy” will speak on “Branding Yourself to Save Your Job and Survive If You Lose It”.
  • Gary Groth, founder and editor of Fantagraphics Books will speak on the business of graphic novels (on of the booming areas of cartooning right now).

Other events include a pubcrawl, benefit concert, the return of Cartoonapalooza and of course Fourth of July fireworks.

Community Comments

#1 Tony Piro
March/31/2009
@ 11:11 am

Looks like a good selection of speakers. Will there be anyone speaking about the webcomic business model?

#2 Wiley Miller
March/31/2009
@ 12:12 pm

Oh, no… please no… not the “webcomic business model” thread again!

#3 Mike Lester
March/31/2009
@ 12:22 pm

“Will there be anyone speaking about the webcomic business model?”

Yes. I believe his name is Wiley Miller. It will be his last such speech.

#4 Dave Stephens
March/31/2009
@ 1:20 pm

Oh nooOOOooooOOOooooooooes!!!

POINT
“lookit all the money I’m makin’! Hurray for webcomics!!”

COUNTER-POINT
“Dude. That’s a pile of pennies you made. Those pennies won’t pay my bills – I need piles of dollars. What else ya got?”

#5 Garey Mckee
March/31/2009
@ 4:44 pm

Blahbiddy blah blah blah…

#6 Paul Fell
March/31/2009
@ 5:37 pm

I can just see that workshop…

“Now if we start GIVING our editorial cartoons away, people will beat a path to our doors with offers to purchase books and merchandise, yadda, yadda, yadda.”

#7 Scott Kurtz
March/31/2009
@ 6:09 pm

Yeah, you guys are just kicking ass right now.
Go ahead and keep laughing.

#8 Alex Hallatt
March/31/2009
@ 8:01 pm

Newspaper cartoonists sneering at cartoonists who make their money primarily through the web is insanity. It’s as if the crew of the Titanic were to look down on the folk in the life rafts and laugh at their little biddy boats.

#9 Mike Krahulik
March/31/2009
@ 8:09 pm

The webcomic model won’t work for editorial cartoons. A successful webcomic is what they call a destination location in the retail world. That is to say it is a place people go out of their way to visit. Someone needs to choose to visit your site and that just wouldn’t work for editorial cartoons. People read editorial comics because they are already getting the paper. If you want to maintain the retail analogy it’s like they are in the mall already so they may as well stop by they house of crap. Would that store ever survive outside the mall? No. It’s the same for editorial cartoons. They could never survive on the web because no one would log on to their machine in the morning and say “hey I really want to see a drawing of a wheelbarrow that represents stem cell research crashing into a boat labeled pork barrel spending.” Hey no stealing that idea by the way, that’s mine;)

#10 Phil Wohlrab
March/31/2009
@ 9:10 pm

I think the best web comics business model is to write and sell a book on creating web comics. There are a lot of them.

#11 Scott Kurtz
March/31/2009
@ 9:20 pm

Hey Phil, maybe instead of mocking these books, you should try READING one of them.

#12 Stacy Curtis
March/31/2009
@ 9:52 pm

You mean like:

http://www.editorialcartoonists.com

http://cagle.com/politicalcartoons/

#13 Dave Stephens
March/31/2009
@ 10:16 pm

There is one

http://cagle.com/

Dunno if he’s “rakin’ in the dough” on it

#14 Cedric Atizado
April/1/2009
@ 12:39 am

I’m confused.

There are people coming in to speak about moving content and business to the web. There’s a speaker talking about the business of graphic novels.

Isn’t that combo the fundamental aspect of the webcomic business model?

Is it just the term ‘Webcomic Business Model” that sets off these arguments?

#15 Joe Rank
April/1/2009
@ 1:41 am

I predict that the only event that will be termed a unanimous success is the pubcrawl.

#16 Stacy Curtis
April/1/2009
@ 2:10 am

Rabbit Season!
Duck Season!

#17 Abell Smith
April/1/2009
@ 2:10 am

“People read editorial comics because they are already getting the paper. If you want to maintain the retail analogy itâ??s like they are in the mall already so they may as well stop by they house of crap. ”

…yah, cuz like, everybody knows the only things that truly matter on this planet are video games…

#18 Rick Stromoski
April/1/2009
@ 5:06 am

I really would hate to see this thread deteriorate into yet another purposeless p*ssing contest….it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that this industry is evolving and it’s evolving towards the web. Let’s make an effort to understand what these guys have figured out who are already there and maybe propose ways to improve upon it for everyones benefit. Anything else is a waste of time.

#19 Wiley Miller
April/1/2009
@ 6:45 am

See? This is what happens every time. Any comment that is made regarding marketing web comics is always taken as slam and met with churlish responses from the web devotees rather than a calm, measured response to educate those who don’t see how a living can be made doing web comics.

So please stop with the angry, knee-jerk reactions. As Rick says, that leads nowhere and only serves to validate the negative image of web cartoonists. Everything is going to the web now in media and we need to find out what alternatives we have as professionals.

#20 Steve Greenberg
April/1/2009
@ 8:43 am

Back to the actual subject of this news item…

I am going to make every effort to go to this convention, despite being one of the laid-off editorial cartoonists. Lord knows, there will only be more of us.

This is perhaps our best and most appropriate chance to figure out our survival plans for ourselves as individuals and for our field of cartooning.

Remember, you can save huge amounts by going the roommate route. And this is a business trip and should be deductible.

#21 Jim Lavery
April/1/2009
@ 8:56 am

I believe the hologram business model is the wave of the future for comics.

You’ll see. You’ll all see.

#22 Mike Krahulik
April/1/2009
@ 10:39 am

“â?¦yah, cuz like, everybody knows the only things that truly matter on this planet are video gamesâ?¦”

When 60,000 people come to Abell-con you can give me shit.

#23 frank white
April/1/2009
@ 11:12 am

I don’t believe it. Both Rick Stromoski AND Wiley Miller ACTUALLY making an effort to understand the Webcomics model’s point of view. I thought this day would never come. Welcome Fellas ! All is forgiven

#24 Lucas Turnbloom
April/1/2009
@ 11:18 am

I know that Scott Kurtz and Ted Rall don’t really see eye-to-eye on the webcomics model, so it probably won’t happen. But a webcomics panel/lecture would be an interesting addition to the convention.

I mean, many editorial cartoonists won’t be interested in drawing or creating graphic novels, but listening to Gary Groth speak about the biz will still be interesting.

The same thing could be said about a webcomics panel/lecture. Most won’t be interested in starting a webcomic, but it would be a fun lecture to attend. Especially with Kurtz and Kellett on the mic.

#25 Rick Stromoski
April/1/2009
@ 11:42 am

>>> Any comment that is made regarding marketing web comics is always taken as slam and met with churlish responses from the web devotees rather than a calm, measured response to educate those who donâ??t see how a living can be made doing web comics.

I think the same thing could be said regarding print cartoonists. The snarkiness goes both ways, I myself have been guilty of a dismissive attitude in the past regarding some points of the web model…..but the future is web based… however that will evolve is up to us.

I don’t agree with giving content away for free, that’s just bad business…but we are moving away from a print society and we’d be foolish not to embrace that.

Telling one another to go #%@!! themselves when they reach out serves no purpose other than to make you look like a first rate amateurish maroon…and confirm others suspicions of you.

#26 Jim Thomas
April/1/2009
@ 11:48 am

It is interesting to witness…I attended webcomics weekend in Easthampton, MA a couple weeks ago and despite which camp you line yourself up with, it is hard to argue that the tones of these conventions speak volumes about the current viability of print and web. The web panels were all about how to continue the growth, and the atmosphere was almost celebratory of fans and creators alike.

Just reading the panel topics, this AAEC convention seems like it is about how to sweep the ice berg debris off the top of the titanic, nevermind the gaping hole below the surface. (If this were an editorial cartoon, the titanic would be labeled “Newspapers” and the captain “syndicates” and deckhands “cartoonists”. And the people in the life boats that found other ways to stay afloat? “classifieds” boat, “webcomics” boat, “advertising” boat. and the ocean? yeah, lets just label that “THE INTERNET”

#27 Wiley Miller
April/1/2009
@ 11:55 am

“I donâ??t believe it. Both Rick Stromoski AND Wiley Miller ACTUALLY making an effort to understand the Webcomics modelâ??s point of view. I thought this day would never come. ”

Ok, this is an example of what I was talking about. Rick and I have always made an effort to understand the webcomic model, as we are professional cartoonists. But the knee-jerk anger and vitriol coming from the web side seemingly blocks out the ability to listen to what we actually said. So let me try once again now that I have your attention.

As I’ve stated umpteen times here and elsewhere on this topic, why in the world wouldn’t a professional cartoonist want to see a new market open up? What gets lost with you and others is that you’d take any disagreement with the viability of the webcomic model as not understanding it or dismissing it. The models stated in the past were perfectly understood, but most of us don’t believe that the theory holds up to reality. If there was a viable model, there would be a lot more cartoonists making a living on the web, along with a mass exodus of pros in print switching over to the internet.

So that’s what makes a session on this subject valuable at the convention, to see if we can figure out a way for cartoonists, editorial or otherwise, to find a venue on the internet that will replace what we had in newspapers.

Most (if not all) of us who are still making a decent living in print media could switch over to the internet… and here’s the key part… WITHOUT having to deal with website maintenance and selling swag, where we can spend our time and energy on our work, as we do now, then we’d do it in a heartbeat. But such a model does not exist, to my knowledge. If it does, I’m certain we’d all love to hear it.

#28 Mike Krahulik
April/1/2009
@ 11:55 am

“giving content away for free, thatâ??s just bad business”

I have ten employees and I’ve been giving comics away for free for ten years.

You guys say that you want to understand the web model and in the same breath you say “but it will never work”. Well it is working, it’s been working for years.

#29 Mike Krahulik
April/1/2009
@ 12:02 pm

“The models stated in the past were perfectly understood, but most of us donâ??t believe that the theory holds up to reality. If there was a viable model, there would be a lot more cartoonists making a living on the web”

The reason you don’t see more cartoonists making a living off their work on the web is because your work really needs to resonate with an audience for it to succeed on the web. The internet won’t subsidize a comic like Beetle Bailey the way a syndicate will. People need to really love your work. I think there are people who like political cartoons but I don’t think they’d survive on the web.

I am making a different point than Scott. He’s saying you guys need to move over to the web because that’s the future and you can make a living there. I’m saying the web is a great place for certain kinds of cartoons but I don’t think the majority of syndicated comics could make the transition. I guess I sort of agree with Wiley.

#30 Lucas Turnbloom
April/1/2009
@ 12:09 pm

Yes! Penny Arcade is an excellent example of the webcomics model working.

But I think Wiley brings up a good point:

“Most (if not all) of us who are still making a decent living in print media could switch over to the internetâ?¦ and hereâ??s the key partâ?¦ WITHOUT having to deal with website maintenance and selling swag, where we can spend our time and energy on our work, as we do now, then weâ??d do it in a heartbeat.”

…And I think this is THE big issue and why the answer to Print vs Web will have to be, for the immediate future, agree to disagree.

#31 Mike Krahulik
April/1/2009
@ 12:17 pm

I agree Lucas. That kinds of business model just doesn’t exist on the web. If you want to make a living off your work online it’s gonna take a lot more work. No one is going to pay you a “good living” to put your comics on a web site. You can however make yourself a good living if you have a good product and are willing to do the work.

#32 Dave Stephens
April/1/2009
@ 12:26 pm

Are there ANY examples of somebody – ANYBODY – who has made the transition from, say, a $60,000 a year editorial cartoonist job with benefits to a similar paying job doing webcomics… (would have to be around $75 grand to make up for the lost benefits, of course).

A successful transition would NOT be making less money, but even an UNSUCCESSFUL transition would still give me hope for improvement on the “model”…

I’m talking editorial cartoonists, folks.

#33 Lucas Turnbloom
April/1/2009
@ 12:39 pm

Not to my knowledge, Dave. But I believe it’s possible.

Take Mike Ramirez and Mike Luchovich as examples. Excellent cartoonists. I believe if they were to jump on board with a Krahulik, Kurtz, Guigar (etc.) model, they would do extremely well.

But will they? Not a chance in hell. I mean, why would they?

They’ve got a great thing going with their paper and syndicate gigs. Why would they give that up to go at it (basically) alone?

It goes back to what Wiley said:

â??Most (if not all) of us who are still making a decent living in print media could switch over to the internetâ?¦ and hereâ??s the key partâ?¦ WITHOUT having to deal with website maintenance and selling swag, where we can spend our time and energy on our work, as we do now, then weâ??d do it in a heartbeat.â?

#34 Wiley Miller
April/1/2009
@ 12:41 pm

“I have ten employees and Iâ??ve been giving comics away for free for ten years.”

So people are paying for something, somewhere, regarding your work, right? Is it simply posting your work on your site (for free) and then selling book compilations? I’m guessing selling advertising on your site as well?

#35 Dave Kellett
April/1/2009
@ 12:44 pm

Mike’s right. In this particular industry shift…there will be syndicated cartoons that will survive the move to online-only distribution. Dilbert will do well, Garfield…you can name a dozen or so. But most will wither on the vine, and here’s why: You can’t just be “liked” to surive online. You have to be in someone’s top ten to make a living. Probably in their top three. Garfield, Dilbert, Get Fuzzy…those are in a lot of people’s top threes. Most syndicated strips, not so much.

But editorial cartoons are just boned. There’s no nice way to say it. There is absolutely no way that you can monetize a site and build a career around editorial cartoons online. Ad-subsidized would be the only way to go, and I can tell you right now it wouldn’t work for the audience-sizes the average editorialist would get.

Look, it’s not without precedent in the history of cartooning that an entire branch of an artform would disappear. There used to be hundreds (thousands?) of editorial “illustrators” in papers around the world. But when the technology to take, develop, and include photos into a newspaper dropped to a certain point, hundreds (thousands?) of editorial “illustrators” were just boned. Boned. Sometimes new technologies ain’t nice to traditional crafts. And unfortunately, the internet ain’t nice to editorial cartoons.

Because Mike’s right: For most people, they’re not a destination in and of themselves…they’re a value-add to a larger content service. Sure, Cagle.com exists as a destination service, but (never having seen their numbers) I can assure you that their ad money isn’t paying anyone’s mortgage.

….Editorializing *within* a destination strip (a la Doonesbury, or Mallard Fillmore) will probably survive — as there are ways to monetize those in book form — but traditional, one-panel editorial cartooning will largely disappear.

#36 Mike Krahulik
April/1/2009
@ 12:46 pm

PA makes money from advertising,merchandise, and custom projects(game companies hire us to make comics based on their games). All of these revenue streams rely on people liking the work we make. As long as they like the comic and keep coming to the site we can give away the strip and keep making our money in these other ways.

Like I said, no one is going to pay you anything you could live off to put your comic on the web. You have to make your own business and not every artist has a product that can support a business much less the desire to do all the extra work.

#37 Scott Kurtz
April/1/2009
@ 1:12 pm

The web can’t help any of you, because none of you own your properties. None of you have the power to take advantage of anything the web could offer you, even if you did pull up your sleeves and listen to us. None of you captain your own ships, so the point is moot.

At best, the most you’ll ever be able to do is partake in whatever pathetic web endeavor the syndicates decide to grope at in the next five years before one of THEM has to file chapter 11. Then your comic strips will become assets to be divided among all the syndicate’s debtors and you can get in line and try to win back a piece of what you’ve been building for the last 20-30 years.

The time for you guys to have paid attention to us was when we first offered to talk to you about this five years ago. Back when you had the time to learn and build something.

Wiley and Rick aren’t coming around. They’re just crapping their pants and watching their paychecks shrink. That’s the only reason their offering these half-hearted olive branches. Because they’re scared out of their minds.

You guys have absolutely nothing to offer us. We benefit ZERO from working with you now.

So enjoy what you have while it lasts.

#38 Wiley Miller
April/1/2009
@ 1:13 pm

I think that’s great what you and Scott Kurtz developed, Mike. You both got into it early and were ahead of the pack. The pack now, however is literally thousands of webcomics thrown out there on the internet, which, to many of us, makes it an impenetrable maze to wade through of horrifically bad stuff before finding anything of quality, such as Penny Arcade and PvP.

The point is, the model you and Scott developed so many years ago is unlikely for anyone starting out today to emulate, as far as I can see. I’d love to be wrong about that. So has there been anyone else who has started a web comic in, say, the past couple of years who has been able to make it their livelihood, as you have done?

#39 Wiley Miller
April/1/2009
@ 1:19 pm

“The web canâ??t help any of you, because none of you own your properties. ”

Actually, Scott, most of us own the rights to our feature now.

“Wiley and Rick arenâ??t coming around. Theyâ??re just crapping their pants and watching their paychecks shrink. Thatâ??s the only reason their offering these half-hearted olive branches. Because theyâ??re scared out of their minds.”

A perfect illustration of what I said earlier. Just once, could you respond in an adult manner and leave out the hyperbolic rancor and chest thumping?

And, no, my royalties haven’t shrunk at all. We’re talking about the profession as a whole.

#40 frank white
April/1/2009
@ 1:27 pm

Wiley, educate us : even if you wanted to monetise your comic online and were prepared to do the work, selling t-shirts, advertising, etc, it would all be off your own back. You ( or any syndicated cartoonist)would be doing the work and not your syndicate.Yet as they probably own a certain amount of rights in your strip they would be entitled to a cut of your hard earned money which you made all by yourself.Also they probably have the power to not let you have the strip on your own site selling your own custom made merchandise, if they so choose.
Am I right on this? – because seriously I think this is a major fear on the part of most syndicated cartoonists, stopping them ‘breaking free’

#41 Mike Deaven
April/1/2009
@ 1:33 pm

I find it interesting that this debate continues to take place even as literally hundreds of newspapers are going bankrupt. Wiley, your royalties perhaps haven’t shrunk yet, but how can you expect that to remain unchanged in this climate?

#42 Mike Deaven
April/1/2009
@ 1:38 pm

“I donâ??t agree with giving content away for free, thatâ??s just bad businessâ?¦but we are moving away from a print society and weâ??d be foolish not to embrace that.”

Rick, the problem with this is that this has literally already been decided. The internet, with its ease of content delivery, has created a culture of free content, which is not limited to comics. Look at blogs, news, hulu, all of these things. The internet generation does not expect to pay for content, and generally will not. You just have to accept this reality, and do what you can with it.

#43 Kris Straub
April/1/2009
@ 1:38 pm

Man! The idea of moving to the web without having to touch a website or think about merchandise is as anathema as me saying “I want to be a cartoonist, but please don’t tell me I have to draw or write anything.”

Having more control — and having to take more control — are part and parcel of being in webcomics. (There’s nothing preventing a cartoonist from farming that work out, I guess.) It’s a different culture, to put it pleasantly.

And yeah, there have been a handful of strips to gain enormous popularity in the last couple years (Perry Bible Fellowship), but that kind of smash success isn’t really something to plan on. Everyone who started in webcomics 8, 10, 12 years ago had an easier time because they were still in high school or college, didn’t have kids or a mortgage, and therefore didn’t need to see immediate, meteoric success.

Unfortunately, moving to the web means paying attention to your business, and it’s a slow build like anything else. There isn’t going to be a guaranteed $150K a year, starting next month, where you don’t have to do anything besides put four panels into an envelope.

#44 frank white
April/1/2009
@ 1:42 pm

Wiley the thousands and thousands of webcomics out there don’t really matter, most are hardly/never updated, most are written and drawn by schoolkids, most are derivative of their favourite webcomic. It’s the top couple of hundred webcomics you should take a look at, they are highly successful or on the way to becoming it soon. 20,000 webcomics verus the top 200 , that’s 100 to one. Syndicated comics average about 15 new ones a year from 6,000 submissions, mostly it’s the same 6,000 people year in , year out.Of those that get picked half will fail in the first year.It will take eight years on average trying out as a syndicated cartoonist to have a feature that doesn’t fail in it’s first year (the same odds of a hundred to one.Webcomics stay around to continue building the audience year after year.

#45 Scott Kurtz
April/1/2009
@ 1:50 pm

I’m so tired of this ridiculous argument that our work is given away for free, but your work is paid for by eager fans who can’t wait to spend money on your content.

What all of you are about to discover is that the interest most people have in your work extends very little beyond “it’s in the paper I already paid for anyway, why not read it?”

You better get used to the idea of giving away Non-Sequitur for free because nobody is going to pay for it. Nobody was paying for it before.

Your strips generate no revenue. Advertising in the papers generate revenue and then the newspapers pass a cut of that on to your syndicate and then your syndicate passes a cut of that on to you.

So yeah, you DO agree with giving away strips for free. You just have constructed this ennobling lie around the truth of what you really do.

#46 Dave Kellett
April/1/2009
@ 1:52 pm

@Lucas “The same thing could be said about a webcomics panel/lecture. Most wonâ??t be interested in starting a webcomic, but it would be a fun lecture to attend. Especially with Kurtz and Kellett on the mic.”

Lucas, I don’t know that we’d have anything to say that would help editorial cartoonists at an AAEC meeting. Our business model isn’t applicable.

I am giving a talk to the NCS in San Diego in Sept…but I’m not expecting much to come of it. I think our talks to universities tend to help more people.

#47 r stevens
April/1/2009
@ 1:59 pm

I’ve started to love watching these debates. The longer the battles rage, the less competition those of us already making a web living have to contend with.

#48 Scott Kurtz
April/1/2009
@ 2:08 pm

“Telling one another to go #%@!! themselves when they reach out serves no purpose other than to make you look like a first rate amateurish maroonâ?¦and confirm others suspicions of you.”

Rick,

Yeah, too bad you weren’t acutely aware of this when we first reached out to you guys five years ago. Back when you laughed at us and told us to be quiet while the adults were talking.

Back when you told Jimmy Johnson that despite my credentials, his sponsoring me for the NCS was moot because of my character.

So yeah. I’m telling you to go #%@!! yourself now.

What did you honestly expect me to do?

#49 frank white
April/1/2009
@ 2:08 pm

“Iâ??ve started to love watching these debates”
it’s almost exactly a year since last year’s big marathon debate Rich. Did anybody else notice that?

#50 Scott Christian Sava
April/1/2009
@ 2:10 pm

I don’t know if this helps any…

But 3 years ago…I left print (comic books) and started putting my pages up daily on my site.

In that three years I’ve had great success and am able to make my house payments from advertising alone every month.

But it takes time and it takes a willingness to interact with fans.

I look at Webcomics as kind of a virtual “live theater”.
Every day…you post a page. Then you interact with the fans. They comment on your site, your forum, Twitter, Facebook, Email.

They want to know more about you. What you like and don’t like. How’s your kids?

It’s crazy. But it brings them back every day. And honestly…you actually wind up LIKING the interaction.

Imagine 20,000 readers a day popping in here and there telling you they love a facial expression, the coloring, the pacing.

What artist DOESN’T want that kind of feedback?

Again. I don’t know if this helps. But I think if you look at Webcomics this way…it might give you a better idea of what you’d be in for.

It’s a lot of work. A lot of interaction. But it’s a lot of fun too.

Thanks
Scott

#51 Rick Stromoski
April/1/2009
@ 2:16 pm

â??The web canâ??t help any of you, because none of you own your properties. â?

Ownership of copyright by the creator has been a standard in syndication contracts for over 20 years. Best to research an argument before you make it.

â??Wiley and Rick arenâ??t coming around. Theyâ??re just crapping their pants and watching their paychecks shrink. Thatâ??s the only reason their offering these half-hearted olive branches. Because theyâ??re scared out of their minds.â?

I guess my request that this not deteriorate into yet another childish p*ssing contest has fallen on deaf ears. Contrary to what Scott wishes to be true , I’m not crapping my pants and my newspaper royalties have not shrunk at all.

Much like Mike Krahulak , and many other cartoonists, all of my eggs are not in the one syndication basket. Outside of my daily strip I do extensive licensing, greeting card, fabric design as well as book, advertising and magazine illustration.

I just thought it would be productive to start a real conversation on web marketing and how some cartoonists approach it. It’s unfortunate certain individuals cannot get past their prejudices and act professional about it.

#52 Kris Straub
April/1/2009
@ 2:20 pm

“Much like Mike Krahulak , and many other cartoonists, all of my eggs are not in the one syndication basket. Outside of my daily strip I do extensive licensing, greeting card, fabric design as well as book, advertising and magazine illustration.”

See, this is sensible, but I thought that this was the kind of argument that got cartoonists looked down upon — in other words, if your comic strip isn’t making up 100% of your income, then you’re somehow faking it.

I thought that was the primary argument against webcomics: that they don’t count because the money comes from ads and being a T-shirt salesman.

#53 frank white
April/1/2009
@ 2:23 pm

Has anybody also noticed the date? It’s past twelve now Rick whatever timezone you may be in so if your recent conversion was all a joke it would be well to own up now.

Also, one day Scott Kurtz just may become President of the NCS one day Rick. I would not like to be in your shoes on that day from what he is saying how you treated him.
In the future NCS, the proffesional model WILL be webcomics and anybody who is not into that will be considered unprofessional and in not so many words , politely asked to leave.

#54 Paul Fell
April/1/2009
@ 2:24 pm

Since I’m guilty of starting this whole brouhaha, perhaps I can end it with a couple of simple questions:

1. When well-established cartoonists like Wiley and Michael Jantze couldn’t make enough money to make it worth the time and effort to bring their comics to the web, how were other people able to pull it off? And HOW did they do it? HOW, HOW, HOW?

What I’ve been hearing for years is “I have the formula for turning lead into gold, but I’m not going to share it with you”.

2. Could you experts on making a living on the web please tell me how an editorial cartoonist can do it on the web?

These debates are all really interesting ( just look at the traffic on this link), but the bottom line is, if those of us who are skeptical of this business model are so wrong, how in the blue bloody hell do you make a decent living at this?

In closing, don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t hear much on this link from people who have the professional experience of actually creating editorial cartoons for a living. Doing this kind of thing is as different from comics as brain surgery is from dentistry.

#55 Kris Straub
April/1/2009
@ 2:30 pm

“1. When well-established cartoonists like Wiley and Michael Jantze couldnâ??t make enough money to make it worth the time and effort to bring their comics to the web, how were other people able to pull it off? And HOW did they do it? HOW, HOW, HOW?”

You have to understand — the last two or three times this argument has cropped up, webcartoonists stepped forward and said “here’s how” — in detail — and were met with one or more of the following responses:

– “Yeah, but that’s probably not a real living.”
– “But if you give it away you can’t make money off of it.”
– “It didn’t work for me, so it’s impossible.”
– “Okay, but I don’t want to do that.”

I mean, rather than have this discussion again, we could all just go back in the Daily Cartoonist archives and read through it again.

#56 Lucas Turnbloom
April/1/2009
@ 2:30 pm

@Dave Kellett: “I donâ??t know that weâ??d have anything to say that would help editorial cartoonists at an AAEC meeting. Our business model isnâ??t applicable.”

True. But I’m not sure a lecture on graphic novels would help much either. Nevertheless, it’s still interesting. Ain’t nothing wrong with sharing information and presenting your business model to an industry that’s hurting. It shows ’em there are options out there.

I agree, your business model isnâ??t applicable. However, with a few tweaks I think it could be. There are several ways to do this — but we can talk about that in another thread.

Forgive me if my points are somewhat incoherent — going on no sleep (newborn at home)

@ Dave: “I am giving a talk to the NCS in San Diego in Sept”

Hey, me too. Except I’m in July or August.

#57 Rick Stromoski
April/1/2009
@ 2:34 pm

>>>The internet generation does not expect to pay for content, and generally will not. You just have to accept this reality, and do what you can with it.

Most of the television generation never thought they would pay for TV. Yet Today we have most huseholds spending $120 a month for premium content like HBO, Showtime and Sports packages so I think the internet won’t be too far behind matching that model. Is it too farfetched to think that comics would become something bundled much like cable tv packages geared towards the tastes of the subscriber?

#58 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 2:41 pm

Paul Fell: “Could you experts on making a living on the web please tell me how an editorial cartoonist can do it on the web?”

I’m not an expert, but I have an opinion on this:

If you as an editorial cartoonist can make the most interesting point about an issue in the most interesting and visually appealing way, you will have something that people on the web (or anywhere) will want to see.

From that point, making a living on the web comes down to:

1. Networking: people need to see and find your cartoon. Best way to make that happen is to get cartoonists who already have large audiences on the web to see and like your cartoon. They will mention it, link it, share it to their peers, friends and fans, and those people will come see it.

2. Having a reason for people to stick around on and return to your site OTHER than the cartoons. Share more of what you think, feel and do. Share your process via video or step-by-step. Share the opinion that made you draw the cartoon in other ways. If you’re a conservative politically, for example, BE the conservative you are on your site. Don’t hold back. This also applies to networking – find places with people who share your view and make sure they see your cartoon in some way.

3a. Sell advertising on your site. Do your best to have ads showing that your audience will find appealing. If your audience is large enough you can make good money just from this.

3b. Give your audience things they want to buy. Some of them will buy these things. If your audience is large enough, you should be able to make good money from this too.

There’s no guarantee of income, but that’s really the process. There is no secret.

The hardest part for most people is sharing their real personality and much of their lives apart from the cartooning, but that’s where the best webcomics people have the most power – their fans are there as much for (if not more for) their interesting personalities as their cartoons.

You’re going to need to really kick ass with your art and your personality.

#59 BTimony
April/1/2009
@ 2:41 pm

>>>Most of the television generation never thought they would pay for TV. Yet Today we have most huseholds spending $120 a month for premium content like HBO, Showtime and Sports packages so I think the internet wonâ??t be too far behind matching that model. Is it too farfetched to think that comics would become something bundled much like cable tv packages geared towards the tastes of the subscriber?

The problem with this argument is accessibility. You’re average TV watcher has no input on what goes onto the free channels.
With the Internet, literally ANYONE can add their own content.

Also, the Internet has unlimited channels. Maybe you’d be willing to pay for Premium Internet if Regular internet only had 13 websites, but that’s not how it works.

You can’t compare Internet and TV. They’re two entirely different animals.

#60 Jesse Cline
April/1/2009
@ 2:46 pm

“Is it too farfetched to think that comics would become something bundled much like cable tv packages geared towards the tastes of the subscriber?”

I think you are overestimating the demand for comic strips…

#61 Mike Deaven
April/1/2009
@ 2:48 pm

“Most of the television generation never thought they would pay for TV. Yet Today we have most huseholds spending $120 a month for premium content like HBO, Showtime and Sports packages so I think the internet wonâ??t be too far behind matching that model. Is it too farfetched to think that comics would become something bundled much like cable tv packages geared towards the tastes of the subscriber?”

Yes, I actually do think it’s too far fetched. I think you’re still thinking in terms of the Television generation, which is 1 generation to far. Coming back to the internet generation, Hulu. Hulu hulu hulu. Hulu is only a bit over 1 year old and is already the second most popular video site on the web. I am of this internet generation, and while my parents and all their peers have cable, I can count on 1 hand the number of people I know that are of my generation and have cable. Most of them watch Hulu, or, more unfortunately I suppose, pirate. And that’s for video content. Again, I think my generation, who has never paid for news, will have a very very tough time paying for printed content. Then again, I guess you could hope the TV generation is enough to keep you afloat? Something tells me the future of comics are not with them.

#62 Tony Pirto
April/1/2009
@ 2:51 pm

Wow, sorry for starting all of this with my first post.

I was just surprised to see Groth giving a talk, and the summary mentioned “how to sell your work online.” I didn’t see any speakers specifically talking about online business, so I was curious whether there were other speakers not listed.

I agree that it will be difficult for editorial cartoons to move to the web without undergoing some change. Perhaps the most natural thing to do is to morph into doing more traditional newspaper strips, but keep some of the themes of politics and commentary. This would allow them to embrace the webcomics business model better and also sell collections better.

#63 Kevin
April/1/2009
@ 2:54 pm

@Rick

Really? You think that the comic I read in the paper every day are PREMIUM content?! Not by a long shot.

#64 Kris Straub
April/1/2009
@ 2:54 pm

I think it bears saying that webcomics doesn’t work this way because it was the first and only dumb thing anyone tried. There have already been countless attempts to make webcomic sites pay-per-view, or subscriber, or micropayment, or premium, and almost all of them failed. If people look at it through a browser, they expect it to be free. It’s hard to combat that thinking.

And yes, I love Hulu to death. But the second they say “we’re moving to a pay model,” I’d stop going there instantly. I don’t love it that much to death.

#65 Layne Myhre
April/1/2009
@ 2:59 pm

Ok, so the answer to the tired old debate of “are webcartoonists REALLY making a living on the web?” is yes. Let’s put that aside and accept it as truth. However, their model is based on the creation of compelling content, and the problem for Editorial Cartoonists is that they AREN’T creating compelling content right now. Editorial cartoons tend to be tame and unexciting, because that’s what newspapers demand, and it’s what the industry has become.

A move to the web means that a comic can only survive on its own merits, and if people aren’t coming to see the site of their own accord, then no advertising or merchandising dollars can come in. The first step to monetizing your work is to make it speak to an audience. I think the wisest move for Editorial Cartoonists who want to move to the web would be to start a web strip on the side with MUCH more edgy content, abandoning the tired old tropes we always see in newspaper editorial cartoons in favor of more compelling content (Sinfest’s treatment of Barack Obama as a rock star, or Uncle Sam as a recovering addict, with wicked humour and slick artwork, is a good example of edgy political content), and grow that business while their current newspaper work is still earning for them, rather than to wait for the crisis to come. There IS room for edgy political strips in webcomics, without a doubt.

Alternatively, if one accepts the idea that online news services are the wave of the future, then Editorial Cartoonists should move towards doing editorial illustrations to accompany individual news stories on online news sites (the ones that are surviving, at least, like the Huffington Post or Salon.com). Individualized illustrations for specific stories are a good direction for editorial cartoons to go in, if someone had the wherewithal to approach these news sites and make the pitch.

That’s my two cents, anyway…

#66 Anne Gibson
April/1/2009
@ 3:01 pm

“The pack now, however is literally thousands of webcomics thrown out there on the internet, which, to many of us, makes it an impenetrable maze to wade through of horrifically bad stuff before finding anything of quality, such as Penny Arcade and PvP”

I totally agree that there’s an impenetrable swamp (maze?!) of horrifically bad stuff out there. I know, because I write horrifically bad stuff. Of course, I’m not trying to make a living off of it.

I can’t help but think of XKCD though, when reading about “wading through” the horrifically bad. Munroe’s comic started roughly the same time as mine (possibly earlier, it’s a heck of a deal to find dates on that site) and it updates more often. Its quality is 100x what mine is. As a result I receive AT LEAST two emails, comments on my blog, tweets, Facebook references, news article references, or post-it notes stuck to my desk PER WEEK pointing me to some comic or another on his site. In contrast, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that almost none of you have any clue that most of us swamp-dwellers are on the webcomics map, because our sites aren’t being passed around like a bad cold.

I don’t know how much money Munroe makes from his comic, or even if that’s his intent. If you’re producing an excellent comic nobody needs to wade through to find you. You float to the top and everyone can see you. The first folks who find you will tell their friends about you, and those friends will tell friends, until you’re popular because you’re good… and even those who don’t believe in selling teeshirts should be able to leverage some of that level of popularity in ad sales, book sales, or prints.

***
As an aside, I’d argue that Mike might be overlooking an opportunity for editorial cartoonists. Punditkitchen.com proves that there’s an audience for political cartoons and political humor. On the other hand, even Penny Arcade isn’t well-known outside of gamer, geek, and comic circles.

Political cartoons won’t fail because there’s no audience, they’ll fail because they’re not put in front of the right audience, or they’re not good enough to succeed even in that audience. If your online political comic’s going to succeed, you have to get it in front of people who enjoy reading political cartoons – either by advertising on politically-oriented sites or by striking deals with the owners of those sites to put your content right in front of their readers.

First, produce the very best comic you possibly can, consistently. Then, find a way to get your comic in front of your target audience. Then, figure out step 3. But if you can’t or won’t do steps 1 or 2, well, there’s some nice swampland next to me you’re welcome to…. I don’t even charge.

#67 Dustin Correale
April/1/2009
@ 3:01 pm

As an avid reader of webcomics, and not a creator, I can tell you that I would not pay to read a comic. Not even my “top 5”. What would you even charge to make it a reasonable price to a reader? A newspaper isn’t more than a couple bucks and the comics are a very small portion of the paper. Less than 1%. An individual strip would then only be worth a fraction of that percent. My brief estimated calculation of how much a monthly subscription for a single strip based off of it’s transitive value in the paper turns is like 3 cents a month. I guess $0.50/year is a pretty reasonable price, but I still don’t think I’d pay it. I’m more than willing to support the strip and I’ve spent way more than that on the webcomics I enjoy, but I just can’t imagine paying for the permission to read a comic strip, especially when there’s plenty of good free strips out there.

#68 Mike Deaven
April/1/2009
@ 3:07 pm

I think, as far as editorial cartoons are concerned, no one has pointed this out yet:

Comics and News are only linked by coincidence of medium, the newspaper. And so, comic strips and news, outside of that common medium, can (and probably are better off) exist separately.

Editorial cartoons and news, however, are also linked by coincidence of content. And I would go so far as to say that ECs are actually dependent on that content for context. That is to say, editorial cartoons without news along side are a bit like a fish out of water. I’d almost think the best bet for editorial cartoons is still amongst news on news websites, but I’m not sure the online news model has enough income to support the ECs.

#69 Kris Straub
April/1/2009
@ 3:10 pm

I don’t at all understand the argument that the glut of bad content somehow prevents people from finding good content. I have no idea how many search engines and meta-search engines are out there. I know the ones I use, and the ones I avoid. I’m not constantly finding myself at unusable, bad websites, with the truly great ones hidden away somewhere.

Sometimes I think that argument is used by someone who doesn’t want to accept that, maybe, their work isn’t really good enough to becoming anything online. So somehow it’s the structure of the internet’s fault no one’s reading. It is a hard thing to have to accept, for sure, but I can’t blame XKCD for somehow funneling readers away from everyone. If my content was as compelling, I’d be up there with him.

#70 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 3:13 pm

To follow up Mike Deaven’s #68, it’s important to remember that a newspaper’s motivation to buy comics and cartoons – to have content to show that the paper feels is relevant and fills page space – is entirely different from an individual person’s motivation to buy comics. There’s no “space filler/revenue generator” requirement in an individual person’s consumption of comics.

People want to be directly and consistently entertained. You really have to step up with a cartoon to make that happen, you cannot “coast.”

#71 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 3:16 pm

Kris Straub #69 ” I donâ??t at all understand the argument that the glut of bad content somehow prevents people from finding good content.”

It doesn’t – the way people find good content is that they find content they like, and then that content or creators of same point them toward other content that they (the creators) like. The people then follow the creators’ links and find new content that appeals to the creators’ tastes and hopefully their own.

That’s where networking comes in, folks. If Scott Kurtz likes your stuff, he’ll link to it. If Scott’s audience likes your stuff – and if Scott does, it’s a good bet they will too – they’ll keep coming back to your stuff.

#72 Dustin Correale
April/1/2009
@ 3:17 pm

Straub: “I donâ??t at all understand the argument that the glut of bad content somehow prevents people from finding good content”

Yea I really never run into the shitty comics. I mean, I don’t search in google for comics. I either hit them because they’re linked from a content site (ex, video games:Penny Arcade), linked on community sites, or linked from other webcomics. If a strip sucks, you simply just don’t hear about it.

#73 Paul Bixby
April/1/2009
@ 3:35 pm

The guys at Cox and Forkum did pretty well for themselves with a few books published for a couple years. They stopped daily updates a while back, but seem to collaborate for a sporadic one here and there: http://www.coxandforkum.com. Has anyone thought to ask them about their model?

#74 Rick Stromoski
April/1/2009
@ 3:44 pm

>>>See, this is sensible, but I thought that this was the kind of argument that got cartoonists looked down upon â?? in other words, if your comic strip isnâ??t making up 100% of your income, then youâ??re somehow faking it.

I don’t know where you would get this perception…
I think the majority of professional cartoonists diversify their efforts this way…I would also venture that about 50% of syndicated cartoonists supplement their income with freelance work.

>>>I thought that was the primary argument against webcomics: that they donâ??t count because the money comes from ads and being a T-shirt salesman.

I don’t think that ever was the argument “that their income doesn’t count”…I think what those in print are adverse to is the free aspect of the primary product (the feature) and the reliance on secondary products as the primary income. I think the fear is that fans will only buy so many books and t-shirts before saturation sets in and the unreliablity of that.

I’m not sure why Scott is so angry, since I thought through recent phone conversations he and I had buried some hatchets and were making progress in bridging some gaps. I even suggested to him that I’d like to see a web seminar at a future Reubens.

His interest in NCS wasn’t thwarted by one person, he’s publicly rubbed several professional cartoonists in that organization the wrong way but if you want to soley blame me I’ll fall on my sword. I hope he recalls my private explanations as to why it would be difficult for him to become a member, it has nothing to do with his business model. If that were the criteria he’d walk in and be welcomed with open arms.

#75 Anne Hambrock
April/1/2009
@ 3:45 pm

Whenever I read these threads that debate internet business models, print, web, etc. what I hear seems to often be a debate between being syndicated vs. being on your own.

As a freelance musician I have a couple of choices for my business model – I can be my own booking agent and either be in a musician’s union local or not – totally my choice – or I can sign a contract with a booking agent who will do all my hustling for me. With the first model I set my own rates, do all my own marketing and keep all the $. With the agent I don’t have to advertise or hustle nearly as much but the agent gets a huge cut of my $. I make a decent living being my own agent but there are a number of venues that are closed to me – they ONLY use agents. There are also venues that only use the musician’s union. I know musicians in my field that make a LOT more money than I do, not because they are more talented, but because they have hooked up with all the choicest gigs through their agents. That doesn’t bother me because I like being in charge of my business and I’m making enough to make it work for me.

What I am hearing from a lot of the syndicated guys is that they want to make a good living with a model in which the syndicate is their booking agent, leaving them the freedom to NOT hustle 24/7.

What I am hearing from the independent guys is that they relish their ability to not have to split up their $ with a middleman and they EXPECT to hustle 24/7 and accept it.

Where it gets pointless is when the independent guys seem to make the point that there is NO way to make money on the internet except their way.

I see the internet as an evolving entity – the rules are changing every day. Just because the current webcomic model seems to be working the best doesn’t mean it will always be that way and there is no room for other models to take hold.

#76 Kevin Zed
April/1/2009
@ 3:47 pm

Look I can see where these print guys are coming from.

Lets look at Radio Head and the Music Industry. Radio Head gave their newest album “In_Rainbows” away for FREE on their site and after they did that you can buy the album for like 0.01$. A lot of musicians and studio’s were upset about this because who is paying their bill? Nobody. However they can still sell out a concert and turn a profit with merch.

What raid head did is a lot like what Web cartoonists, are doing. We make money off books and t-shirts.

The problem with Editorial cartoonists is that how are they are going to make money? When i see an Editorial comic in the paper I read it and that’s then end of that. The only way I see it happening is that Editorial Comics are sold to blogs.

#77 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 3:53 pm

Rick #74: “I think what those in print are adverse to is the free aspect of the primary product (the feature) and the reliance on secondary products as the primary income.”

It’s been pointed out a number of times that the perception of print cartoonists that “the feature cartoon” itself is the primary, paid-for product is a fallacy, Rick.

I’m sure it’s hard to see that, and it’s not something that’s pleasant to contemplate, but if you own your feature, and especially if you get your originals back (or scan and send them in, thus never actually sending the original out), what you’re selling is the right to reproduce your art in print media.

Your original is of course not valueless, but until you hand it to a person who hands you cash for it, you haven’t sold the strip yet. And even when you do that, you DO NOT grant that individual person the right to reproduce the art as they wish!

You are not getting paid for your cartoon, although it seems like you are because you send it to your syndicate and they send you a check. You are getting a cut of revenue generated by reproduction of your strip in some other media, and that revenue is generated mostly by ad sales.

You have ALWAYS been paid “secondary” revenue. It’s not a bad thing! But really, let’s call it what it is. The perception that you’re selling your comic is a major barrier to understanding how webcomics’ business model works.

#78 Brett Higuera
April/1/2009
@ 4:06 pm

As someone who is neither a print nor web cartoonist comment?

The last time I cracked open a newspaper to read a comic strip contained therein was WELL before I got into webcomics. I thought, even at ten, eleven, twelve years old (however old I happened to be) that the comics insulted my intelligence with oversimplified, recycled humor, if they had any humor in them at all. I probably had a few years in between my transition from print to web, starting with a friend’s introducing me to VG Cats way back when.

Now, I am an avid webcomic reader. After hearing something about the fate of print from the Halfpixel crew, I went back to my father’s old collection of Dilbert, Opus, and Garfield books (which they label as some of the only good print comics out there) to see exactly why these things fail, or if they really are failing. Now, in my own opinion, this stuff is mindless drek that couldn’t entertain my ten year old nieces. Whether the print comic makers are ready or not to transition to web is irrelevant, as I believe their work needs to be improved before talks of self-sindication can start.

#79 Mike Deaven
April/1/2009
@ 4:08 pm

Jeff has an excellent point in #77. To say that webcartoonists give their content away for free is to suggest that they receive no ad revenue, because payments from a syndicate are derived from ad revenue, not art sales. In fact, many web cartoonists DO sell their actual original art on their site in much the same way that painters do. I’m not sure if print cartoonists are doing this, but if they aren’t, then you could actually make the argument that web cartoonists are making more money off their actual cartoon than print! Do print cartoonists often sell their originals as art pieces?

#80 John Q. Public
April/1/2009
@ 4:19 pm

Yes, it’s a pseudonym, but I want to highlight that I’m not a cartoonist in any medium, I’m a reader – and more importantly a customer.
I didn’t grow up reading the funny pages, because the paper my parents read didn’t have any. I encountered Schutlz, Davis, Watterson, Larson, Adams, Breathed etc. in my local bookshop, browsing the humour section. I don’t know how the income from book sales compares to the income from syndication, but that’s where the creators of those strips got money from me in my childhood, teenage and university years. In all that time I never bought a newspaper because of the comics it carried – it’s not an economically sound way of getting the strips.
A few years ago I discovered web comics, and was overjoyed at the revelation that there was all this free stuff on the web. I thought to myself ‘why buy collections, when the internet can be my bookshelf?’ And yet, perhaps because all these comics (and so much other material besides) was free, I now feel an indebtedness to all these creators for sharing their work (and in many cases their day to day lives), and want to show my gratitude by buying their books, prints, t-shirts, original sketches and other merchandise.
This summer, I’ll be in San Diego handing cold hard cash directly to Jerry and Mike, Scott, Kris, Dave, Brad, Meredith, Danielle (and others if my bank balance can take it). I don’t know how the profit they make on these sales is any better than the percentage the syndicated cartoonists get on their books, but it certainly feels that way. I don’t know if there’s a web model out there that works for everybody, but what I do know is that it works for (and more importantly on) me.

#81 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 4:30 pm

I missed this in my first read of your post #74, Rick:

“I think the fear is that fans will only buy so many books and t-shirts before saturation sets in and the unreliablity of that.”

This is absolutely a legitimate and understandable fear.

There is only one true way to combat the possibility that your audience will get bored with your wares: don’t make boring wares.

Just like anyone else who’s trying to sell anything directly to people, you will need to stay in constant touch with your audience’s moods, tastes, desires, fashion sense, etc. etc. You will not be able to stagnate. You will not be able to recycle the same old stuff. You will no longer have a guaranteed audience; you will need to work to build it and work to maintain it.

You will not be able to hide away in your studio and put out 6 strips a week while only interacting with your syndicate rep. If you try that, you will surely fail.

This is the core of the Web model. Do not underestimate the importance of social networking and interaction. It’s not only how your audience gets to know you, it’s how you get to know them.

Mind you, you don’t have to do this all on your own. You can get help, partner with someone who’s more of a PR person than you are, work with a team of other cartoonists who all contribute to one site. Penny Arcade has their business Svengali in Robert Khoo, maybe you can find someone who’s a bit like that. (Good luck finding a mastermind like Khoo though, he’s one in a billion.)

#82 Jolly Blackburn
April/1/2009
@ 4:31 pm

Wow. Just wow. Had no idea this topic was so heated.

We do well in both mediums (print and web). No complaints.

Then again we’re not out to conquer the world. Just big enough a slice to support four employees and cover 401ks/medical etc.

If print ever truly dies I’ll figure something else out.

I’m comforted by the fact there are still folks who make their living doing buggy whips/harnesses. So so there’s that. ;)

Jolly
Knights of the Dinner Table

#83 Kevin Zed
April/1/2009
@ 4:50 pm

Can somebody tell me; Why don’t you guys consider web cartoonists, cartoonists.

#84 Ben McCormick
April/1/2009
@ 4:51 pm

Editorial cartoons will have great difficulty ever transitioning to the web and this is a sad fact. When people read the paper and come to the editorial page it doesn’t matter which side of whatever issue is being addressed in the cartoon the cartoon is there in front of them.

To me the idea of the editorial cartoon is to make people who are either uninformed or on the opposite side of an issue think about the issue in a new light. On the web you can customize your reading experience so that you only visit sites that agree with you. Thus, if you are a conservative you don’t have to be bothered by the liberal point of view. If you are a liberal you don’t have to see the conservative sites. Everyone locks into their stovepipe and gets a very narrow view of the world at large. This was the great idea behind newspapers (whether they all held to it or not). Regardless of your personal view, here was the newspaper with differing opinions. There was a good chance you would read something you disagree with or that would make you think about an issue.

There is an overwhelming amount of crap in the land of webcomics, but there are also several shining stars. Much as Kris Straub said, I don’t hit the crap comics. I don’t google “comics”, I follow links from people I like or who’s opinion I respect to find new reads.

Editorial comics that “trick” the reader into learning new things will be the ones that successfully make the transition. I think a strip like Wiley Miller’s would transition well, where the “traditional” one panel single viewpoint cartoon would not. I think that, freed from the constraints of editors and little old ladies from Peoria, several newspaper strips would not only transition to the web but thrive on the web.

You are all cartoonists. You have a story to tell, funny, political, etc. You want to make your living from telling that story. Whether it is in print or on the web you want to entertain, inform or just express yourself. But change is coming. Many print cartoonists will find it harder and harder to make a living selling to a dieing industry. When they do, many of them will come to the web and when they do many of the web cartoonists that are barely squeaking by will find it harder to make it because the expectations of quality will shift.

Trying to break into webcomics right now is hard enough. Building an audience, building an income just competing with the existing pros. But add to that some of the better Newspaper cartoonists who will bring many new readers to webcomics when they transition to the web and it becomes a good/bad situation. Good in the fact that thousands of new readers will follow their favorite strips from print to web and hopefully find existing webcomics increasing readerships all around, but bad in that there are hundreds of super talented cartoonists that are print only coming to the web and raising the bar for many of us.

I have wanted to be a cartoonist since I was 5 and I read and re-read a battered old Krazy Kat collection passed down to me. I thought I had a chance when webcomics appeared and anyone could publish themselves. That’s when I learned that cartooning is more than drawing funny pictures, it’s an art of blending word and pictures, a craft to be honed. Someday I still hope to be a cartoonist and honestly I don’t give a good goshdiggity darn where I am published so long as I wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I make my living as a cartoonist. If that means I sell my own print collections and tee-shirts to do that, so be it. If it means I have to go to four or five conventions a year and actually meet my readers and interact them, so much the better.

Every creator in here that is making their living from cartooning, print or web, I envy you. I want to be like you. Newspapers are dieing everyday, crappy creators give up on webcomics and let them fade away everyday. I just want to be damned sure that COMICS don’t fade away.

#85 Philip M. Hofer (Frumph)
April/1/2009
@ 5:05 pm

Editorial Cartoons are the dredge at the bottom of the cartoonist pile. Not only do they represent shallow notions derived from the author of it; in itself, tends to be slanted and askewed. Void of representing any properties necessary for proper editorials – they also tend to be a moment behind the times, ha ha seen one you’ve seen them all from 90% of the editorial cartoonist out there. The only reason they still exist is over zealous publishers think that it’s nostalgia to keep them for prosperity so their kids could know how lame they are in the future.

Publishers need to save money and editorial cartoons, especially politically based should be the first thing they cut, they offer nothing.

Draw some satire with an editorial cartoonist as a fat cat, playing pool – having fun – not doing work and have a scrawny webcartoonist who has 10x as many fans open the paper to just say “I don’t get it.”

#86 Ben
April/1/2009
@ 5:12 pm

It’s like watching titans clash. Big names throwing weight around to no particular end. It’s a fun read though.

Here is an editorial cartoonist that I enjoy that solely works in a web format : http://www.filibustercartoons.com/

Is he successful? I have no idea, but I stop by his site regularly looking for updates.

-Ben Rankel
Three Panel Opera

#87 Anne Hambrock
April/1/2009
@ 5:19 pm

“On the web you can customize your reading experience so that you only visit sites that agree with you. Thus, if you are a conservative you donâ??t have to be bothered by the liberal point of view. If you are a liberal you donâ??t have to see the conservative sites.”

This is an excellent point and may be the real reason the future of editorial cartooning on the web will be inextricably linked to the future of “newspapers” on the web. If papers manage to truly create the sort of clearinghouse of original content they used to have in the old days in a new web format, having an editorial page with exclusive editorial cartoons will remain as relevant as ever.

#88 Josh Duff
April/1/2009
@ 5:19 pm

I’ve spent more money on webcomics then I believe my parents spent on newspapers in their entire lives.

I’ve spent more money on webcomics in the last 5 years than I have ever spent on music and movies.

Hundreds of internet comics entertain me on a regular basis (some of them are syndicated comics that appear on GoComics). I purchase something from them for some of these three reasons:
1. The comic/artist provide me with entertainment regularly
2. I want to associate myself with the comic/artist
3. I am tempted by an awesome product sold by the artist.

Non Sequitur is actually one of the few syndicated strips that I read regularly on the internet, thanks to GoComics’ RSS feeds. I do enjoy it a lot. But Wiley’s never made me laugh out loud the way Tycho Brahe’s news posts have, or tempted me with really awesome shirts the way A Softer World has.

I’m hopeful, though. And until then, finding a new webcomic (sucky or otherwise) is only a StumbleUpon click away…

#89 jhorsley3
April/1/2009
@ 5:27 pm

The sad truth? A lot of syndicated cartoonist will DIE OUT with the fall of newspapers. Accept it, it’s GOING TO HAPPEN.

making a living on the web is not easy, and it’s A LOT more work then doing a newspaper comic because you are responsible for EVERYTHING.

This thread holds a lot of piss and vinegar, but if all parties stopped bickering and just accepted the truth that things are changing and with this change some people will have to find a new way to make a living or re-think what they are currently doing to make it work in this ‘new world’

IF you truly have a ‘premium’ comic from the newspaper then you should have no problem moving it to the web and creating a brand out of it and making it work.

If your not will to adapt to the current times, which I’m sure all current web-cartoonist like myself will have to adapt to something new in the future, then stop wasting yours and everyone’s time and get a job.

2 cents worth from a guy who makes a web-comic.

#90 Jackson Lake
April/1/2009
@ 5:35 pm

good points, but the fact is webcomics will be the standard, and many give great content, penny-arcade and pvp and starslip are my favorites. The last time i picked up a paper and laughed, was….cant remember. point is, its sad to hold on to nice paychecks while the means of getting that paycheck is failing terrifically. sorry, but the smartest thing to do is making up to the webcomic guys.

#91 Tom Wood
April/1/2009
@ 5:36 pm

I think xkcd presents a viable business model for the web. The comic is free, there’s stuff to buy, and there could be advertising if he wanted it. A big part of what makes it work is that he also provides a gathering place for his ‘tribe’ in the forums. Huge traffic for a webcomic. The forums are the ‘extra’ that help keep people hanging around and coming back. Not that the comic itself isn’t brilliant too. And the artwork isn’t even ‘kickass’…

It’s not that hard any more to set up a website. xkcd is using phpbb for the forum, which is a free bulletin board program. There’s also vBulletin. Use WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System) and that’s free too.

#92 Kevin C
April/1/2009
@ 5:36 pm

I think most of the successful webcomics didn’t start off with the intent of making money. They started as labors of love. The traditional cartoonists seem to want some kind of guarantee that they will make money. That’s never going to happen. You can do everything right and still fail, that’s just life.

However, as has been mentioned, the key to success on the web is community building, not the comic. The comic is just the center piece to get the ball rolling. If you don’t have a community then you will fail on the web.

I checked out a few of the traditional cartoonists’ web sites and they have no community. No blog, no forums, no comments – nothing. If you guys want to succeed on the web, that’s step #1 on your to do list.

#93 Anne Hambrock
April/1/2009
@ 5:40 pm

“The sad truth? A lot of syndicated cartoonist will DIE OUT with the fall of newspapers. Accept it, itâ??s GOING TO HAPPEN.”

This is the sort of statement that is part of the problem with these threads – this foregone conclusion that newspapers are doomed. They will have to adapt to a new market – if they do that successfully they will remain relevant, if they don’t they will indeed be doomed, but to throw a statement like this out there as if you already know for certain everything that will happen in the future is ridiculous.

#94 Paul Graydon
April/1/2009
@ 5:53 pm

I found this discussion from Mike Krahulik’s twitter feed.
I thought I’d put that right out there from the start as a clear example of how to pull viewers to content.

Years of reading Penny Arcade and the cartoons they draw have shown him to be a voice I’m interested in hearing, even if I don’t agree with his and Jerry’s views all the time.
He posted about this, I was curious, so I followed the link.

That’s the highly successful Web2.0 model (and dear God I hate that moniker.)

There are so many sites out there that it’s near impossible to find people worth listening to, find news or good opinions, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Particularly with lots of bloggers posting their tuppence!

If I’m looking for specific things a search engine suffices, I can usually find what I want.

If I’m looking for interesting things to read about, or opinions worth listening to, I keep an eye out on what people are saying. I make a conscious choice to ensure I follow both liberals and conservatives too, but that’s more of a personal quirk.

If I find I’m going to a site regularly, or like what I see I’ll add it to my Google Reader (an RSS feed reader), so that I see every posted article, and I check Google Reader several times a day.

I do that with PvP and PA (amongst other webcomics) and whenever I see in the reader that a new comic is posted, I go look at the site and then the post behind it. That earns them advertising money. Being British, shipping has kinda left t-shirts and merchandise as a bit expensive, regardless of how tempting it is. I leave the critique to people better able than myself, though.

Here’s my (consumer, not producer) view on this:

If you’re producing content worth viewing, people will view it, and come back for more.

To get people in, you need to participate with internet users, interact a bit don’t just tell say “new comic posted.. http://mycomicsite.com“.
If you don’t say anything, no one will find you, no one will come.
PA’s ChildsPlay charity fund-raising is a good example of how influential the community they’ve created is, and they’ve created that by being interactive, by building up a web of trust, respect, and dare I say it adoration from some probably mentally unstable quarters :)

Political & Editorial comics have had a good and essential place in the world for centuries. They are a wonderful way to raise up a mirror to society, and historically have had the guts to say what people really think.

You are never going to be successful just posting a comic daily, you’ll need to provide some form of political commentary along with it. I’m sure some of you see the opinion columns in newspapers your cartoon is syndicated to and think “what a idiot, I could do better than them.” Talk about whatever is going on that lead you to the cartoon (a la Penny Arcade style) or opine about other social, political or life stuff, like say Scott Adam’s blog on Dilbert. It doesn’t matter which route you take, just provide more than a single item.

One final thought. Those of you that are syndicated are lucky. You’ve got a solid brand with which to trade on, a well established lure. You’re in a much stronger position than many web comics with which to establish your internet presence. You’ve done the hard work already of getting known, now you’ve got the wonderful opportunity of really capitalising on that to it’s fullest.

#95 Paul Walters
April/1/2009
@ 6:07 pm

I’m not really a business person, I don’t have a webcomic or a print comic, and I can barely scribble my name let alone create a visual image that anyone would be able to make heads or tails of. However as a reader I don’t know, maybe I can throw my two cents in and add SOMETHING of value.

I’ve read a lot of the posts here, most not all and I’d say that both sides have some good points or questions. Personally when I go to a webcomic one of the first things that will get my attention is exactly what others have been saying, if someone else links it. Sometimes when I am looking for a new read all I do is go to some of the webcomics that I already read and go through their links. One. By. One. I’ve found a lot of great comics that I still read through this method. Maybe something that these print cartoonists that may move to the web could do to find an audience is do the same thing. Find a comic you like or you feel is similar to yours and go through their links, send your comic to all these people. Maybe you’ll get a few links out of it, if not no harm no foul just try again.

As far as there being “top webcomics” and the like, I mean you never know there are tons of smaller comics out there that don’t update that often or might not be the prettiest but they seem to get by pretty well on what readers they do have. So what if your not the top dog? I say this as someone who has been reading Penny-Arcade for a long time, but I still find time to enjoy these maybe not so well known ones that float about the internet tubes. So long as people enjoy your comic and read it then you can always make out pretty well for yourself. Hell Norman Von Scott has his own website and puts comics aside from Hsu and Chan, which you may recall was in the now defunct Electronic Gaming Monthly, and even after the magazine went under he still managed to secure a position making comics for them on their website.

This is not to say there is any less love for print comics on my part either.

Not sure if any of this is at all worth saying or if it hasn’t already been said in one form or another, but there you go.

#96 John Eddy
April/1/2009
@ 6:16 pm

“Editorial cartoons will have great difficulty ever transitioning to the web and this is a sad fact. When people read the paper and come to the editorial page it doesnâ??t matter which side of whatever issue is being addressed in the cartoon the cartoon is there in front of them.”

Wait.

Why?

Seriously, why?

This suggests that the Internet isn’t a place for political discussion, or that people who have political discussions on the Internet have no ability or wish to see the other side of the issue.

You don’t think that HuffPo would be an excellent place for a few different editorial cartoonists, especially those who don’t want to deal with having to talk to fans, network or run their own website?

My major takeaway from this discussion is that there’s a potential business model for whoring myself out as a webdeveloper to design and host editorial/entertain cartoons to the print mavens who are too lazy (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, really) to do their own websites. If the only reason why print folks are unwilling to go to the digital side is having to run their own site… Well, heck, let me know what you’re willing to pay a month for hosting.

#97 Adam Proctor
April/1/2009
@ 6:27 pm

I have one piece of advice, and that’s for all syndicated cartoonists start building up their web presence immediately. You’re going to need to hire a 20-something web guru, get on twitter, and start marketing yourself properly.

No matter what you think your business model can be in the future, take the one that works now and start earning some side-income.

Next step. Start leveraging your current broadcasting resources. The web has been a niche market up until recently, that doesn’t mean you have to provide niche content. An excellent example to follow would be Adam Carolla’s podcast.

Adam Carolla doesn’t provide premium content. He’s probably not even a C-grade celebrity. But he had a radio show, and when the station was dumping it to switch formats, he broadcasted that he was going to start podcasting. His first week he broke the record on itunes for the most downloads of a podcast. Every single episode since launch has been higher than the record set by Ricky Gervais years before.

Before your paper goes chapter eleven, capitalize on the fact that you have access to millions of people.

Hire a 20-something computer science grad who’s struggling to find a job to hook you up with a cloud service so that you don’t have to babysit servers and digg integration and you’ll be making money long before you publication files chapter 11.

#98 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 6:29 pm

“You donâ??t think that HuffPo would be an excellent place for a few different editorial cartoonists, especially those who donâ??t want to deal with having to talk to fans, network or run their own website?”

Sure, HuffPo would be a great place for a FEW editorial cartoonists. I’d guess the maximum number would be four.

A few things would need to happen first though: first, HuffPo would have to decide, or be convinced, that they wanted to put editorial cartoons up as part of their content. This is possible but certainly not guaranteed.

Second, they would need to choose which cartoonists’ work they wanted – and know this, it would be all up to HuffPo who they included; they are in the position of power in the relationship, not the cartoonists. They could pick and choose the four very best political cartoonists in the world if they want to; all political cartoonists would essentially be even with each other as far as “stature” in the eyes of HuffPo.

Third, HuffPo and their chosen artists would have to work out contracts that paid the cartoonists enough to make a living from selling their cartoons to HuffPo. I’d call this one bloody unlikely.

If I were HuffPo, I’d do what newspapers do; I’d have a cartoon editor who would receive submissions from cartoonists and choose which ones ran. Then I’d pay the cartoonists just like a magazine does – spot rate for first publication and then maybe repro rights for a year. Probably pay something like $1000 per published toon, something in the range of the GAG going rates.

I might get 5,000 toons a week doing that; I would publish maybe 4. They would probably not be from the same cartoonists every week.

How many magazine cartoonists out there make their entire living selling cartoons to a single magazine?

The problem with this sort of thing is that you’re rolling the dice as to whether you make any money, dependent on the whims of an editor. This is a common money-making model for creative people, sure, but if a way exists to take control of your own income, why not do some work and take it?

#99 Theodore W
April/1/2009
@ 6:34 pm

It’s been proven that being on the web is a profitable business model. A modest comic with 20k readers a day generates anywhere from $30,000 (on the low end) a year up to $42,000. Most of the strips that have 8 or more years under their belts are pulling in 80k on up in daily readers. PvP pulls in over 100k readers a day and revenue (with merchandise) at least $200,000 a year (on the conversvative side. Business models like Penny Arcade that have a staff pulls in considerbly more. LICD has a staff of 20 or so. Considering the starting salary on the low end at $15k for each employee they’d need to make 300,000 a year just to pay staffing cost (and have done so for years). It takes hard work and talent and a loyal audience but the model does work.

#100 Tom Wood
April/1/2009
@ 6:34 pm

Hire a 20-something computer science grad whoâ??s struggling to find a job to hook you up with a cloud service so that you donâ??t have to babysit servers and digg integration and youâ??ll be making money long before you publication files chapter 11.

I understand geek speak now!

Hang around the right forums, and it’s like the scene in The 13th Warrior where he learns the language.

Yeah, just jump in.

#101 Drew Litton
April/1/2009
@ 6:39 pm

One of the experiments I’m trying since the paper I drew cartoons for folded (the Rocky Mountain News) is cartooning for my own website (www.drewlitton.com) (shameless plug, but, hey, I don’t have a job yet). I’m drawing local cartoons about the Broncos and the assorted other teams located in Denver. I’m interested to see if it can become a site that can be monetized, through ads, merchandise, teaching classes etc. I’m absorbing every thing I possibly can about optimization, marketing, merchandising and anything that has to do with getting the work out there.

The thing that most excites me is the interaction it gives you with the people who read your cartoons. And yes, I’ve read the Scott Kurtz book. As we watch the model for publlshing our work sink quickly into the sunset, we have to be willing to try new things. Would I rather get paid like I did at the News? Yes. But ask Garth Brooks, the Eagles, Paul McCartney, U2 and the entire music industry about what to do when the business model in your industry is broken. You adapt and try everything you possibly can to get the work out into the world.
And freelance your rear off.

#102 Alan Gardner
April/1/2009
@ 6:41 pm

Just a friendly reminder to use your complete first and last name.

Thank you all for keeping this civil.

#103 Jeff Zugale
April/1/2009
@ 6:48 pm

@ Drew Litton: Sweet! You get it! Your site looks like you’re going the right way.

You’ve probably thought of these already, but for discussion…

You should try to sell your toons to ESPN.com, the Broncos website, NFL.com, any Broncos fan sites, etc. etc.

Also, check out all the Fantasy Sports sites and magazines like Rotowire.com and the like. You might find a market there, too. A lot of the fantasy publications have one person assigned specifically to each team for reporting, so find out who the “Broncos guy” is, and email him.

#104 Phil Wohlrab
April/1/2009
@ 6:52 pm

“Hey Phil, maybe instead of mocking these books, you should try READING one of them. ”

I did, I bought yours. I also plan on getting one called (I think) “web comics for teens”. While the art in the book isn’t great it contains a flash animation tut that takes you through step by step.
I had hoped to see some more web site building in your book in dream weaver. A step by step for building any launching the site.

I agree if you want to be successful, you can’t be dependent on anyone else these days. Be it in the stock market or comics. But selling a “how to” book IS a money making venture. Nothing wrong with doing a how to book for some money.

#105 Alan Jones
April/1/2009
@ 6:56 pm

Aside from all the ‘banter,’ there actually appears to be a good deal of interesting info tossed around here. What seemed an important point (among many) was Paul Graydon’s:

“You are never going to be successful just posting a comic daily, youâ??ll need to provide some form of political commentary along with it. Iâ??m sure some of you see the opinion columns in newspapers your cartoon is syndicated to and think â??what a idiot, I could do better than them.â? Talk about whatever is going on that lead you to the cartoon (a la Penny Arcade style) or opine about other social, political or life stuff, like say Scott Adamâ??s blog on Dilbert. It doesnâ??t matter which route you take, just provide more than a single item.”

…This is the essence of the notion of “web biz model,” that is specific to Editorial cartooning.

I think everyone pretty much gets it by now you don’t simply scan and toss up a print-oriented creation and then advertise the fact, hoping to draw traffic to your web ads and products — which works spot on (as it should) for Scott K and others doing comic STRIPS.

Rather, you HAVE to create an evolved, Editorial cartoon product in the sense hinted at in Paul’s comment above. I don’t know the details re: what/how, but that’s what these economic times (and sometimes emotional discussions) are driving…the eventual emergence of such a product.

It’s tough to figure this next step in the industry but you just can’t rag about how it doesn’t work or how web models suck, blah blah.

Just do it.

Who knows — perhaps someone is out there right now experimenting and will maybe nail it or come close. Then someone else in this very discussion will see that, and the light will click and it will be taken to the next level, so so on.

#106 Bill Hinds
April/1/2009
@ 7:02 pm

Here’s some irony:

I’d like to read this thread, but I’m too busy working.

#107 Josh Duff
April/1/2009
@ 7:11 pm

That’s not ironic! That’s just unfortunate!

Related: I’m glad I read all the posts in this topic. Best read I’ve had on a forum-thing in a while.

#108 Brittany Lunn
April/1/2009
@ 7:26 pm

I lost interest at about #66 (sorry whoever that was, everyone is really going in circles), and there are a bunch of things I think need to be addressed as a reader of webcomics.
I literally waste hours of productive time every week reading webcomics and the other content of those sites or other sites of the creators of those comics. Some of those weekly hours are spent interacting directly, if briefly, with those creators.
I think the rousing success of New England Webcomics Weekend speaks to the strong connections between the artists and the readers in the world of webcomics.

Webcomics depend on the number of readers visiting the site. As that adage goes, the cream rises to the top. Taking a look at Wikipedia’s directory of self-sufficient webcomics, I read probably 80% of those comics, and am both delighted and inspired by them. Would I pay to read the strips? Goodness no, but I’ll click on the ads from time to time, and I’ve spent a small fortune on shirts and print collections of comics I’ve read online for free. I appreciate not only the work the artists put into their businesses, and the control THEY have, but the control I have to support only the artists I truly like. My tastes are different from those of every other internet user, but every user with an interest in webcomics has this control. The emphasis becomes the creation of beautiful, compelling, funny, and engaging work because the better the comics are, the more willing the readers are to come back to the site, increasing ad revenue, and when they can scrape the money together they might spend it on a shirt or a collection.
Purists claiming that selling t-shirts is not making money off the art itself. Not true. Designing a shirt is not slapping a couple of words across a plain shirt in Comic Sans. No one will buy that. I can do that better at home with a sharpie, and it will be funnier and in a less annoying font. It’s about creating an image with perhaps a couple of words that appeal visually to the reader, set it apart as clearly the work of ______, and make people who are unfamiliar with the comic ASK. For example, Jon Rosenberg’s “i am the kwisatz haderach” shirt. It’s a worm with that phrase under it. I bought it at NYCC ’09 and people stare at me uncomfortably until they can’t help but ask me what it means. It’s simple, but seeing Rosenberg’s art, it’s clearly his. My explanation is free advertisement for the comic, and maybe some of the people who ask are curious enough to check out the site. The art sells the shirts, and the art on the shirts has the potential to generate future revenue.
Webcomics have fewer restraints and limitations than the syndicated print format. The artist needn’t worry about obscenity or size. If you want to take three panels to editorialize on politics, sure! It’s your site. If you want to swear through every orifice in your body, go ahead! But make it good. This is far and away the most important thing about success in webcomics–if it is good, people will read it. I think there is a great opportunity for editorial cartoonist to expand his work. I’m thinking Jeffrey Rowland’s election coverage in his journal comic (Overcompensating), which consisted mainly of fictional “Kerry Edwards” running for President. Kerry Edwards’ shenanigans parodied typical–acceptable–election antics. The result? The funniest political cartooning I’ve seen in my entire life! Funny enough that you shouldn’t read them while drinking anything unless you’ve got the cash to replace your computer. But it calls for more than one panel and carefully explained symbols. Rowland is genuinely clever, and provides some great insights. Overcompensating is OFTEN topical, but it’s always with some lightness, fun, and greater insight than a symbolic statement of the obvious. What I’m saying is essentially that there IS a place for editorial cartoonists on the web, but it means working harder, making every comic better than the last. It means doing something a little different from what editorial cartoons have always done.
This same thing goes for other syndicated cartoonists. Would I click through ads for Garfield, Dilbert, Beetle Bailey, or any other comic I can find in a newspaper? No. Would I look through the archives? Probably not. The biggest thrill of seeing twelve years of Goats archives is seeing how Jon Rosenberg’s artwork has gone from two things that look like guys sitting on a thing that looks like a couch, cracking one-liners to infinite multiverses in full color that I’ll have to read a few more times to grasp completely. Those aforementioned print comics don’t show this evolution. The skill is consistent, but the goal was always to get good enough to be syndicated. The internet demands something more dynamic. It demands that the artist keep up with the thousands of other artists offering work on the internet. Every strip must be better than the last. The goal is not to get this thing done already, it’s to grow as an artist and to create for the love of it.
Honestly, readers expect the creators of the webcomics they read to be willing to interact with us. We’re not looking at voyeuristic, stalking-type readers wanting to know about the artists’ lives. We want them to share things with us, though. Do you have kids, how old are they, are they well, are your families well, is there something you are struggling with? Readers are willing to give a little more if an artist they love is going through a financial crisis. Financial crisis means getting another job, meaning fewer comics that aren’t as good. It also means that someone who does something that makes us happy can’t do that and can’t be as happy themselves. The interaction with fans has benefits, but only if the interactions are real and genuine. We’re not stupid, we know when someone’s just trying to get money from us. Example: I met the Dumbrella folks at NYCC. I had said something to Jon Rosenberg about the superiority of RockStar to Red Bull, and I presented him with a can of RockStar at the Dumbrella table. He not only remembered me, he was extremely nice to me and insisted that I take a sticker and a mini comic in exchange. I ended up buying two shirts and an action figure that weekend. I felt great, and from what I hear, a whole lot of the same sort of thing happened for everyone at New England Webcomics Weekend, leaving the readers and the artists in awe. Someone said something about all webcomics people being so nice. Hey, I bet a whole bunch of NOT-webcomics people are really nice too. But there’s not a culture of interaction between readers and artists in syndicated cartoons, so we might not ever know.

Anyway, if you skimmed that (I would have): webcomics are about always working harder to get better, interacting with fans, and selling stuff with your stuff on it. I used examples of how I’ve personally seen or contributed to that working.

#109 Josh Duff
April/1/2009
@ 7:38 pm

tl;dr

;-p

But seriously, paragraph breaks, people.

#110 Brittany Lunn
April/1/2009
@ 7:39 pm

Um…oops. I didn’t realize I wrote that many words.

#111 Alex Hallatt
April/1/2009
@ 7:51 pm

Mark Fiore is an editorial cartoonist whose work is perfectly designed for the web medium.
http://www.markfiore.com/

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was designed for web publication, but crossed over to book form because of its success.
http://www.wimpykid.com/

Both of these seemed to succeed because of compelling content, though the content was never paid for by readers on the web. That seems to be the basis of a successful web model and an inspiration for me as a cartoonist.

#112 Bill Hinds
April/1/2009
@ 7:59 pm

It comes down to:

“You’re dead!”

“Am not! You suck!”

“You don’t even know me!”

“You want to BE me!”

“Don’t either, cuz you’re dead!”

“Am not!”

Have I missed anything?

#113 Anne Gibson
April/1/2009
@ 8:00 pm

Kris Straub wrote (#69):

“It is a hard thing to have to accept, for sure, but I canâ??t blame XKCD for somehow funneling readers away from everyone.”

Oh jeez… I hope that what I wrote at #66 wasn’t interpreted to mean that I thought the successful comics were stealing readers from the unsuccessful ones. What I meant was that successful comics can’t be hidden by “unsuccessful” ones.

And maybe there’s a bit of a nod to the fact that not making money at drawing comics doesn’t mean you’re a failure, unless that’s your only goal.

But most of the big-name webcomic authors and printcomic authors in this thread have earned their positions. It’s no easy thing to gain an audience on the web OR to gain a spot in syndication. Even the print comics whose creators have long since died did something incredibly effective at some point to gain an army of readers who raise hell when an editor somewhere suggests it’s time to retire the older strips and bring in fresh blood.

Any professional comic artist who thinks his or her comic is going to get lost in the shuffle of dross on the internet either a) lacks confidence in their work or b) believes that they’ve become mediocre and fears having to double their efforts to shine again.

As for the rest of us (the amateur crew), we’re either learning to shine, or happy on the rung of the ladder we’re currently on.

#114 Charles Brubaker
April/1/2009
@ 8:56 pm

It’s debates like this why I’ve decided to quit looking at comics and pay attention to animation more.

#115 Jessica Brow
April/1/2009
@ 9:47 pm

I am a little surprised that more cartoonists are NOT following the model of PVP, PA, and LICD (and similar artists). I read about 20 webcomics. I don’t buy stuff regularly, but I think I have purchased things from nearly every webcomic that offered something. I get a kick out of explaining some of the shirts, or the flash of recognition from people who see a shirt and know what it means. And I have a computer table covered in stuffies and maquettes of my favorite characters.

There are a few webcomics I read that I WOULD buy products from if they offered them. Even if they were getting their products through a company that is taking most of the profit, they would be getting my bust to advertise on. The immediate profit would not be great, but the advertising would be worth it (this is no commentary on my bust).

I also read the editorial cartoons of David Horsey (of the recently web-only Seattle P-I). I have been reading them for years, and now that the P-I has gone to a web format, I continue to visit the site specifically to check for his cartoons. I would buy products from him if he offered more than books. Those I am not interested in. But he is a Pulitzer Prize (twice) winning cartoonist and there are a number of his cartoons I would wear as t-shirts if they were available. Most of his work is “daily news specific” but enough of it is not that I could come up with quite a few that I think would make great shirts/mugs/etc.

Interestingly, this could actually create a small but worthwhile revenue stream for the very cash starved P-I if he were to work through them, or more revenue for him if he were to do something on his own. I would hate to lose him as an artist, and he seems to be one of the few staff members the P-I kept on when they went to online format, but he can’t last forever with a newspaper that is no longer printing in paper.

The morale: embrace the webcomic model folks. It may not be what you are used to, but it will pay the rent in future years and the model you have now will not for much longer.

#116 Tohpe Davila (@daviladraws)
April/1/2009
@ 10:39 pm

If anyone even reads my post after getting through this thread I’ll be surprised, but to even be listed amongst such great on both sides is an opportunity I won’t pass on.

I spent about two hours reading this string in detail and thought every bit of it was worth while.

there always seems to be two sides to this argument, and I think that’s the inherent problem. Personally, I think this issue is all shades of grey rather than the black and white it is sold as.

the syndicate people (amongst I strive to join some day) range between “old school” and purely lack of information paralleled by deep interest.

the web people seem to have a decided lens that they view the syndicated people with, and coupled with a business model that fits more niche concepts that always yields more dedicated audiences.

There is what one says and there is what one means, and it’s usually two different things. LIkewise, there’s so much more difference between the arbitrarly defined “syndicate” and “web” than just business model. There is entrepenural experience (notice I did not way personality), niche vs wider audience, marketing models, different ways to view the craft, or even definition of the craft (to freelance or not to freelance), interconnectivity to audiences and each other, and more.

It’s more than just business model that puts ‘web” and “print” on different sides of the hill.

The base problem that I see is that both sides see the two models and the only options. I really can’t see why there can’t be a third way of doing business that borrows knowledge and planning from both. Perhaps a sliding scale that matches the artist. Milk or Orange Juice.. hmm I’ll take both thank you.

both sides seem to fail to see the power and attributes of the other.

on the “syndicate” side,

1) Distribution beyond the daily comic itself

Even the most ardent supporter of the “web” has to admit that the syndicates ability to call barnes & noble and put books in store nationwide is a powerfull tool not only for revenue, but also for gaining the occasional new reader . Certainly for feeding the existing reader.

I know one fellow creator that has his books in barns & noble and suddenly Diamond Distributors (the exclusive distributors for comic and specialty stores nation wide) is small change in distribution numbers.

2) Exposure, and instant exposure.

An earlier post asked if there were any web comics that have provided full time income.I’ve book looking quite closely, as it’s some thing of a business interest to me, and I’ve found that EVERY SINGLE ONE I’ve seen (which is not a sampling of all of them to be sure, and I admit that) had a push, a help.

The first ones to make it in web comics, PVP took to the established audience and name not branded by Kurtz but the web sites that first HIRED him to do comics. I belive a similar story can be said for Penny Arcade, though I can’t say for sure.

A later crop like Norm and Sheldon started out a syndicated strip. While it’s regretable that The Norm could not find feet with a pay model the fact that he was able to set one up for two years and sheldons grown success both had a boost, namely the readers the syndicates provided them.

Those “Web” comics that made it “on their own” did so because of existing web comics people promoted their work.

A syndicate and the readership it can garner can only help a comic strip artist. Now that syndicate can be an actual syndicate already established, it can be a “web” cartoonist that give you exposure, it can be running your strip in the syndicate then taking those readers to the web.

My point is that help and exposure from an established group when you are starting out can do nothing other than help a comic starring out and help place the book colllections and merchandise in places an individual simply cannot do on their own.

3) Well branded properties.

This point has more to do with the more well known and well established comics. But they have exceptionally well branded and culturally known properties that have amazing potential beyond the comic strip itself and the pull to make call to the right person.

on the “web” side

1) Technology is not just changing it’s changed already. That is true. New modalities of communication make me feel old at 33, I was that generation to grow up before the internet and some things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to catch up in some ways to the stock that came just a few years after me, and by few I literally mean 3 or 4.

Thus the existing models that the syndicates are using are outdated. I’m not saying they’ll die, or that newprint will die. things like this tend to adapt rather than die out entirely. What i AM saying is that they are no longer working to full potential of what money and exposure their properties (and may I say excetionally well branded properties) can yield.

The current syndicates NEED to embrace 2004 and realize there is so much possibilities they are passing up by staying only with the papers.

2) Same Content, new mediums

There’s so very much more than just selling books, and by that I don’t mean merchandise. I’m talking about getting the actual comics and artwork to people in different mediums as well as the same comics in different ways to read them.

Why the syndicates don’t have an iPhone or G1 app is beyond me. Get all your comics same a reading them in the paper.

For people that have this idea down merely check out DC motion comics on iTunes and Marvels to be line of the same. Same artwork. same writing, whole new medium.

2) current syndicate models and their well branded properties

Here’s where I step from potential that the syndicates have to some ideas.

Yes I know their current concept is not to sell shirts, but one cannot deny the money to be made from these properties based on the exposure the syndicates yields.

With the diversified cable stations, it’s a wonder to me why just about every comic isn’t some animation or at least commercial for related products, and I mean every one.

This I can speak on as I one of my diversified parts of my life is animation. I’ve more than brushed with Disney and produced a pilot and nearly a series for LATV, so this I can speak on.

Name me a non editorial strip and I’ll tell you where I could take it to make animation. Cathy – O Network, Get Fuzzy – Cartoon Network or NIckelodeaon depending on how they want to skew the writing. I consciously avoided the bigger ones like Garfield that can be sold practically anywhere.

Boondocks has already transitioned into animation and Over the Hedge is one of my favorite animated movies. Baby Blues and Dilbert have already been shows.

And Scott Kurtz, you and blind ferret did an amazing thing animating your strip. If you read this post, you’ll probably remember me because I’ll be the one talking to you and Blind Ferret why you aren’t already on Adult Swim with finished deliverable content.

3) The new is niche.

Current business models are not about getting a wider aucience it’s about getting the RIGHT audience, or niche. Find a group that like your story and you’ll have devotee’s more than willing to buy what you’ve got to sell.

I bought a knitted had for $35 dolllars, why it was Jain’s hat from Firefly.

If you can find a group to talk to they’ll feel special becuase you’re talking to them.

Why not have current syndicates instead of selling to one client, that is the newspapers, look at who reads the invididual strips and start courting them? Luanne to any given girls niche for just one example. Instead of one client, play on the strength of their diversity of their roster to be able to sell to LOTS of very different clients. This could be as ground breaking as new places to sell the same content to as simple as getting Luanne out of comics section and into the girls/young adult section of a book store.

I’m starting a clothing line. this is not an example I really have, that is targetted to the geek. I’ll have lines of clothing when I’m where I want to be that will have lines of post apocalpytic/zombie for the horror community, molecule ones for the sciece community, straight up super hero ones for the marvel/dc fan, and femenine designs of each for the girls – and don’t forget about kids.

I want anyone that walks by my booth to be able to like SOMETHING on the table or on my website.

Syndicates already have that amazing diversity of content and try to sell such a wonderful difeverse portfolio to just one client, the newspapers. that’s simply not how the current business world works.

4) just because the web is free the book isn’t

If people like the comic the read every day on the web and it’s one of their favorites, they’ll buy the book when it comes out. More so than reader that will buy the book of the comic read in the papers, but with the “syndicate” books in national book chains, you only need to sell a few books per store per week right? (I have NO idea on the math on this so this is on theory)

People are buying the comic it’s only a diference of when, daily when they read the paper and possibly when they see the book at a national book chain or get it “free” on line then absolutely when the book comes out.

Frankly either way people are paying to read it and the differences are much more arbitrary than both sides would like to admit.

I won’t even go into the discussion that web is ONLY free as the only option as I’ve rambled on long enough.

I know this is a long post and if you’re still reading it congratulations and thanks.

Closing

The main point is simply that I think the two sites need to recognize that both sides have exceptionally useful tools that the other doesn’t seem to recognize as tools, but rather foreign objects. Just because you personally don’t know how to use the tool or don’t have access to it doesn’t mean it’s not useful.

Also I really don’t think it’s an either/or choice. Granted I’m not in the middle of this professionally yet and some of this is theory, but really does it have to be only two choices? is there a reason there can’t be an third option that incorporates both sides benifits?

PS I consciously put “web’ and “print’ in quotes because even those I see as arbitrary. You can read “print” or “syndicate” strips online and you can buy printed books of the “web” strips.

PPS. Apologies for spelling errors. I typed this in the comment box rather than word where I could spell check my work.

#117 John Hernandez
April/1/2009
@ 11:39 pm

“Most (if not all) of us who are still making a decent living in print media could switch over to the internetâ?¦ and hereâ??s the key partâ?¦ WITHOUT having to deal with website maintenance and selling swag, where we can spend our time and energy on our work, as we do now, then weâ??d do it in a heartbeat. But such a model does not exist, to my knowledge. If it does, Iâ??m certain weâ??d all love to hear it.”
There is actually a place that is setup to do this that I manage (http://rampagenetwork.com).

What the Network offers talented creators is place where they only have to worry about the actual comic. The Network handles alll the technical maintenance of having a webcomic along with a large part of introducing newcomers to the Webcomics world by helping with promotions and advertising revenue setup.We have been in operation for 5 years now and currently have over 70,000 daily readers and over 4million monthly page views. We handle all the technical maintenance and a large part of the promotional. All our creators have to worry about is the actual comic production.

#118 Spenser
April/1/2009
@ 11:48 pm

Radiohead and NIN were fantastic examples.

Let’s be honest, we can all see where the future is headed.

#119 Alan Jones
April/2/2009
@ 12:12 am

Geez, haven’t seen this much verbosity EVER in a single topic forum. But it’s all good. Just bring enough food supplies to get through the read.

#120 Zach Weiner
April/2/2009
@ 12:50 am

Hi, I’m a webcartoonist.

I tripled my income in the past year, despite losing an ad supplier and despite the bad economy. There’s no way I could do that well if I didn’t have full control over my site.

100,000 people come to see my site every day. Not by accident, but by choice. If things go as they have been, that’ll double again in another year.

So, at least for me, the web thing is working quite well.

#121 Michael Patrick
April/2/2009
@ 1:07 am

Well, I’m late to this party, but the only thing I want to adress is the contention that PVP and Penny-Arcade are unique experiments that can never be duplicated. There are many many web cartoonists that make a living soley from their comics now. True, it is unlikely that any of them are having as much success as those three guys, but they are MAKING A LIVING. Some examples include- R. Stevens, Meredith Gran, Charlie Trotman. There are three off the top of my head. These people did not follow any secret magical formula to making a living through their work other than good ideas and hard labor.

#122 Irene Pitcairn
April/2/2009
@ 1:17 am

It’s extremely rare that one idea is so great that it will make you a living for the rest of your life, but it does happen. Life is Good t -shirts have one little cartoon man who is so appealing he made his creators millions of dollars. So there is that end of the spectrum.

A series of disconnected images is almost as unlikely to work. Even a good cartoonist/designer would be hard-pressed to come up with something to put on a t-shirt (for example) that would sell for its own sake, on a regular basis.

What works much better and is much easier is to come up with a series of ideas that people will revisit on a regular basis and become fond of. The image of Tycho on a shirt will sell not for its own sake, but because for readers the image brings up so many warm fuzzy memories of awesomeness.

So the question is, how do we build up a world around our ideas which ties them together, and pulls people not just to come, but to come back again and again?

I do this the obvious way, by writing fiction – building up literal worlds, setting characters in them that at least I like, telling my opinions in metaphors. A lot of cartoonists are political in a strip form that allows them to tell a compelling story structured around their commentary. But there are certainly ways to build context around your ideas without straying too far from this world.

Editorial cartoons are put into context by newsworthy events, and currently associated with those events by being side by side with them in newspapers. This can be done on the web to some extent, but certain things will change, simply because of the more direct associations that are possible on the web.

Penny Arcade is successful in being an editorial comic because it is on a site that people come to for their news about video games. It helps that the comics are funny, intelligent and unabashedly crude on occasion, and it helps that Mike and Jerry’s personalities are present not only in the comic but throughout the site. But what brings it all together is what’s on the front page of the site, their take on the things that are happening in the gaming world.

News of every kind will always be in demand, and I think there will always be a way for cartoonists to profit from that. But because in the internet age, we only look for the news we want, there may not be a centralized system for placing those comics with the news they will benefit from.

On the other hand, that diversity will enable cartoonists to specialize, to focus on a smaller audience that shares their interests, and hopefully their sense of humor.

It strikes me that this is similar to a magazine model. Many magazines sell subscriptions both in print and on the web, and some run comics. Just a thought.

But if there is going to be any kind of paid syndication on the web, it will still be comics thrown in for free with another product, whether it is a free article or blog that makes money off of advertisements, or material paid for by a subscription or similar.

Editorial cartoons cannot stand on their own. They need a network. Their current network is failing. A new one needs to be rebuilt in order for them to survive. If editorial cartoonists want to continue doing what they do when their printed network fails, they need to step up and create their own networks, at least until a larger network is put in place that will support them. But the individuals and their experiments have to come first. The internet is not going to change its shape all of a sudden and start handing them regular paychecks. The network has to be invented first.

#123 Zach Weiner
April/2/2009
@ 2:17 am

I actually think a really good editorial cartoon could do just fine.

I do broad humor, so I can only charge low rates for my ads. If I had my audience size, but was marketing to (say) Republicans, I’d probably be a millionaire.

I think if someone did a really good editorial webcomic, he could make a damn fine living off a fairly small amount of ad sales. For that kind of targeting, you can get 5-10 dollars cpm. That means you only need 20k pageviews a day to make a pretty good living.

It’s not super easy, but it’s by no means impossible.

#124 Manny Peters
April/2/2009
@ 4:06 am

This thread has made me decide to become an editorial webcartoonist. ;)

http://twitpic.com/2penw

(Not really, but it’s fun watching a discussion degenerate into a catfight and yet somehow get back to sensible dialog.)

#125 Mike Peterson
April/2/2009
@ 4:39 am

“Mind you, you donâ??t have to do this all on your own. You can get help, partner with someone whoâ??s more of a PR person than you are, work with a team of other cartoonists who all contribute to one site.”

To start, I’m with Bill Hinds in not having the time to keep up with this thread through the day. But that’s in part because I tried the freelancing route years ago and gave it up for a regular paycheck at the 9-to-5 editing gig. What I discovered was that freelancing is about 20 percent writing and 80 percent selling yourself and your services. Honestly, I felt that if I were going to do that much selling, I’d rather sell something like real estate or cars that people value more than writing. (Yes, I recognize the current economic woes for all three.)

But to drag this thread kicking and screaming back to editorial cartoons, the above comment makes some sense, because I could see a kind of “Six Chix” model for a website that would team a small number of like-minded editorial cartoonists. Consider:

Daryl Cagle’s site is good for him but I suspect the huge mass of individual cartoonists means that each cartoonist doesn’t get a whole lot out of it beyond the potential to be discovered by new readers — which is not to be despised but doesn’t pay the bills.

At the same time, as has been noted by several here, an individual editorial cartoonist may not be able to draw the size audience required because of not having a cast of characters readers can identify with, and because one-off cartoons tend to blend into each other like Stephen Wright jokes. You chuckle, but they aren’t all that memorable.

Now, Doonesbury, which is social/political commentary, could do well on the web because of the characters. And there are many successful web cartoons that resemble Doonesbury in using a cast of characters to comment on the world. But that’s not what we think of when we talk about “editorial cartoons.”

But I do think that, if maybe a half-dozen like-minded editorial cartoonist formed their own web site and each provided a solid cartoon once a week, then took turns for the Sunday masterpiece, and provided some chat along with their cartoons in order to bring readers into their world, it could succeed.

Within a reasonable definition of “success,” of course. It would take quite a while before the site would provide all six of them with a full living, if it ever got to that point.

But it beats putting your stuff out there and getting nothing back. And it may beat trying to live in a 9-to-5 world that is becoming just as unsure as this proposed model.

#126 Will Templeton
April/2/2009
@ 6:18 am

Paying for content in webcomics can work, but it, again, has to be an ancillary business model. Tim Buckley tried it at one point with the CAD Premium service, an attempt to charge for animations starring the characters. He got many subscribers, but the service ultimately failed because the product he provided became sub-par after the first couple of episodes.

A few of the Halfpixel guys recently started using Assetbar, a micropayment service, to distribute extra content that ordinarily would be the bonus content in a book or that would never see the light of day. It’s an opportunity to leverage assets that would otherwise go wasted, and it’s content that fans are extremely interested in seeing.

All of this speaks to Mike Krahulik’s point that people have to love your content for it to work. I am sure that there is a large portion of any webcomic audience who have never purchased any merchandise. However, Penny Arcade endures today as a solid business model despite that. It’s not as if Penny Arcade hasn’t made a few mis-steps in their model, either – in fact, it makes a nice case study. Having failed to get the strip published in print, they flourished online. When the company that was hosting the strip went under, Mike and Jerry had to fight to retain the rights to their strip, and after that, ran the site for donation for a period. When they did so, there was a backlash from the community. Despite loving the content, and the donations being directly paid to the creators for support, the readers were resistant.

There are people who would pay a subscription to webcomics. But they are firmly in the minority. In order to make money, you need to turn to these side-projects, but as long as your core content is enjoyable and something that people want to identify with, you can survive, likely comfortably.

#127 Noah Rodenbeek
April/2/2009
@ 7:30 am

I’m shocked by the amount of online flaming that is going on by such high profile players here. I’m waiting for Stan Lee to come out of nowhere and start foaming out a rant. You know? It’s like any minute now John Romata Sr. is going to start bad mouthing webcomics.

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal, When 60,000 people come to Abell-con you can give me shit..”

Mike and Scott, you guys are the key players for webcomics but you hardly speak for all of its participants. It’s actually kind of disenchanting to see you posting so pompously.

#128 Bearman
April/2/2009
@ 9:22 am

“At the same time…an individual editorial cartoonist may not be able to draw the size audience required because of not having a cast of characters readers can identify with, and because one-off cartoons tend to blend into each other like Stephen Wright jokes. You chuckle, but they arenâ??t all that memorable.”

I disagree. The cartoonist becomes the brand rather than the characters. The web gives the EC the opportunity to delve into what made him/her draw the cartoon in the first place and interact with the readers. Borgmans old blog was a great example of this. I don’t have the skills or the name recognition that many here have but I have built a strong consistent audience that visits regularly simply because of my willingness to interact.

#129 Just ChimingIn
April/2/2009
@ 9:47 am

I showed up on this thread from a Twitter post by Mike Krahulik. Just goes to show you.

I stopped reading at around #60, because it just became too long and redundant. So I apologize if this has been written since.

I am not a cartoonist. I am a cartoon reader.

Most of the people here that are resistant to web-based comics seem to be under an odd impression: that one can make a living simply by producing some work and waiting for a check to magically show up in the mail. I have no idea how you people have managed to make it so far, but consider yourselves lucky. Nobody else, in any business, has that luxury.

Comment #4 seems to indicate the undercurrent of most arguments:
â??Dude. Thatâ??s a pile of pennies you made. Those pennies wonâ??t pay my bills – I need piles of dollars. What else ya got?â?

You are completely missing the point. Can someone truly tell the difference between selling 50 copies of a book at 10$ a piece versus getting 1 penny for every one of 50,000 visitors? Both will get you a 500$ check.

The web model is exactly, completely opposite to the print model: in print, you reach a small number of people for a large amount of money; on the web, you reach a large number of people for a small amount of money. The first step in making it on the web is accepting that.

The second step to making it is to treat it as a business. The only way you can make money on the web is if you build a *business* on the web. Posting a comic strip is not enough.

A comic, as most people seem to understand, is worthless. Sorry, it just is. Nobody, and I do mean *nobody*, will ever pay you just to create a silly little comic strip. What makes money is everything *around* it. Do you really think your political one-panel comic sells newspapers? Do you think selling newspapers is how a business stays afloat? Do you think selling comic books is how publishers make money? If you do, you’re in for a serious shock.

Comics don’t make money. Newspapers make money by selling ad space. So do comic book publishers. The comic itself isn’t what makes money, it’s what DRAWS PEOPLE IN to reach the content that makes money. Strips in newspapers and books are what grab consumers, make them buy in, so they can be exposed to the ads.

Can you make money by posting your comic on the web? No. What if you put ads? Depending on what they are, a little (Google AdSense will help a bit; Penny-Arcade selling web space to game publishers helps more). What if you create products around it? Now you’re talking. Between ad revenue (the pennies a day) and selling merchandise (books, t-shirts, coffee mugs, whatever you can think of) you have a business model that will allow you to pay for your house, your car, your kid’s college fund and hire ten employees. You think it’s difficult to create merchandise? Have a look at http://www.cafepress.com

Is that selling out? Is that below your moral high-ground? Are you too good of an artist that you cannot pawn your intellectual property on t-shirts? If you think so, then it’s time to look for another job, because the one you have right now is dying and the only solution you can see won’t feed your family.

If you can accept that creating a web comic means starting a business, being your own boss, and taking on the responsibility of making that business viable, then you have a shot. Not an overnight shot, it will take a while, but then that’s the case for every single business out there, regardless of the market they’re in.

Seriously, do you really think you can switch from paper to web overnight and not miss a mortgage payment? Do you think you can open a restaurant tonight and be rich tomorrow? Web comics is a business, just like every other business in the world.

I really hope everybody in this group can get passed the prejudices and get over old grudges to see where the future lies, and accept help from others who are already on their way there. I love comics and I would hate for a misplaced feeling of superiority (“paper is better than web”) to kill them.

#130 August J. Pollak
April/2/2009
@ 11:04 am

I honestly have no idea what set Scott Kurtz off on his Atlas Shrugged-esque anger in #37, but it’s disheartening to see someone so successful in his field appear to be so spiteful about it. Being very angry at a handful of people who didn’t respect your talent five years ago seems like a really lame rationale for openly laughing and taunting the entire decline of an industry. Christ, I’m a PVP fan AND a cartoonist, what day did I shit in someone’s cornflakes ’cause I’d like to apologize for that.

I also don’t know where the “you don’t own your own properties” stuff started, especially in light of the cartoonists being most hard-hit from the decline of the print industry are the alt-press and editorial cartoonists, not syndicate-owned character-based strips.

But I also think Mike K. deserved somewhat more respect for making a more sensible and less spiteful argument for a web-based model, as well as admitting what a LOT of web-based artists do not: that they do not directly make money off of a comic per se, but through the merchandising and other projects revolving around it. I think that an explanation from one’s point of view as a businessman, as opposed to two cartoonists having a traffic/salary/success prick-waving contest is a thousand times more productive, and it was kind of tragic have that turned into flamewar so quickly.

Ultimately, I kind of agree with the strip Mike made on Wednesday, just not the over-arching offense at the industry on it. Saying that ALL editorial cartoons are awful and aren’t worth being profitable is just as insulting as he probably finds the comments that ALL webcomics are terrible and not worth a profit stream.

I was talking about this privately with some people, and I think the irony here is that Mike is, himself, an editorial cartoonist. His genre is video games and the tech industry as opposed to politics. Penny Arcade itself is proof that the concept of a commentary cartoon is not a dead medium.

I agree with Mike re his first comment here about his business model. You can’t really argue that Penny Arcade isn’t a success. But the tension here seems to be a lack of perspective that having a successful business model and expressing how your business can be successful doesn’t instantly dissolve the problem of a pre-existing business being on the decline.

#131 Irene Pitcairn
April/2/2009
@ 11:30 am

All right, now that I’m awake and thinking properly, I can state my conclusion better, and add a couple more things.

The thing about the Internet is there really isn’t one business model that works best. A lot of people see it as infinitely more worthwhile because they can tailor their strategy to their product and their audience. The thing is, this takes not only work but knowledge and experience.

Editorial cartoonists have every reason to be dubious about switching to web-based distribution. It’s one of the areas that hasn’t been explored well. They are asking successful webcartoonists about their strategy and a lot of what they are hearing is “develop your own strategy.” It’s good advice, but it’s daunting.

Another thing that’s being said in lots of different ways is “put your work in context.” There’s a lot of arguing up there about what kind of context works best, but the answer is the kind that works best for you. A cast of characters works very well, but so does interaction with the author. What matters is that there is a personality there, someone the audience can get to know and looks forward to hearing from.

What also works is getting your work in next to other content with this kind of following, which would parallel the newspaper model and be more comfortable for cartoonists who aren’t used to putting themselves out there. But there isn’t going to be a uniform system that makes this work for some time, perhaps until the newspapers actually fail.

My advice to a political cartoonist: If you aren’t making a living in newspapers, give the web a try. If you are, but you want to be prepared for the future, put yourself out there. Start a blog, network, something. If you’re comfortable in newspapers and afraid of change, go ahead and stay. By the time the newspapers fail, the pioneers may have paved a way for you.

#132 Jeff Darcy
April/2/2009
@ 11:38 am

WOW! I’m a bit stunned by the ugly open hostility towards the editorial cartooning profession by many posting on this thread. And how some of them, portraying themselves as experts were unaware of the success of Cagle’s MSNBC site or that syndicated comic strip creators have owned there features for decades.

Here’s a few more facts. An editorial cartoonist working for a major daily paper reaches over a million readers a day in the print edition alone. There work is often one of the first things readers say they turn to. It’s not uncommon for there work to get mentioned on the local top rated morning radio shows not to mention CNN and MSNBC. They already have a well established built in market and name recognition before they even go on the web. Something an unknown cartoonist starting form scratch on the web lacks. Given that already established market recognition the idea that a professional editorial cartoonist has zero or less of a chance of being successful on the web than an unknown and untested cartoonist is laughable.

I don’t read graphic novels or comic books but I have professional respect and appreciation for those art forms which seems to be sadly lacking from some web cartoonists,posting here, towards editorial cartooning.

#133 Barry Deutsch
April/2/2009
@ 12:11 pm

Do you really think your political one-panel comic sells newspapers? Do you think selling newspapers is how a business stays afloat? Do you think selling comic books is how publishers make money?

Comics donâ??t make money. Newspapers make money by selling ad space. So do comic book publishers. The comic itself isnâ??t what makes money, itâ??s what DRAWS PEOPLE IN to reach the content that makes money.

There are plenty of comic books which make money through sales, not advertising — virtually the entire graphic novel movement, for instance, one of the few areas in which comic books have been growing rather than shrinking. Meanwhile, the kind of comic book you’re talking about here — thin ones with lots of ads — is in deep trouble. (Marvel Comics just raised the prices of some of their comics from $3 to $4, which is not something they’d be doing if their business model was what you’re describing.)

I’m really attracted to the web cartooning model, and if sales of my upcoming graphic novel tank, my next step will be to try to make a go of it as a webcartooinist. It’s obviously not easy, but I think that web cartooning offers more hope for cartoonists beginning their careers than print cartooning, right now.

But it’s disheartening, as August says, to see that many of the web folks here (both fans and creators) are convinced that they know a lot about the business of print cartooning, when it’s obvious that they don’t know nearly as much as they think they do.

* * *

Like many of the people in that thread, I doubt that there is a place for editorial cartooning on the web, using either the alternative-newspaper-like once-a-week model or the big single-panel model.

Maybe I’m mistaken, in which case the webcartoonists here can correct me. But I think nearly everyone who has made money with a comic strip on the web has done it with frequent updates (minimum 3 days a week, and 5 a week would be better) and featuring continuing characters it’s possible for readers to care about. Because as far as I can tell — and I’m no expert — the model for making money with comic strips on the web doesn’t necessarily require a geek niche; it’s creating a strip that people will grow fond of, and check as part of their daily routine, and that builds up content rapidly enough so that you can come out with a new book every year.

It is possible to do a political strip in that format, as “Doonesbury” did in newspapers and “Day By Day” does on the web. (Is it because Day By Day is right-wing that lefty poltiical cartoonists have shown so little interest in it as a model?)

I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t think other models of political cartooning will be able to bring in a living for creators on the web.

#134 Eric Millikin
April/2/2009
@ 12:23 pm

Zach Weiner writes “I actually think a really good editorial cartoon could do just fine [on the web].”

And he’s absolutely right. Political cartoons on the web have done very well, for me, David Rees, Chris Muir, etc.

#135 John Cole
April/2/2009
@ 12:47 pm

Hi guys! Just got here! Did I miss anything?

#136 David McGuire
April/2/2009
@ 1:48 pm

I think the problem here is that the syndicated cartoonists don’t understand what the web argument is.

The web argument is NOT “webcomics is the only business model that works” but “webcomics is a business model that works for some people.”

We’re just saying that newspaper syndication of comics, specifically, has an expiration date. Not print publication of comics.

Heck, I can even see newspapers themselves thriving in some form in the future, but not with comics included. Why would even they need to include comics or movie reviews or crossword puzzles or recipes or classifieds with the news? You can get all of those in other places these days. And I’m not talking about the internet.

#137 Scott Kurtz
April/2/2009
@ 2:38 pm

Here’s a political cartoon for you.

A cemetery, with a tombstone in the foreground that reads “Syndicated comic strips” and below that, the URL for this thread.

with lady liberty crying in the background.

#138 Mark Tatulli
April/2/2009
@ 2:48 pm

The shunned boy sat in the back of the classroom, head pressed to the cold desktop, his forearm blocking his lowering brow. “Someday I’ll show you…,” he muttered under his breath, the sweat darkening the too-tight shirt his mother forced him to wear, “someday I’ll show ALL of you!” Yes, he would have his day; he would stop their laughter. And he could wait. Soon…Soon….

#139 steve skelton
April/2/2009
@ 2:49 pm

Something sinks. Everyone check your shoes.

#140 Patric Lewandowski
April/2/2009
@ 2:51 pm

making a comic, no matter where it is presented to the audience, comes down to simply working hard. you work hard to make a good comic and you work hard to get people to read it.

i don’t think anyone has a good business model for political cartooning on the web yet. but, if i may speculate, i think when it does come (and it will) it’s going to also need a lot of blog support. it’ll probably be a site with the cartoon, a blog with some opinion pieces, and links to original coverage of events that inspired it all.

and it’ll all be surrounded by ads and links to buy prints of the cartoon, as well as the cartoon on merchandise. and it’ll have to be daily.

i think the biggest thing about comics is that reading them becomes a habit. i read the comics in a paper out of habit. i visit certain websites out of habit.

#141 David Emerson
April/2/2009
@ 3:04 pm

Scott Kurtz,

All you’ve accomplished in your commentary in this thread is losing a lot of respect. You, sir, are not some prophet from the future with a vast and wonderful understanding of a magic business formula.

Do you have a plan for what you’re going to do when people don’t access information over the static web? You’d better get started on one or else you’re going to be getting hit with insults from some self-important young guy who was lucky enough to get in early.

You, Scott Kurtz, are not the end all be all of webcomics, or even making money from webcomics. You are one guy who has successfully monetized his creations, and whose success can be largely attributed to his professional associations.

Syndicated Gents,

Scott Kurtz is not the elected representative of the webcomics community. I feel a lot of the dismissive attitude towards a successful webcomic model stems from the attitudes of some of the more successful folks such as he.

Several of you already have what Mike Krahulik has identified as destination location property, you just haven’t built the store yet. Ease yourselves in now.

#142 Noah Rodenbeek
April/2/2009
@ 3:12 pm

You know one political comic I never miss?

http://www.theonion.com/content/cartoon/mar-30-2009?utm_source=featureband

It’s just like realeastate; location, location, location. You want to succeed in the new business model a good place to start might be distancing yourself from failing business models, i.e. any website with a newspaper name.

#143 Bill Hinds
April/2/2009
@ 3:15 pm

A lot of web cartoonists have posted here.
Really, really long posts (although Scott Kurtz was very succinct).

Just to be clear, none of you would accept a syndicate contract if it was offered to you?

By the way, the continuing references to death have lost their dramatic impact. Surely, you talented web writers can come up with other creative euphemisms.

#144 Noah Rodenbeek
April/2/2009
@ 3:19 pm

p.s.- “Hi guys! Just got here! Did I miss anything?” Very nearly pee’d my pants when I read that comment from John Cole.

#145 August J. Pollak
April/2/2009
@ 3:22 pm

Hereâ??s a political cartoon for you.

A cemetery, with a tombstone in the foreground that reads â??Syndicated comic stripsâ? and below that, the URL for this thread.

with lady liberty crying in the background.

Jesus Christ. This is the first interaction I have with a cartoonist who’s work I’ve read for four years, and all I can think of now is Harvey Keitel’s line from “From Dusk Til Dawn” about being so much of a loser you refuse to see what you’ve won.

David in #141 is totally right. I made a valid attempt at a rational argument and instead, for the first time in my life, the concept of “losing respect for someone” isn’t just hyperbole.

#146 Kris Straub
April/2/2009
@ 3:33 pm

#143: Just to be clear, none of you would accept a syndicate contract if it was offered to you?

I would not. The only possible benefit would for my strip in the newspaper to act as advertising for my website and its existing business, but even that’s not enough of a plus for the trouble of dealing with a syndicate.

#147 Mike Cope
April/2/2009
@ 3:35 pm

Speaking as a cartoonist who uploaded his first comic to the Internet in 1995 (while I was still in high school), I’ve never considered myself anything more than “a cartoonist.”

Sure, I’m guilty of using the title “professional cartoonist,” but only as a subtle reminder to people that I file yearly tax returns based on the income I earn.

My point is, these perpetual pencil and stylus pointing arguments are as futile as drawing an imaginary line in a sandbox during a windstorm. We’re all building our own fragile sandcastles here … Quit digging moats before someone gets wet!!

#148 Jeff Darcy
April/2/2009
@ 3:52 pm

Barry #133
I’ve worked for newspapers for over 20 years now. So I know what pays a papers bills. I was trying to make a couple simple points

I don’t get all the hate on this thread towards editorial cartooning
I thought this was a blog for people who enjoyed,respected and admired cartooning in all it’s forms, period.

It’s disgusting to read some cartoonists dancing on the grave of the editorial cartooning profession of people with families to feed and mortgages to pay. Grow up and show some class. Your web comics are cool but your comments here have been very uncool.
I applaud those on this thread who have chosen to give professional advice about the web that is actually informative.

For those who would write editorial cartooning off on the web -all I’m saying is don’t forget or ignore the fact that an editorial cartoonist on a daily has already developed a market, a brand, and name recognition that they could transfer to a web based business. A leg up that an unknown and untested cartoonist
doesn’t have.
I wish all those web cartoonists out there loads of success and recognition. We should wish that for everyone in this field. We all know what it’s like to have started off doodling in some notebook wishing that one day we could do it for a living or at least a paying hobby- so haters, give it a rest .

#149 Ted Rall
April/2/2009
@ 3:54 pm

One question for Scott Kurtz:

Why do you hate editorial cartoons and editorial cartoonists? If Rick and/or NCS were mean to you, fine, but they’re comic strip people. What did editorial cartoonists ever do to you?

Even if editorial cartooning were dying (and that’s the most ridiculous assertion ever, given that they’ve never been read by as many people or as influential or as good, but whatever), why do you care one way or the other?

I lied. I have another question for Scott:

Would you be willing to release your signed 2008 federal income tax return, complete with all schedules, attachments, and amendments? I’ll show mine if you show yours.

And now an observation:

The webcomics model won’t work for political cartoons for a simple reason: they’re POLITICAL cartoons. Politics isn’t a niche, unless you’re a libertarian. The whole point of a political cartoon is to reach as many people as possible. Even if a political cartoonist were to successfully market to a niche of hardcore admirers willing to pay hundreds of dollars for his laminated farts, what would be the point?

And finally, this:

Even in a state of total meltdown, as staff cartooning jobs vanish and syndication lists get decimated and newspapers close, print cartoonists are doing hundreds of times better financially than webcartoonists. The success you tout, in other words, is less impressive than our worst nightmares.

#150 Rick Stromoski
April/2/2009
@ 3:58 pm

>>.Just to be clear, none of you would accept a syndicate contract if it was offered to you?

A few years ago Scott Adams made a casting call for a ghost artist to take over the art duties for the now defunct feature of his restaurant partner “Unfit”.

A most undignified scramble ensued where aspiring cartoonists clamored to provide unpaid samples to Adams where he posted them on his site and had the public vote on their favorites…a humiliating exercise to say the least. No professional cartoonist worth their salt would ever consider participating in such a fiasco yet Adams found many willing to humiliate themselves for a chance at the brass ring. Ultimately no cartoonist was chosen and the feature died.

Amongst this group were several recognized web cartoonists, some who’ve been deemed quite successful by their standards, who didn’t hesitate at the chance to prostrate themselves for a chance at syndication.

#151 James Spencer
April/2/2009
@ 4:26 pm

No worries to all you syndicated cartoonists out there. Just buy “How to make Webcomics” by Scott Kurtz. It’s a great book which gives you a blueprint on how to become successful on the web. You are just one great idea away from $300k a year (Scott’s figures).

#152 Cedric Atizado
April/2/2009
@ 4:28 pm

Well, to be fair, Scott does the same thing sometimes to other webcomic creators. At least twice now I was happily reading sites like LICD or Schlock Mercenary when suddenly I see him in the comments section, attacking something or other the site owner has done or said.

Scott, seriously, you’re a good guy for what you’ve done in the webcomics industry, but sometimes you do tend to mouth off more than necessary. Some people in the industry refuse to acknowledge certain facts. If it’s not affecting you or anyone else in the webcomic industry, you should just really let it go.

Some people get it. Some don’t (or won’t). And that’s okay.

But to get back to the actual conference…

Will the panels be recorded and posted somewhere? Perhaps youtube? I have no plans on becoming an editorial cartoonist, but I do have an interest in what some of the panelists have to say.

If Amazon is currently working on a new Kindle with color capability, then that is something that might just revolutionize the entire publishing field and once again people will need to adapt their business plans.

#153 Cedric Atizado
April/2/2009
@ 4:37 pm

“A few years ago Scott Adams made a casting call … chance to prostrate themselves for a chance at syndication.”

How long ago was that?

Because a few years in the webcomics world is sometimes enough to turn someone from a hobbyist to a major success.

Submitting free art to other websites with a bigger readership is also one of the ways to elevate your own traffic.

Free is not a big concern to webcomics nor is it a humiliating thing to be ashamed about.

#154 Derf
April/2/2009
@ 4:40 pm

This is like watching a fight break out at the Nerd Table in the junior high cafeteria!

#155 michael Patrick
April/2/2009
@ 4:41 pm

So, what is the argument again? I’ve read almost all of this and still all I get out of it is-

PRINT CARTOONIST: My way of life is going away with the death of the newspaper.

WEB CARTOONIST: Have you tried the web?

PRINT CARTOONIST: No cartoonist can make a living on the web

WEB CARTOONIST: UH-huh! I do!

PRINT CARTOONIST: No you don’t

WEB CARTOONIST: You suck!

PRINT CARTOONIST: No! YOU SUCK!

Not that I have any influence or anything, but I think it’s time for web cartoonists to pull out of the discussion.

Webcomics can and do make money. How much is not entirely concrete, but it is some. One cartoonist I know (Not Kurtz or Krahulik) has specifically told me that they are making enough to live. Quite a few others are apparently doing at least that much.

What I do hear from print cartoonists is that either the money available on the web is “pennies”, not “dollars” or that to make a living on the web one has to do more than just draw a comic.

Well, if you are right then DO MORE. Or don’t. No one is going to do it for you. Other than that I really don’t know what else there is to say on the issue.

#156 steve skelton
April/2/2009
@ 4:55 pm

The Nerd Table. I like it! Great name for a comic strip. Remember comic strips? I encourage all of you to get inspired and make a comic strip called The Nerd Table. Remember inspiration? Even though TheNerdTable.com is unavailable.

This ends my encouraging post.

#157 steve skelton
April/2/2009
@ 5:00 pm

Another encouraging post:

If all of the really quality unsyndicated cartoonists out there were to stop giving away their content for free and band together and form an Onion of sorts that would feature quality comic strips, there would be an opportunity to make money if everyone pooled their resources. I really think the Onion is like the business model we should look at. The Onion is making money, and they are free. Shoot, we might even move into newsprint!

This ends the second of my encouraging posts.

#158 Kevin Moore
April/2/2009
@ 5:11 pm

Speaking as a political web cartoonist:

If a syndicate presented me with a contract, I would give it a serious look and consult with them on a long term business plan â?? especially in an environment where cities and towns are losing major papers, the VVM has ceased running cartoons, and liquidity in the global financial system remains largely frozen. You need a plan.

But I wouldn’t write off the print industry, because the online business models for news organizations are unprofitable or, in the case of a Huffington Post, reliant on news organizations based in other media (print, television, etc.) Print will not be the dominant medium it was in the past or even return to its status of 20 years ago; after the least adaptable organizations die off, the remainder will take on their market share and new independents will arise to serve more specific demographics that emerge as part of the increasing diversification of our society.

Kurtz and whoever can mock political cartoons all he wants, but they are locked into a clichéd notion of political cartoons, old formulas with no ideas (kinda like the GOP these days.) The political cartoonists I admire look for new ways to satirize serious problems. I have nothing against gaming comics â?? being a sci-fi/fantasy fan, I can relate â?? and I thought the Penny Arcade send-up was hilarious; yet despite the short shelf life of current events, what could be more ephemeral and masturbatory than your childish little world, Kurtz?

#159 Gypsy Honey
April/2/2009
@ 5:17 pm

There is so much information here. Some people would only skim this much, but I wanted to be fair, so I took the time to read every post. Also, to be fair, I confess that I’m not a fan of political cartoons; however, they are a form of the comic/cartoon medium, so they should be given the respect of every other cartoonist out there. If I was a cartoonist, I would want to recognize the fact that we all put our work out for everybody to see and criticize every day.

What I’m sensing today is a deeper feeling of entitlement, and not the good kind. I can’t put my finger on it, but this whole argument seems to be an elaborate %^&*-showing contest. “How many people see your stuff?” “How much money do you make?” “I make more money on my own.” “I’ll always make more money with a syndicate.”

But I also get a specific hostility that feels like a parent-child relationship. On one hand, we have a centuries-old insitution; on the other, we have an old art in a relatively new medium. Both sides give off a vibe of “we-have-the-right-way-to-do-things-here’s-the-money-to-prove-it”. If webcomic writers are successful, who says that print comic writers can’t be? Is it really hurting either side to continue making money the way you are? If comics on the web don’t want a syndicate, does it hurt the print comics who do? If print dies, will the print comic authors just shrug and say, “Oh well, better get another job?” I highly doubt it. Maybe I don’t have the right angle on things.

(But to contribute an opinion, I don’t think print will ever totally die. I think it will continue to be severely reduced in the coming years.)

Is this all about how comic artists make money? Or is it this nebulous feeling of superiority that everyone’s fighting about?

#160 Charles Brubaker
April/2/2009
@ 5:18 pm

“Ultimately no cartoonist was chosen and the feature died.”

I remember that Unfit contest. There were actually some respected cartoonists submitting, if I recall (one of them was Dave Kellett of Sheldon, believe it or not).

And an artist was chosen, but since the strip ended anyway, it went nowhere.

#161 Josh Duff
April/2/2009
@ 5:19 pm

I disagree with Ted Rall when he implies that the internet is only good for releasing information to niche markets.

People come to the internet for everything now. The more groups something appeals to, the more people will visit a web site about it.

If you really think that politics (and political cartoons) are not a niche market – that the majority of people are interested in them – it should be easy to market them on the internet.

The most followed Twitter account is the CNN news feed – a source of extremely general (not niche) information.

#162 Josh McDonald
April/2/2009
@ 5:21 pm

Steve’s Second Encouraging Post actually hits pretty close to ideas I’ve been batting around for a while now. I definitely believe that the future of cartooning on the web will involve collaborative efforts and poolings of resources. Some webcomic collectives are doing this already, and I’m pretty much convinced that the future of comics will evolve from that model.

#163 pete murphey
April/2/2009
@ 5:44 pm

This inspires me to make web comic about a syndicated cartoonist.

#164 Corey Pandolph
April/2/2009
@ 5:44 pm

I refuse to take part in these mind-numbing arguments! I… Wait… DAMMIT!

#165 Daniel Ball
April/2/2009
@ 6:04 pm

I’m not a comic artist or writer or anything to do with the field. Just one of those silly fans that goes to Krahulik and Kurtz’ websites every single day, because I don’t have to pay for the generous gift they give.

I sincerely doubt that an editorial comic could make a living the way they have being published in the newspapers. Perhaps going to those same news agencies who are going to the web?

For those who *aren’t* doing editorial comics, I’d see more hope. Take Phil Foglio for example. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but he went from print comics to the web and has tripled the sale of his print comics because of it. The internet is unfathomably huge, and can put your work on display for a far larger audience than a simple newspaper, even if that newspaper is read nationally.

The web is a vicious place, and trying to make money of it is a trial by fire. If you’re good, and you market yourself well, and you stick together like the webcomics did years ago (most of the webcomics I read now were linked in some way from another, be it in one of Krahulik’s tyrades. There is not much market for editorial cartoons, they dont’ say anything we haven’t already heard in debates or read in news articles.

I also know that a lot of those comics I used to read have stopped, either due to a lack of interest or poor marketing/networking. So really … it’s possible (for some of you) but … good luck, you’ll need it.

In regards to all the posing and preening and bickering: I remember, years ago, when web comics were being shunned by the print comics, I remember them being treated like the little kiddies table at a fancy dinner. I remember some rather not nice things being said about them simply because they had the foresight to use something that is not going away for a very long time to make their livings. So why be surprised that they’re hostile? Even now you treat them the same way, from what I’ve seen here.

#166 Manny Peters
April/2/2009
@ 7:10 pm

MICHAEL PATRICK: Don’t forget:

WEB CARTOONIST: No body goes out of their way to read editorial cartoons.

EDITORIAL CARTOONIST: Actually–

WC: And once the newspapers disappear you’ll have no job.

EC: Well, actually there’s lots of other formats that use–

WC: Besides, 20 years and you couldn’t make in on the web anyway.

EC: But we’ve had a couple hundred years of tradition in print so we really didn’t need to bother for the most part. But Graeme MacKay and Mark Fiore, among others, seem to do well on the web.

WC: One panel just doesn’t work.

EC: But what about Bizarro and The Far Side?

WC: Yeah, they’d work on the web, but not editorial cartoons.

EC: What?

WC: Nope, nope, nope.

;)

—-

I’ll say this: Myself, I don’t read editorial cartoons. Once in a while I’ll have a friend forward one, and maybe see one linked in a forum but that’s about it. I read a handful of webcomics (you could probably guess them easily) but I’ve never bought a single product from them. You know who gets my money? DC, Marvel, Image, Vertigo. I really have no reason to buy anything from a webcomic because I read their comic on-line for free. I guess my regular visits drive their traffic and such so I guess that’s one contribution.

But that’s about it.

I don’t get this myopic belief that editorial cartoons have no market. No audience. Or the ability to sustain itself on the web. That, somehow, the notion of a singular voice pushing a point of view–one that apparently will offend some, if not most readers–is unique to editorial cartoons.

It’s not. Web comics also offer a singular voice and have been known to offend.

Listen, just because you have no particular interest in a particular flavor of cartoon (regardless of method of delivery), that doesn’t mean there is no audience for it. That’s a pretty egocentric view if you ask me.

#167 Phil Wohlrab
April/2/2009
@ 7:47 pm

“A most undignified scramble ensued where aspiring cartoonists clamored to provide unpaid samples to Adams where he posted them on his site and had the public vote on their favoritesâ?¦a humiliating exercise to say the least. No professional cartoonist worth their salt would ever consider participating in such a fiasco yet Adams found many willing to humiliate themselves for a chance at the brass ring. Ultimately no cartoonist was chosen and the feature died.”

I did participate in that scramble, not because I really wanted to draw unfit, but because It was a fun exercise. No one is going to be jinxed because they participated in a contest. It was fun to see what people came up with, as we were all redrawing many of the same strips.

That contest was the best thing to come out of that feature. Justin Thompson won that contest btw.

I don’t do anything without getting paid today, but that’s because I’m not drawing comic strips… HAH! KIDDING!

#168 David McGuire
April/3/2009
@ 1:21 am

@Manny Peters (#166)
Your post reminds me of this: http://shmorky.com/d/20060619.html

#169 John Ross
April/3/2009
@ 8:45 am

I was also brought to this by a twitter post and I enjoyed reading it. Now I would like to throw my own thoughts forward:

1) I’m in Calgary where the local papers have stopped printing most of the big name comics in the papers themselves, instead they print smaller (and less funny – at least to me) names and a link to their websites. http://lifewise.canoe.ca/Comics/
I’m not sure how long they have been doing this as I picked up a paper last week and was shocked to find all the comics I’d already read online gone. As far as I could tell, the local newspaper had only six or seven local opinion stories and the rest of it was from the national desk. And most of that was opinion stories as well… The amount of news in the newspaper was depressing.
For me, in my local market, print is dead.

2) I haven’t paid for a newspaper in my life, now at age 31 that actually means something. Growing up my parents would get the newspaper and I would read the comics, and as I got older the news sections that mattered to me. Then Calgary got a free internet dial up service. I never looked back. I do not know of anyone who is under the age of 50 who still gets the newspaper daily.

But I do look at 49 websites before I leave for my day. I have written a little macro that pulls them up one at a time for me. The list used to be over 100 but I had to cut down years ago when I completed university. Non Sequitur is on that list of websites I visit, as is bizarro and Starslip. I also own most of the collections from those artists.

I do not see the editorial cartoons in my reading. I also don’t understand the bitterness towards them, but I know that I cannot be the only person who has not laid eyes on an editorial cartoon in over ten years.

3) Webcomics live because of their fans. Print comics live because someone thought they would become big enough to have fans to leech off of. All I can say is that I hope that I can continue to read those artists I enjoy for free online because I will not pay to read them.

Not quite as useful as I had hoped when I started typing, but going to post anyway.

Thanks for the good read, I agree Scott Kurtz is loud but it doesn’t make some of his points wrong.

John Ross
Wants to join the webcomics as a creator but hasn’t had the courage to throw his art up and work on making it loved.

#170 Scott Kurtz
April/3/2009
@ 9:09 am

Ted,

No, I won’t be sharing my W2 information with you, but you know that, which is why it was safe for you to ask it as some manly challenge to me.

When I was younger, my father told me “Son, it’s nobody’s business how much you make every year except the IRS. Telling people that number will only breed resentment. Either they’ll resent you and you’ll resent them…”

“…what’s important is that the people you care about are making a comfortable living, putting money aside for savings and a retirement and never have to worry.”

He also told me how important it was to do what you love.

I’m writing this from Seattle, where I am a guest in Mike Krahulik’s house. This house is bigger than any house I’ll ever own. And when I leave here I’ll hug him with a tear in my eye and say “I’m proud of you.” because I am.

Kris Straub is living in his first real solo apartment. His cubbords and fridge are bachelor-bare and his computer is set up on a card table. He works a part time job during the day. When I leave his apartment, I hug him with a tear my eye and say ‘I’m proud of you.” Beacuse I am. And Kris is where I was 10 years ago and he’s on the right path and he has a bright future ahead of him.

What would the point be of comparing our W2s? Other than to breed un-needed resentment and sew doubt in some of us. What would it do besides needlessly divide us?

Ted, it’s some print cartoonists in this thread who want to compare paychecks like dick sizes. Nobody in webcomics cares who makes more. We know that some people make more than others. What we care about is that our friends, colleagues and peers have comfortable and happy lives, with a nice savings account and are preparing for a future where they can retire one day with a healthy bank account and a satisfied life.

If I were to show you my W2, or if Dave were, or if Penny-Arcade opened their books, what would you truly say? I think the request is just another avenue for you to dismiss us.

I suspect you would say “Well, that was just one year. Show me your W2 for the last five.” or “How much of this was money from your CARTOONS” or “Well, you’re an outlier serving a niche so this doesn’t count.”

There was a time when a lot of us were so eager to become a part of your peer group and share info and learn. And most of you dismissed us as idiots or charlatans. So when Rick Stromoski starts sending me “Let’s meet up in New England and discuss how to save comics.” and “boo hoo, let’s end this fighting and collaborate on a project” that I feel confident to tell him to go climb his thumb.

When I told my buddy Kris that Rick sent an email asking me to have dinner with him in New England to discuss the future of comics Kris’ response was “Yeah. Tell him to meet you at TGIScaredofthefuture.”

As for why I dislike editorial cartoonists? I don’t. I’m sure they’re very nice people. I hate most of their work because it’s lazy work. Most of what your AAEC members produce would never survive outside an environment where people are reading it simply because it’s there in front of them. Your membership is hardly putting out compelling material right now.

Editoral cartoons have never been LESS relevant. That’s why you’re all losing your jobs so easily.

What you should talk about at that convention of yours is how everyone needs to stop mailing it in and start getting scared, really fast. Because nobody on the internet cares about anything beyond how funny, engaging and delightful to look at TODAY’S comic is.

And you guys are not going to cut it in this world. Not for very long.

#171 Patric Lewandowski
April/3/2009
@ 9:38 am

not to put fuel on the fire— aw heck, whoiamkidding….

i was thinking a lot about editorial cartooning because of this thread. and these are my personal feelings about editorial cartoons. not the cartoonists! i’ve met a lot of you guys (like paul fell who’s good friends with my buddy dave phipps) and i’ve been to NCS meetings, so i don’t feel any animosity in my local chapter.

love love love.

anyway, my feelings on editorial cartoons is that i don’t much care for them. it’s not because of their single panel nature or their opinions. it’s for 2 reasons. 1.) i rarely find them funny / insightful and 2.) i think if you need to write a word on the picture you drew to tell us what it “is” or “represents” there is a failure in storytelling ability.

about my first point: i think the best editorial cartoons are made because the cartoonist has a real opinion or belief. they are offering the public a unique thought on a current situation. but, the worst is when it’s just a rehash of something in the news without a personal opinion or insight. now, i haven’t bought or read an actual newspaper in 3 years, but when I did, I was an avid reader of the opinion /editorial section. I don’t remember a lot of laughter at the cartoon there, OR a lot of thinking about what it “said” to me.

on my 2nd point: i’m a really big “storytelling theory” wonk. i really dislike it if a cartoon or a joke has to be “explained” by the cartoonist. i feel like “labeling” a visual metaphor (no matter if it’s a tradition) weakens the metaphor. i really like it when i don’t have to be told externally what something is. the cartoon should explain itself and express itself.

these are my opinions. once again, about the comics, not the cartoonists.

#172 Manny Peters
April/3/2009
@ 10:10 am

You know, playing devil’s advocate, if Scott switched the term editorial cartoonists to web cartoonists with his opinion (#170 where he says: “I hate most of their work because itâ??s lazy work… stop mailing it in…”), it would be pretty accurate.

When are web comics going to mature beyond pop culture/gaming references and vapid plot? Scott mentions EC’s mailing it in… how about copy/pasting? God there are so many examples out there of web comic artists where their laziness is so blatant, that their characters are off-model to the point of dislocated body-parts.

And they’re using pre-existing artwork!

ECs may be a dying breed (and maybe they’ll adapt)… but I think it’s more of a technological issue that they have to overcome when doors start closing. But I have a feeling that good deal of today’s web comics are going to hit a brick wall sooner than later when they realize all the work they’ve done to cater to a very particular audience is lost… you can only do movie references for so long before people get tired of it. When the next big thing arrives, will they be able to adapt?

Imagine the impact the printing press had on society centuries ago. People literally fought (violently) against the advances of technology because hundreds of people would lose work over it.

Today, you argue over it on a comments section of a web site.

#173 David Emerson
April/3/2009
@ 10:30 am

Scott,
So because a print cartoonist shunned you 5 years ago it’s okay treat all print cartoonists as hostile? This argument doesn’t hold water. You’re using the same black & white mentality you’re accusing your abusers of.

As for editorial cartoons, I think it’s pretty obvious they can’t exist without editorial. The internet has made editorial so commonplace and disseminated that there’s no way to tie your cartoon to an editorial and grab the eyeballs necessary to warrant a decent paycheck. What you need to be doing is coming up with inventive news aggregation models that use your comics as key components. Make your comic the primary and the news ancillary.

For instance http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/4/3/ currently makes little sense outside of the hardcore console geek community, but Jerry Holkins will make a corresponding news post later that will explain it. Even though I “get” it (PS3 chat capabilities), I’ll still go back for this post because it flavors the comic, but the comic doesn’t flavor Jerry’s post.

#174 Alan Jones
April/3/2009
@ 10:55 am

Hmmmm…

I want to get a comic strip in print (when I actually am ready to submit) because to me that’s the pinnacle for would-be cartoonists – why? Because of the elite club it actually is – I want to be in that club. You achieved a difficult and rare thing. Cool.

AND…

I want to have a comic strip on the web (when I finish building the web site)and have lots of people see it and come back and say ‘cool/funny strip’ – why? because if it is decent material, people will come back and say ‘cool/funny strip’ , people in the print world will eventually take notice, maybe make offers for other income/exploitation schemes (whatever the dream situation may be). Who knows, I may sell a tee-shirt or print. Cool.

Either way would be simply great. I prefer both.

However I see where newspapers are headed, and if ‘print’ correlates to newspapers, well, we know what’s going to happen. But I still want to be an elitist print comic strip artist!

But that doesn’t have any correlation to working on a web comic.

The fact is, there’s a TON of Web comics out there. Some are not so good. That’s simply the statistics of the beast.

The fact is, generally speaking, what is in print is considered the filtered best of what was submitted in terms of the overall industry, so inherently is an exclusive group, who [can, maybe usually do] make decent $. Elite– yay!! I want it!

The web venue does not provide for that pre-filtering. So yes, there will be more crap than decent.

The fact is, the web-comics ‘filtering’ that takes placeis real-time: if it’s entertaining, funny, whatever-the connection-to-the-reader-is, they will return. Otherwise they don’t. That’s avery nice thing because it’s a natural process.

(Scott’s #170) “Because nobody on the internet cares about anything beyond how funny, engaging and delightful to look at TODAYâ??S comic is.”

An obvious fact. Of course there are probably some who think it’s their civic duty to stay informed/seek out political opinion’s etc. Good for them.

But I see the growth of the medium. I plan on being there. If I were in print now, and an EC guy, I would be thinking about how to evolve my product. Maybe the very nature ECs will change to fit the times.

So what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with wanting/doing both print/web? Nothing. If you’re a smart cartoonist, seems to me, you’ll get on with it, dual channel.

#175 Derf
April/3/2009
@ 10:59 am

Wow. This squabble at the geek table in the junior high cafeteria is getting serious. Kurtz got so upset at Rall, he swallowed his retainer!

Good thing vice-principal Stromoski was nearby to apply the Heimlich.

#176 Paul Douglas
April/3/2009
@ 11:04 am

Scott Kurtz said above:

“Hereâ??s a political cartoon for you.

A cemetery, with a tombstone in the foreground that reads â??Syndicated comic stripsâ? and below that, the URL for this thread.

—————————–

Ironic words, coming from a guy who not long ago, was trying to syndicate his comic (well after establishing his web comic). Three or four years ago, Mr. Kurtz was making disparaging statements about print cartoonists on forums like ToonTalk, but on the side, was simulataneously trying to get syndicated. Then after that failed, he tried to self-syndicate his work to the newspapers. (Which also failed, because his web comic did not sell in the “real world” of newspaper comics.) (Which world is real for cartoonists? How about the one that you covet?)

Mr. Kurtz will no doubt reply to this as he did back then, saying that he turned down offers from syndicates, such as Universal Press. But perhaps a few here will recall seeing the letter that Lee Salem was compelled to write, disputing that claim, (that letter was posted at ToonTalk.)

However Mr. Kurtz wants to explain the details, (or dispute Lee Salem), he was spurned by the syndicates, and also by the newspapers he tried to sell to directly. The point is, the resentment and jealousy he talks about is clearly a two way street. For anyone who has not been observing this ongoing dispute for more than a year or two, this partly explains the passion of the argument going on here.

The bottom line: Cartooning is a very hard profession to break into, and new markets take time to figure out, whether you are a print cartoonist looking at the web or a web cartoonist looking at print…but anyone with talent, intelligence and the willingness to work hard will likely do just fine.

#177 Patric Lewandowski
April/3/2009
@ 11:07 am

the thing about comics on the web is there (usually) isn’t an editor who looks over each and every comic before it is presented to the audience. syndicated cartoonists often have to “get things past” the editor. (i’m thinking about how many comments i’ve read in Far Side books or Pearls Before Swine books about what they were surprised did or did not get past an editor.)

now, some could say this is either a good thing or a bad thing.

since i’ve never worked with an editor like that, i can only speak to my experience of publishing on the web. instead of trying to get one “editor” to like my comic and read it (or submissions editor), i have to convince _thousands_ of people that it was a good comic.

there is no buffer between me and my readers. instead of one person saying, “hey, that was good/bad” i get _thousands_ saying that. or nothing at all. (which is worst.)

i think this is one of the things that is unique to webcomics right now and it speaks to the self-publishing aspect. i think the idea of an editor speaks to many syndicated cartoonists of professionalism, whether that be the submissions editor and process for choosing a new comic or the editor who works on the comic daily.

#178 Tom Wood
April/3/2009
@ 11:12 am

I think a big part of the problem with editorial cartoons is that they are mostly just opinion cartoons. With the clearly defined polarity between the two political parties, it’s really just a matter of opinion as to where you stand on an issue. There will always be the opposing viewpoint. A cartoon that mocks one side or the other is easily dismissed and refuted by another cartoon by the opposing side.

And, with that polarity of viewpoints, the only way to survive on the web is to cater to the extreme ends in order to gather an audience from one side and appear ‘edgy’. And to do THAT you have to have the ability to ignore evidence that contradicts your world view. Sounds like a mental illness, to me…

#179 Patric Lewandowski
April/3/2009
@ 11:17 am

re # 177

“Sounds like a mental illness, to meâ?¦”

i just want to be the first to take your benign comment out of context. i think it’ll help the discussion a lot.

#180 Jack Henry
April/3/2009
@ 11:29 am

Even with Kurtz’s success I really feel ashamed that he speaks for everyone in webcomics. http://i43.tinypic.com/2hx0w7d.png

#181 Darrin Bell
April/3/2009
@ 11:34 am

“A cartoon that mocks one side or the other is easily dismissed and refuted by another cartoon by the opposing side.”

Not necessarily. A good editorial cartoon is hard to refute. For instance, I read Jeff Macnelly’s work for years before a couple other cartoonists informed me he was a conservative, and I had no idea (I’m still not convinced, but then, I never met the man). To me, he was simply perceptive.

#182 Alan Gardner
April/3/2009
@ 11:45 am

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