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The pros and cons of allowing cartoon embedding

Daryl Cagle recently added more “Web 2.0” features on his site including RSS feeds, sharing to other social media sites, favorites, email and a big one: allowing visitors to embed the cartoon on their blog or website – a feature Comics.com recently added with their redesign last fall.

Daryl writes about the difficult decision on whether to add this ability.

We’re not putting up the embed code in response to the demands of bloggers. In fact, we’ve sent out lots of DMCA notices and taken down hundreds of blogs who were pirating our cartoons in the past. It isn’t a response to piracy; rather it is a response to the market. If we don’t offer embed code for our cartoons, while other syndicates do, soon it will be the other syndicate’s cartoons that are seen in the blogosphere, and the other syndicates sites that become the most popular, and we’ll be marginalized. It is a competitive march to devalue cartoons, and we’re swept along with it.

Community Comments

#1 Tom Heintjes
May/6/2009
@ 8:54 am

Oh…I misread the title…I thought this thread was about the pros and cons of bedding cartoonists. Carry on.

#2 Alan Gardner
May/6/2009
@ 9:07 am

Either way – it’s about what one will give away for free.

#3 Stephen Bobbett
May/6/2009
@ 9:19 am

I think embedding comics into blogs and social networks is only a threat to syndicated cartoonists, who generate their income from publication. For web-based cartoonists, who earn income from merchandise and ad revenues, embedding is an essential tool for marketing. Cagle might argue this is the devaluation of comics he was talking about; I would argue that it depends on the quality of the comic.

P.S. Comments #1 and #2 made me giggle.

#4 NoahRodenbeek
May/6/2009
@ 9:28 am

Stephen, I agree with your point and feel like that’s about all there is to say about the issue.

However, I think what Tom and Alan are trying to say could lead to a very interesting and insightful conversation. I don’t have any personal advice to offer, but I know a cartoonist that knows a cartoonist, and him and this one broad totally got-it-on, if you catch my drift.

#5 Patric Lewandowski
May/6/2009
@ 9:30 am

i used to allow tooncasting for Freaks N Squeeks (what we called embeddable code back in the old days). i stopped it because i want people to read my comic at my site. i want the numbers there because that’s where my ads are. and, that’s where my store is. and, that’s where my blog is.

i want people to read my content on my terms as much as possible. if they’re gonna “pirate” my comic, the original pirate still needs to visit my site to grab my comic.

now, yes, i do have an rss feed. but, from what i can tell, only a handful (at best) of my readers use it. if that were to change, then i might reconsider it.

ultimately, each cartoonist needs to do what they feel is best for their individual business.

#6 Jason Nocera
May/6/2009
@ 11:06 am

Cool. I’m going to grab all of these cartoons and put them on a new website with my own advertising and merchandise.

#7 Tom Wood
May/6/2009
@ 11:10 am

I just added an ’embed code’ button to my cartoon player. I’m in startup and completely unknown on the web, so it’s a requirement in order to get noticed. Just one embed on a high-traffic blog is a good thing. I include my website at the end of each cartoon, but Daryl also mentioned a button-link back to the ‘home’ site. That’s probably a good idea. Dang…back to the Flash guys for ‘one more thing’…

#8 NoahRodenbeek
May/6/2009
@ 11:15 am

“Cool. Iâ??m going to grab all of these cartoons and put them on a new website with my own advertising and merchandise.”

Is that legal?

#9 Tony Piro
May/6/2009
@ 11:48 am

When I click the “embed” button in Firefox, the message about permissions is cut off at “Permission is…”

Another thing I’ve also found useful is to include embedding code to make it easy to post your cartoons to forums.

#10 Patric Lewandowski
May/6/2009
@ 12:25 pm

“Cool. Iâ??m going to grab all of these cartoons and put them on a new website with my own advertising and merchandise.”

LOL!!

yeah, i’m gonna create a giant page and pack as many embedded comics on it as I can. then, i’m gonna sell ads around it. and, maybe i’ll add in something like horoscopes and bridge columns around it. oh! and puzzles!

yeah. that’s the ticket.

#11 Patric Lewandowski
May/6/2009
@ 12:29 pm

“â??Cool. Iâ??m going to grab all of these cartoons and put them on a new website with my own advertising and merchandise.â?

Is that legal?”

if they have allowed the embed code, it’s implied that you can put it on your site or whatever and yes, sell ads around it.

seriously, my opinion is that people shouldn’t do this.

tom wood said “I just added an â??embed codeâ?? button to my cartoon player. Iâ??m in startup and completely unknown on the web, so itâ??s a requirement in order to get noticed.”

i disagree. you’d be better off getting people to link to you than display your content on their site. if a reader finds your comic on one site that isn’t yours and doesn’t need to go to yours, then they’re gonna bookmark that site, not yours. they’re not coming to your brand, they’re going to someone else’s.

links are what you need. i email people all the time asking for reviews and such. jen contino at the pulse (http://www.comicon.com/pulse.aspx) is always looking for news. or comixpedia! …

my point is, there is better promo opportunities than letting someone else display your work on their site without links back to your brand or without your control in how its displayed.

#12 David Emerson
May/6/2009
@ 12:36 pm

Allowing your comic to be freely embedded across the internet is obviously a terrible idea at first glance. As Patric points out, what’s the point of going to your site, if people can get the same thing anywhere else.

However…I can see this working with a few tweeks. For instance, have a 3 panel humor strip? Give the setup away for free, but make ’em come to you for the payoff. This plants a bigger seed than just a faceless link. Update 3 times a week? Let Monday loose on the internet, but keep Wednesday and Friday at home.

#13 Tom Wood
May/6/2009
@ 12:37 pm

Patric – Your plan is missing something…I don’t know, hmmm, maybe you could add some text in there that tells a story about new events that are happening. Yes, and call it ‘news’.

I understand what you’re saying about the links. I’d prefer people come to my site too, but it’s just not going to happen in big enough numbers any time soon. I see the embed as a temporary thing necessary to get seen, then maybe turn it off later.

#14 Tony Piro
May/6/2009
@ 12:49 pm

By having an “embed” button (or a “steal this comic” button, as I have on my site), it provides better control for how your comic will be used on other sites and blogs. You can include things like links to better assure that people will visit your site.

I don’t understand all the hesitation about allowing people to use your content. Of course it’s better to have people visit your site directly, but the whole point is that these people don’t even know about your site. How do you think webcomics like xkcd became so popular?

Another thing you can do to help traffic to your site is include a URL on the actual comics. A surprising number of comics from the Cagle site either have no URL or it’s unreadable.

#15 Patric Lewandowski
May/6/2009
@ 12:55 pm

Tony Piro said…
“Of course itâ??s better to have people visit your site directly, but the whole point is that these people donâ??t even know about your site. How do you think webcomics like xkcd became so popular?”

my argument and my opinion is it’s better for people to share links. i think xkcd became the unstoppable juggernaut it is today because ..

1.) nerds at work would say to each other, “hey, check this out,”

2.) nerds linked to it on blogs and in emails.

3.) profits. ;-)

word of mouth is the thing. it’s now word of tweet or blog, but it’s still word of mouth. even before the web, think about how we found new comics. someone who got a different paper in a different city said to us, “hey, do you get calvin and hobbes? that’s good stuff.” and then there’d be a book and you’d check it out. or, comics were clipped and posted in offices and cubicles. and that’s still true today.

#16 Patric Lewandowski
May/6/2009
@ 12:57 pm

i would like to point out i did have embed code for freaks n squeeks (http://www.freaksnsqueeks.com) for a very long time. part of it was because of how i was using it on my own site. for me it was an evolutionary process.

but, i also want to point out that i would include the title of the comic, who it was by, and the url in the actual artwork for each strip. if there was only a way to embed a link back to the homepage in the artwork itself (not just the embed code) then it’d be much better.

#17 Tom Wood
May/6/2009
@ 1:51 pm

if there was only a way to embed a link back to the homepage in the artwork itself (not just the embed code) then itâ??d be much better.

If the artwork is contained within a Flash SWF, then all sorts of things become possible. The entire cartoon itself can be made into a link, or just a button can be added. This would require that you have Flash as an authoring program, or be tech-savvy enough to write your own code.

#18 Jamie Smith
May/6/2009
@ 4:48 pm

This race to the bottom is perfect leverage for independent cartoonists: I used this myself as an opening to get work published in our newspapers. Makes it easier to convince an editor as a selling point to carry local material – one can’t argue with the fact that everything they’re printing can be had at no cost elsewhere. Of course it might cost them more per panel to run local independents, but they’re getting higher value in something that is unique & relevant to this community. Sometimes I think one of the last best chances print media has is for the syndicates to go bankrupt first…

#19 Ted Rall
May/6/2009
@ 5:28 pm

“It is a competitive march to devalue cartoons, and weâ??re swept along with it.”

Because, as we all know, there is no other choice than to behave at least as badly as the worst people among us.

#20 Tom Wood
May/8/2009
@ 6:27 pm

Seth Godin has a post called ‘Too Much Free’ about giving stuff away on the internet:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/05/too-much-free.html

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