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Not looking to start another war…

Having worked as a web designer and developer for about a dozen years, I see it as the future (and hence dominant future of comics). That said, I have a special place in my heart for the tactile feel of newspaper and the comics that it delivers.

So excuse me while I promote what I consider the underdog. And please, don’t get into the web v print debate. It’s been done. and done. and done. and done.

Community Comments

#1 r stevens
January/19/2010
@ 4:15 pm

I think everyone loves the classical idea of a newspaper and a comics pages. It’s just sad to see the watered-down versions that exist today.

#2 Ben Paddon
January/19/2010
@ 4:23 pm

If newspapers these days were more than just advertisement transportation devices I’d probably still be reading them. As it stands now I can get all of the news I want from the internet.

I do love print though, and when newspapers do eventually go the way of the dinosaur it’ll be a sad day – the first nail in the coffin for print as a whole. I really hope books make it to the end of the century, but I doubt they’ll make it to the end of the next one.

#3 Paul Fell
January/19/2010
@ 4:50 pm

The only way for newspapers to ever be like they were in their heyday will be for them to owned and run by NEWSPAPERMEN. I’d like to see that happen, but doubt we ever will.

#4 Zach
January/19/2010
@ 5:51 pm

The problem, as I see it is this:

If you really wanted to get kids buying papers for comics again, you’d need to dump 90% of current content in favor of more modern stuff, including
1) Edgier content
2) Content by big franchises (don’t tell me a Twilight comic wouldn’t sell papers! Or imagine a political cartoon by The Daily Show)
3) Content more directed and teens, like manga style stuff

But, if you take the risk of doing that, it’s possible you’ll just piss off the aging group that still reads papers without attracting young kids.

That said, I bet if a bunch of papers started featuring content like this:
Best modern paper comics, but free to do more modern style humor + Favorite webcomics + popular manga dramas + franchise content, it’d reinvigorate the comic section overnight.

#5 Jeff Stanson
January/19/2010
@ 5:51 pm

Yes, I also will have to say that I stopped reading physical newspapers because of the ownership, policies, and practices of the newspapers themselves. They did everything they could to take the enjoyment out of the reader’s experience with the paper. Hurst, Patterson, et al. went out their way to build features that would attract more readers. They didn’t have an attitude that they knew better than their readers, nor did they target a single type of reader and go after them. Their attitude was to offer something for everyone and to try to do it bigger and better than the competition. The demise of newspapers has been brought on by nothing less than myopic management and corporate greed. It’s not that I get my news mostly from the Internet because of the Internet, it’s because of what a shoddy product the physical newspaper has become. And the number one reason I now prefer the Web version of my local rag isn’t because of usability, quick access, etc., it’s because of the ability to scan headlines for the local news so that I can skip over editorial bias and entertainment news.

#6 Zach
January/19/2010
@ 6:27 pm

Yeah, I basically agree. Like, the Internet has absolutely not killed the book business. There’s nothing wrong with print as a medium per se. The difference is that books companies have worked to attract each new generation, offered a wide variety of content, and compete to get the talent/personas everyone is interested in.

If I could get my comic in papers, I’d love it. It’d be money for no extra work. But they’d never take content like mine, even though it does very well with the 18-24 demographic.

#7 Stephen Beals
January/19/2010
@ 6:38 pm

An archive librarian told me that if you really wanted to preserve something so that it could be read 100 years from now you would have it printed on paper. Changes in technology don’t affect paper. Maybe he was biased, being an archive librarian and all.

I scanned newspapers for what I liked and didn’t like anyway. Online or printed, the quality of newspapers has decreased over the last 20 years. That’s because they were all bought out by McDonalds and reduced to three ounces so that they could fit on their dollar menu.

The good news is that the quality of comics has gone way up. You just need to find them.

#8 Terry LaBan
January/19/2010
@ 7:05 pm

I’m old enough to remember when a syndicated strip was absolutely the coolest, most prestigious thing a cartoonist could do. Those days, and I say this as a syndicated strip cartoonist, are gone. There will never be another Charles Schultz or Bill Waterson. And young people will never read newspapers as they once did–it’s rare for me to meet someone under 40 who admits to reading them at all.
The good news is that I think comic strips are almost ideally suited for the digital age. They’re short, quickly consumed and extremely portable. And cartoonists can actually find an audience for the work they want to do, instead of trying to come up with something a syndicate thinks it can sell to millions of indifferent souls on their way to the sports section. I’m actually very optimistic about the future of strip cartooning. But success will definitely mean employing a very different set of skills than it once did.

#9 Ted Rall
January/19/2010
@ 7:13 pm

No doubt, editors and publishers of newspapers have deliberately driven away the under-50 demographic. This has been true for as long as I can remember.

How long can people (younger people) look at a publication, notice that it doesn’t cover the people and issues they care about in a way that makes sense to them, before they decide it’s not for them? It’s actually amazing that decades of terrible decision-making took so long to catch up with them.

@Zach, however…the Web is actually starting to/about to kill the book industry. Google Books, the Kindle, etc. are disastrous for authors. Royalties are falling fast. It will soon become very difficult to make money from books.

So I wonder…

Would the Web have hurt newspapers if they didn’t suck? I think yes. Young people are impecunious; anything that allows them to get something for less or for free is going to draw them away–even if it’s not as good.

I see a future, close at hand, when print newspapers and books cost a lot more than they do, are sold to a smaller (not MUCH smaller, but smaller anyway), more elite group of readers than they are today, and are better than they are now. That’s already the case in a lot of other countries, and publishers make a lot of money. The noisy crowded Web will be a bazaar: for the peasants. The wealthy will prefer not to wade through a million crappy blog; they like their information hand-crafted, like a daily presidential briefing. They shop at boutiques.

#10 Robert George
January/19/2010
@ 7:42 pm

@Ted: “The wealthy will prefer not to wade through a million crappy blog;” You are away that many, many blogs, like the Daily Dish or Instapundit to name to biggies, exist that already “curate” the web? Link blogging exists because of this problem. Tomorrow’s elites already use the internet today, and not primarily the parts dominated by old media companies. I have no doubt in the future newspapers will exist, but they probably exist online. It is elites driving things like e-books, elites making the WSJ paywall work (and probably the NYT’s), elites reading the major blogs, and it will only accelerate as younger people become elite. The free culture will not be the only show in town for web content, but the web isn’t going to be a ghetto while the elites go back to the future.

And even if it was, Ted, can “traditional” news be manufactured in a boutique environment? The only boutique news outfits I know of are all on the web, and very niche focused.

#11 Zach
January/19/2010
@ 8:06 pm

@Ted You may be right. I don’t know enough about the book royalties business to say the effect of the Kindle and other similar software.

However, I disagree about your point on the web driving kids away from papers. I think you’re right to an extent, but papers have always been for the impecunious.

To give an example: If “The Onion” print version was 2 bucks at a newsstand, I would definitely have paid for it in college. It’s worth it because it’s that freakin’ good. I’m sure one copy would’ve been passed around to 20 people, but that’s always been the case in colleges. If regular papers had comics sections as good as The Onion, I wouldn’t be surprised by people, even cheap college kids, ponying up a few bucks. Or, for example, if Alan Moore had a newspaper strip, I’d pay to read it.

#12 Anne Hambrock
January/19/2010
@ 8:07 pm

“Thatâ??s because they were all bought out by McDonalds and reduced to three ounces so that they could fit on their dollar menu.”

This made me laugh out loud.

“The wealthy will prefer not to wade through a million crappy blogs; they like their information hand-crafted, like a daily presidential briefing. They shop at boutiques.”

I have been trying to make this point for over 3 years.

While there will always be an audience that roams the internet culling what it wants for free and happily spending the hours it takes to do that, it doesn’t mean that those of us who like that work done for us are a demographic that should be ignored and not marketed to.

#13 Robert George
January/19/2010
@ 8:21 pm

@Anne: “it doesnâ??t mean that those of us who like that work done for us are a demographic that should be ignored and not marketed to.” I agree, but there is no reason at all to think that the product that will ultimately meet your non work needs will be marketed to you in print and not online.

#14 Isaiah McAllister
January/19/2010
@ 8:27 pm

If anyone looks to lose something from the kindle/ebook surge, I don’t know if it will be authors.

I think that if Amazon refuses to change the DRM restrictions on their ebook format, they won’t be on top for long. The Ebook market is still kind of in its infancy, with more ebook readers expected in the next year.

Eventually as it continues to grow, I think that the bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble and Borders are going to be the ones left out in the cold in regards to ebooks. As authors and publishers are going to realize that they can make more money selling directly, without having to deal with the chains.

I’m not saying this will happen right away, but this is where I forsee ebooks going.

I could be completely wrong of course. :D

#15 Tom Wood
January/19/2010
@ 8:43 pm

HarperCollins Publishers is negotiating with Apple Inc. to make electronic books available for the introduction of a new tablet device from Apple, according to people familiar with the situation, posing a challenge to Amazon.com Inc.

HarperCollins is expected to set the prices of the e-books, which would have added features, with Apple taking a percentage of sales. Details haven’t been ironed out.

http://tinyurl.com/yb8yswt

I don’t see any room in there fro either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Speculation is that the HarperCollins will open a store at iTunes.

#16 Anne Hambrock
January/19/2010
@ 8:48 pm

@Robert,

My whole point is that I don’t care if whether it is in print or online. I just want a product that gathers a lot of interesting info and entertainment in one place so I don’t have to go looking for it. If an online version of the newspaper can be as easy for me to navigate as my printed one, I don’t have a problem with that.

Currently, what I appreciate about my newspaper is its portability and the fact that I don’t have to take any extra time to wait for stuff to load. Also the fact that none of the content is ever “unavailable”.

Give me those features in an online paper and I’ll sign up to pay for it. Even better, create a business model where – if I already pay for a print version of the paper, I get to read anything in its online version for free using a password. All non print subscribers could pay for online content instead if that were their preference.

#17 Stephen Beals
January/19/2010
@ 9:32 pm

Anne, that’s what I want too. Unfortunately, I hate my local paper. It was bought out by Gannett in the 90s. Two of my in-laws quit after a long career because it just wasn’t the same. It would be nice to have one local source worth going to again, but I have to hunt and peck like I’m at the flea market.

I’m quite pleased I made you laugh out loud.

That’ll be five dollars.

#18 Anne Hambrock
January/19/2010
@ 10:10 pm

“Thatâ??ll be five dollars.”

Well played, sir.

#19 Anne Hambrock
January/19/2010
@ 10:12 pm

@Stephen,

BTW, I donated $ to this blog to support it so you might have to get your five dollars from Alan :-)

#20 Stephen Beals
January/19/2010
@ 10:29 pm

Uh oh, I think we’re even, Anne!

#21 Stacy Curtis
January/19/2010
@ 10:55 pm

@Terry — “There will never be another Charles Schultz or Bill Waterson.”

Who the hell is Charles SCHULTZ or Bill WATERSON?

Really? You’re going to misspell your two examples of great cartoonists?

#22 Garey Mckee
January/20/2010
@ 1:06 am

Ha! You tell em Stacey Kurtis!

#23 Kevin Frank
January/20/2010
@ 8:19 am

I feel sorry for the young cartoonists, who may never have the thrill of seeing themselves in print for the first time. Still one of my happiest memories (the first time I was published, and also PAID for it). Somehow seeing your work online doesn’t seem to compare. But, yes, I am old.

#24 BOB QUICK
January/20/2010
@ 8:22 am

..there will never be another Walt Dizney either.

#25 John Read
January/20/2010
@ 8:33 am

“Somehow seeing your work online doesnâ??t seem to compare.” I agree with you, Kevin, but would love to hear from the younger cartoonists (under 30, say) on this forum about that. Do you prefer to see your own work on paper or onscreen? As an artist seeking an audience, do you care more whether your cartoons/comics are read online or in print?

#26 Mike Beckom
January/20/2010
@ 8:38 am

There is actually talk here in South Carolina of putting all of the textbooks into ‘Kindle’ form and issuing kindles instead of books to students.

@Kevin Frank…..I’m right there with you( old that is) and on the print issue. One of my ‘best days ever’ was when I saw my first toon in print in my local newspaper…..good times, good times….

#27 Kevin Frank
January/20/2010
@ 9:07 am

…and then you cut it out and put it on the fridge!

#28 Charles Brubaker
January/20/2010
@ 9:33 am

John,

Oh yeah, I definitely prefer to see my work in print. I’ve done some webcartooning years back, but I’ve got little to no reaction (from my memory, I only got about 20 readers per day). Didn’t help the comic was crap, though…

I’ve gotten some reactions from my cartoon in print, however.

#29 Terry LaBan
January/20/2010
@ 9:48 am

@Stacy: “Really? Youâ??re going to misspell your two examples of great cartoonists?”

Yes. Because that’s how I roll.
But I think there may well be another Walt Dizney, or whatever the guy’s name was. Diznay was successful because he was able to capitalize on a new technology, animated cartoon shorts, early in its development. The web Disnee has yet to emerge. But I’ll bet he or she will.

#30 Shane Davis
January/20/2010
@ 10:22 am

Not until the new Burkelee Breaughthud does….

#31 Ted Rall
January/20/2010
@ 10:26 am

Come on, Stacy–EVERYONE misspells Schulz’s name. They always have.

I agree that a boutique high-end news”paper” could just as easily be online as in printâ??but I think it will be both. No matter how cool the Apple Tablet or whatever turns out to beâ??and I fully expect to be one of the first in line to buy one, because I can’t STAND tiny keyboards on stupid smart phonesâ??print will always offer a level of convenience that can’t be matched.

Print isn’t searchable and it stains your sweaty fingers. But you can tear out an article and easily reference it later, and you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your newspaper when you leave it with your towel at the beach while you go for a swim.

#32 Kay Shawn
January/20/2010
@ 10:43 am

The video touches on something very important: that in looking over a print newspaper, your eye scans articles that you’re not expecting to see, so you can be open to learning something you didn’t know before. There’s no other way to get information before a public that is too lazy to seek out news. Should I start down that road called That’s Why Democracy Is In Danger…? nah.

#33 Tom Wood
January/20/2010
@ 11:42 am

@Ted:

But you can tear out an article and easily reference it later, and you donâ??t have to worry about someone stealing your newspaper when you leave it with your towel at the beach while you go for a swim.

So you’re the one that tears out the one article I want to read…

I don’t think that the market for the tablet device is necessarily an individual purchase. I think the bigger market will be putting them into the places where we already see magazines laying around. Waiting rooms, airplanes, and yes, coffee tables. Slip them into a slot in the surface of restaurant tables, bartops, or into the back of the chair in front of you.

They will already be there wherever people go, so you don’t need your own. Log into your cloud account to get all your bookmarks and applications, and you’re in business.

#34 Tony Piro
January/20/2010
@ 11:45 am

@John Read

Just to answer you question, even though my work is all online, it definitely was a gratifying moment to hold my first book in my hands. Part of the enjoyment was definitely from having a tangible object after a year of work. It was also surely gratifying because I self-published, which is grueling to put together (as you well-know).

On the other hand, since I taught myself how to program and put together my own site from scratch, having my comics online for the first time was pretty sweet too.

#35 Stacy Curtis
January/20/2010
@ 11:59 am

@Tedd Ral: “Come on, Stacyâ??EVERYONE misspells Schulzâ??s name. They always have.”

Yeah, I know. It’s a pet peeve of mine. But to get Watterson and Schulz wrong made me laugh out loud.

#36 Graham Nolan
January/20/2010
@ 12:57 pm

@ Kevin

Seeing your work in print for the first time is a thrill, no doubt. But the bloom wears off the rose after a while. My comic-book work has been in print for 25 years and, although I still get a kick out of seeing it on paper, I am just as thrilled now to see my work on the web. My web site loads new strips every Mon, Wed, and Fri. and I am like a kid those mornings when I go to the site and see them…knowing it’s out there for the whole world to see not just the few thousand print readers. I also know there are no “printing errors” or distribution problems that can ruin all my hard work.
I imagine younger cartoonists coming up won’t have the same “validation” of their work from being in print, because they are products of the digital age.

#37 Stephen Beals
January/20/2010
@ 12:58 pm

He didn’t spell Schulz wrong. A “T” from Watterson’s name simply wandered over. Happens all the time when you type those two together.

At least he didn’t spell Hearst “Hurst”.

#38 Dave Stephens
January/20/2010
@ 2:42 pm

Amazon just increased their payments to authors dramatically, despite Ted’s claim that such payments are decreasing. Because Apple negotiates payments to authors similar to the App store which is far more generous than Amazon’s former stingy standard…

#39 Ted Rall
January/20/2010
@ 4:19 pm

@Dave, Please don’t act stupid.

I posted my comment before Amazon’s announcement.

It’s good to see that Amazon is shaping up their act. Until a few hours ago, authors who might have seen 10% on a $20 print title were being asked to take 10 or 15% on a $9 eBook.

#40 Dave Stephens
January/20/2010
@ 11:02 pm

@Ted, when you call people names (like stupid), do you think that’s higher ground you’re standing on? Or maybe you stepped in something…

Anyway, we agree that this is very good news. Amazon increased royalties paid out on low cost ebooks to 70%, which means that those folks who were making $3.50 per sale now make $7. Essentially, for low cost ebooks under $10, their profit just DOUBLED.

High cost ebook profits remain unchanged.

#41 Ted Rall
January/21/2010
@ 8:02 am

It’s interesting that everyone seems to agree that digital books are worth less than print ones to readers.

It makes sense for a lot of reasons. Even if profits remain the same or rise, however, this means less gross revenues flowing into the overall book business in the long run…which means more economic contraction.

Digitalization is like the atomic bomb–a disaster we can’t de-invent.

#42 Mike Cope
January/21/2010
@ 9:12 am

“Itâ??s interesting that everyone seems to agree that digital books are worth less than print ones to readers.”

Worth less, or cost less to reproduce?

#43 Ted Dawson
January/21/2010
@ 11:39 am

Thanks for posting that, Alan.

#44 Ted Rall
January/21/2010
@ 12:15 pm

Worth less.

Corporations don’t pass lower production costs on to consumers–they pocket the savings as profits. We saw this with CDs. CDs cost less to produce and distribute than LPs, but music companies charged even more for them.

If digital books were worth the same or more to consumers, Amazon et al. would charge more–even if the cost to make them was less.

#45 Mike Cope
January/21/2010
@ 12:36 pm

Following Ted’s CDs example … When they were initially released, the only other portable audio option was cassettes.

But consumers now benefit from lower prices for digital downloads … which cost less to reproduce.

The real question here is whether a digital e-Book viewable on Amazon’s Kindle is worth more than a digital e-Book viewable on Apple’s upcoming tablet — or any other digital device.

In the end, it’s the exact same information … So are you paying for the cost of production, or the convenience of the device you are using??

#46 Ted Rall
January/21/2010
@ 6:40 pm

The digital version of a book has less intrinsic value, at least for the time being.

First, there is a smaller market for it. More people buy books than own Kindles or other e-book readers. Of course, the difference will narrow…but there will always be some people who refuse to read non-print books, just as many music fans refuse to buy MP3s rather than CDs (yo).

Also, print books have resale value. You can buy a $20 book new and sell it used for $10. Net cost: $10.

And a book is an object. As anyone who buys McSweeneys will tell you, objects have value–even when they have no content.

#47 Scott Kurtz
January/21/2010
@ 6:45 pm

I have….to…AGREE…with TED.

Whew. That was odd to type.

but yes. I agree with Ted. And this is a guy about to release an iphone app that will sell 99 cent mini comics inside of it. I would love an awesome tablet that’s attached to a digital book store I can take advantage of.

Physical books aren’t always my greatest source of revenue, but they are by far my most CONSISTENT source of revenue.

#48 Stacy Curtis
January/21/2010
@ 11:24 pm

The first thing book publishers should do is circulate ‘stories’ about how staring at these e-readers do far more damage to your eyes than staring at a physical book.

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