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OC Register makes hasty retreat from comic drops

After announcing earlier this week that the Orange County Register was dropping Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine, the editors have been “persuaded” to return the two features. Immediately.

They write,

Late last year, possibly in a moment of holiday giddiness or Santa envy or irresponsible eggnog consumption, Register editors thought to ask Register readers what they liked and didn’t like about our comics. The thinking was that if a comic was found to be particularly unpopular, it would be replaced.

And that’s what happened. In late 2007, after toting up several hundred comic-focused letters and e-mail communiqués, it became clear that “Pearls” and “Get Fuzzy” were unpopular. Though it took us months to secure replacements and organize an effective changeover, this week we swapped out the unpopular comics for new, potentially popular comics.

Or so we thought.

See, turns out that what’s deemed an unpopular comic strip for some readers can, for many others, be necessary in the way that water and oxygen and HDTV are necessary. Pearls and Get Fuzzy apparently fall into the latter category. Within minutes of getting newspapers sans Pearls and Fuzzy, several hundred readers called, e-mailed or (we can only speculate on this) stuck their heads out of windows and screamed that they wanted those strips back.

The response in favor of Pearls and Fuzzy was far greater than the negative response we’d seen earlier. Given that the change was initiated in the spirit of customer service, it seemed wise to respond to what readers want.

Community Comments

#1 Anne Hambrock
June/11/2008
@ 9:57 am

Could it be that the negative emails that the paper got really came from people all over the internet who don’t actually read that paper? When are papers going to learn that internet feedback doesn’t give an accurate picture of their readership?

#2 Mark Tatulli
June/11/2008
@ 10:36 am

The same time they realize that mail-in/call-in ballots only register responses from the older readership who have the time and inclination to complain to newspapers, hense the ill-advised decision to drop two of the most popular comic strips currently running.

#3 Norm Feuti
June/11/2008
@ 11:09 am

Back in another post when Lio was dropped from some paper in a comic poll, I made a comment to the effect of “where were all the Lio fans and why didn’t they vote for the strip?”

Judging by the responses, I think my comment was taken the wrong way … but this post reminded me of the point I was trying to make then.

When an unquestionably popular strip like Pearls, Fuzzy, or Lio gets dropped on negative feedback it makes me angry on two fronts. Firstly, because the newspaper obviously has no clue about which comics are hot. And secondly, because the large number of fans that you KNOW exist didn’t support it in a positive way before the cut was made.

Personally, I think their are only one of two ways to go about mitigating such polls. Either you educate the fans that their favorite comics can’t survive without their positive support in such a tight market, or you educate the newspapers that such polls don’t work.

I’m not sure if either one is possible.

#4 Quint Nelson
June/11/2008
@ 11:10 am

Could it be that Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine are very popular with the readers of the Orange County Register and they responded by the means the newspaper requested in print article announcing the changes? Their phones were overwhelmed as well. Get you facts straight Ms Hambrock.

Perhaps the Fuzzy and Pearls readers reply via the internet as opposed to the clip and snail mail method used by the older folks.

#5 J.G. Moore
June/11/2008
@ 11:31 am

Since when did anyone CARE what “older” people want? Silly… Stop it with these silly polls. PLEASE!!!!!

#6 Wiley Miller
June/11/2008
@ 11:32 am

The so-called polls are heavily skewed toward the oldest demographic. Why? Because they, mostly retired people, are the ones with the most time on their hands as well as having the inclination to partake in such polls.

If one is going to conduct a marketing poll in any industry, it should be correctly and scientifically in order to correctly assess the results of the survey. These comics polls are beyond stupid, as are the editors who conduct them.

#7 J.G. Moore
June/11/2008
@ 11:40 am

Anne is right. The Internet feedback does not reflect the “dead tree” readership, it only reflects that people using the Internet are viewing the page with the poll on it.

Imagine how many viewers viewed “web ads” while they were commenting on this “silly” poll.

The newspapers need to take the “energy” used to do these silly “polls” and do someting else that generates the same strong reaction (only positive) that these silly “polls” generate.

#8 Dawn Douglass
June/11/2008
@ 11:49 am

LOL

I can’t believe they actually believed that Get Fuzzy and Pearls were unpopular! Those are two of the best new strips out there and they both have huge, vocal followings.

#9 Kevin Moore
June/11/2008
@ 1:46 pm

Personally I would drop Peanuts (no zombie strips!) and show Blondie the door. Are they really all that popular? I mean, I love reading the old Peanuts strips, but that’s what collections are for, right?!

#10 Garey Mckee
June/11/2008
@ 3:35 pm

I’m curious as to what they had attempted to replace Get Fuzzy and Pearls with?

And Kevin, I agree with you. I’m just not ready to say good bye to Peanuts. But maybe you’re right, and that’s what the collections are for. Blondie, however, I could say good bye to right now LOL.

#11 Anne Hambrock
June/11/2008
@ 4:18 pm

“their phones were overwhelmed as well. Get your facts straight Ms. Hambrock”

Their phones were overwhelmed because those phone calls were made by actual readers who opened their paper to find their favorite strips gone. The paper can then be sure they are truly hearing from subscribers. When a paper runs an internet poll or asks for internet feedback and does not set up any ID system for that poll such as zip code verification for geographic proximity to the paper, they don’t know who they are hearing from.

I had a lengthy discussion with the web guy from our local paper about how they set up internet voting. The only polling safeguards they put into place are to limit the number of votes for each IP address to one vote per hour. He said they pretty much assume that such polls reflect an accurate pulse of their readership. He did say that for political topics the paper had a much more sophisticated system to prevent ballot box stuffing because they want their results to be as accurate as possible. When I asked him why all the polls weren’t as secure as the political ones he said it was too much of a hassle.

My earlier point is backed up by the fact that, for whatever reason, the data the paper used to make their decision to drop these two strips was totally flawed and they had to back track.

#12 Bill Holbrook
June/11/2008
@ 5:24 pm

Thank you, Orange County Register, for providing evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt that comic strip polls are by and large unreliable to the point of worthlessness. A grateful comics industry thanks you. :)

#13 Rich Diesslin
June/11/2008
@ 7:04 pm

To their credit (the editors), they were more responsive than others we’ve read about here. I do question the use of eggnog at staff meetings, although it does explain a lot. ;)

#14 Mike Donahue
June/11/2008
@ 7:34 pm

Moral of the story: when your local paper asks for your input regarding content, especially if your favorite feature is at stake, SPEAK UP!

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