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Comics Kingdom launches today

King Features officially launches its Comics Kingdom product today. Comics Kingdom is a new web application that newspapers can embed on their site and provides their readers with access to King Feature’s portfolio of 60+ strips. It also allows the newspapers to sell advertising to accompany the comic page. The premise behind this new type of comic delivery is to offer the newspaper a product that better helps the paper monetize their comic page online.

King Features Syndicate President T.R. “Rocky” Shepard, said, “for almost 100 years, King Features Syndicate has assisted newspapers in attracting new readers and incremental ad revenue by providing appealing, premium content. As our newspaper partners face new challenges in the ever-changing media landscape, we are continually looking to develop innovative ways to help them reach their business goals – which still remain the same as ever: attracting new readers and driving ad sales.”

Currently there are three newspapers using Comics Kingdom: The Albany Times Union (which was one of the beta testing newspapers), The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Oklahoman/ NewsOK.

According to King Features and The Times Union General Manager, Comics Kingdom almost doubled the traffic to the comic section and increased the average amount of time spent on the site – a key metric to increasing advertising revenue. King maintains that the beta test with the Times Union resulted in an 86 percent increase in ad inventory.

King Features launches has shortly released this new product on the heels of United Media’s launch of their new comics.com redesign – which moved away from a subscription model and greatly opened up their comics archives for free.

Community Comments

#1 Norm Feuti
November/18/2008
@ 8:34 am

“King Features launches has shortly released this new product on the heels of United Mediaâ??s launch of their new comics.com redesign – which moved away from a subscription model and greatly opened up their comics archives for free.”

Well, I’m obviously biased, but I think King Features has the better idea here.

#2 Alan Gardner
November/18/2008
@ 8:55 am

Yes, you might be biased, but the fact is, King has come up with a product that HELPS a newspaper make money using comics, while the other syndicates have opted to compete with newspaper’s online comic selection.

#3 Ted Dawson
November/18/2008
@ 1:11 pm

This is definitely a better route than United Media is taking. This can work if it helps attract more LOCAL readers and pageviews.

The problem still exists, though, that one online newspaper can corner the market on comics. This happened early on with the Houston Chronicle. It carried practically all comics online. People from around the world would go to the Chron to read all their comics from all the syndicates. This helped bust the sales of online comics to other newspapers. I’m not sure how this new plan is different in that respect.

However, this new model does address the issue that newspapers are concerned with. At least King hasn’t forgotten the purpose of comics. I’m convinced that innovative thinking could lead to similar or better accomplishments in print.

#4 anne hambrock
November/18/2008
@ 3:40 pm

One of my favorite features of this model is that newspaper real estate becomes a non-isssue and the package carries King’s entire comic line-up. If this does even the tiniest little thing to eliminate the dreaded “comics polls” I will be happy. The other thing I like is the attention to revenue generation for the artist. I have no idea how United features artists are compensated for comics.com, but the whole ‘give it away for free model” United is now pursuing seems problematic.

#5 anne hambrock
November/18/2008
@ 3:45 pm

I meant to add that, while this model doesn’t stop folks from reading comics on sites like the Chron for free, it does give them an opportunity to have as many comics as the Chron carries while reading a local paper they may be more interested in overall. Especially if this model paves the way for all the other syndicates to follow. I have long maintained that there is a certain type of consumer that likes “one stop shopping” and if an online version of a newspaper gives readers the local news they want coupled with the other features they want, they will choose the local paper over the non-local one.

#6 Tom Wood
November/18/2008
@ 7:53 pm

It seems to me that this is a logical progression from the deal that Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) made with Google Adsense which coupled content with advertising in a deal structure that pays the website owner to run the cartoons. If enough newspaper websites embrace this model for static comics, then viewers can see the comics on their local paper’s website.

#7 Phil Wohlrab
November/18/2008
@ 9:40 pm

This is it, I think. This model makes perfect sense. I never thought about it, but I’d read comics on the Drudge Report if there were a link to a few. They might even want to reach out to sites like the Daily Kos or any and every online publication to make the Comic strip medium less dependent on newspapers as a vehicle.

#8 Joseph Johnson
November/19/2008
@ 5:22 am

This also means I won’t be subscribing to the The Daily Ink
at all. Thanks!

#9 Corey Pandolph
November/19/2008
@ 8:52 am

As Anne mentioned, anybody know what kind of revenue this means for the actual cartoonist? Is it a similar split to the print clients? Are papers paying a premium to have the system on the site, or is it completely an ad-based revenue system? Up until now, online subscriptions and similar systems have made creators enough to buy a frozen french pizza every other month (And none of that fancy named brand stuff, neither).

I agree that it does seem like an exciting idea, but the same old problems will circulate if it means pennies a year for the creator.

Not trying to be a negative Sally, just curious.

#10 Ted Dawson
November/19/2008
@ 9:35 am

Comic strip cartoonists never like to talk about how much money they don’t make. That’s probably why there is so much money they don’t make.

#11 Norm Feuti
November/19/2008
@ 9:48 am

The pay structure for the cartoonists is similar to what already exists online, which means this will have to really catch on and proliferate in order for the cartoonists to substantial benefit from it in a monetary sense.

The advantage I see this having is in the way it should appeal to newspaper websites. Rather than setting up a tricked-out syndicate site for the comic loving masses to flock to, King offers a tricked out comic page for the newspaper to put on their own site … and benefit from.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not holding my breath for the cash to start rolling in. It will probably have to catch on like wild fire to really be a financial success … but I think it’s the best strategy a syndicate has come up with so far.

#12 Ted Dawson
November/19/2008
@ 10:08 am

I’m wondering of this benefits the paper overall, or if it creates competition between the online version and the print version.

Should there be a separate roster of comics that are for online publications?

Syndicates have used their existing comics to try to make headway in online publications. In this beneficial to publications, cartoonists and syndicates? Is 60+ comics more valuable than a new roster of comics that are available online only? I don’t mean Comics Sherpa or stuff like that. But King put a lot of money into development of this new feature. Why not invest in new comics to create this new market everyone is looking for?

Everyone seems to be afraid to actually pay anything to the actual content creators. What would happen if the syndicates were actually willing to pay good cartoonists to develop good comics and pay them a living wage for a couple of years while this new, web-exclusive content is promoted through new technologies?

Cable TV companies, for example, got their start broadcasting movies and reruns. Eventually they started creating new content. Maybe this is what the syndicates need to do. Why keep offering tiny 3 panel comics that were intended for a tiny, ever-shrinking newspaper space? The same size restrictions don’t pertain to the web. Why not get cartoonists to create comics for the internet if they’re going to keep trying to sell comics on the internet?

#13 Corey Pandolph
November/19/2008
@ 10:53 am

“Should there be a separate roster of comics that are for online publications?”

That, my friend, is the big question.

In the current market, newspaper editors are afraid to run many of the new strips, citing the backlash they claim readers will rain upon them, in the form of nasty letters and lost subscriptions.

Would the same fear be applied to the online comic line-ups? I wonder how the demographic would change when considering strips online.

Think of the renewed excitement an “online syndicate” model could generate for the modern cartoonist. Those who wish to stick with the idea of a syndicate representing, selling and merchandising their strips could possibly have their wish, while keeping the creative freedom to produce edgier, ground breaking work, not viable in papers.

It certainly would make someone like myself feel much better about continuing to work in the comic strip medium.

It may be a pipe dream, but I like to dream. In pipes. And tubes. Afterall, the Internet is a series of them.

#14 anne hambrock
November/19/2008
@ 12:47 pm

Of the papers that currently offer both a print and online version, many already run separate rosters. Houston is a perfect example – they offer many more comics online than they do in print. One great advantage to papers running more controversial strips online rather than in print is that most online comics run one at a time rather than spread out over a whole page. Also one has to choose a comic and click on it. The reader actually can cherry pick the comics they like and skip the rest. This allows the paper to say “if you don’t like that particular comic don’t read it!” Thus ending their need to pander to every reader with a complaint.

As a mom whose kids read the print comics everyday, and where they are all just laid out there and lumped together, I have always understood the sensibilities of folks who aren’t happy when their kid is exposed to something they don’t approve of or don’t want to have a discussion about. I may not agree with quite how g-rated they’d like the comics to be but I understand where they’re coming from.

#15 Quint Nelson
November/21/2008
@ 12:26 am

It’a a flop.

#16 bret hagen
November/26/2008
@ 1:27 am

Asking print and online newspapers to buy comics and then turning around and giving away the same comics for free seems counter productive for the cartoonists and doesn’t leave much incentive for readers or newspaper editors to pay for it.

#17 Phil Wohlrab
November/29/2008
@ 10:34 am

I know I’m reviving what is kinda a played out thread BUT
I had a thought that I think is worth adding.

I finally sold some vector art on Shutterstock today. Right now I’ll only get 25 cents a download, but that will increase with sales, as I get more and more vector images up. So far I’ve sold a santa Claus:
http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=20930314
It was not easy to get accepted, there are some technical requirements that you have to abide by that got me rejected twice. Granted I’ve only made a dollar in the last three days, but it adds up over time and I thought, why don’t Syndicates
offer high res downloads of comic strips/editorial cartoons to the public for a reasonable fee? If someone likes a comic, they can blow it up and frame it. Or is that cheapening the medium even further than it already has been?

You can even make pen and ink drawings into vector art, and lose almost none of the integrity of the original. To try it, go to live trace, set the res to 300, path fitting to 3 and minimum area to 1.
This isn’t so much a business model as it is another alternative to make some quick cash.

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