EW Scripps explores selling licensing business

E&P reports that E.W. Scripps, the parent company of United Media Syndicate, is “exploring” the option of selling its licensing business which would include Peanuts and Dilbert characters. The company also reports that it would also consider joint ventures.

Scripps President and CEO Rich Boehne said the process of exploring alternatives is just that, an exploration.

“We recognize that ‘exploring strategic options’ often is a euphemism for ‘sale,’ but this truly is an exercise to determine if these properties would be more valuable with another owner,” he said in a statement. “If not, we’ll continue to nurture the characters as we have for decades.”

140 thoughts on “EW Scripps explores selling licensing business

  1. No, we can’t 🙂

    Ideally the Schulz family could buy it and get the rights to their work back. From what I understand Peanuts accounts for like 95% of UMS business though.

  2. How long before all the syndicates start going out of business? Five years? What happens to the intellectual properties held by the syndicates at that point? Sold off to the highest bidder?

    This is just sad and horrible news.

  3. I don’t understand. Is it the syndicate or the licensing group that has 95% of its revenue from a 60-year-old property that’s in reruns?

  4. I’m genuinely curious to see what company would find this a good fit in their portfolio AND have the liquidity and/or access to credit right now to buy this. Can’t be a super long list.

  5. One of the big problems that has hobbled United Media has been the almost total lack of communication between the licensing division and the syndicate, despite the fact that they’re in the same office. I worked there for almost three years as editor of acquisitions–and not once did the licensing people ever want to meet with me in order to coordinate acquisitions with their goals.

    In a way, the independence was nice. But it was stupid from a company standpoint.

    Now a ridiculous situation is about to potentially turn disastrous. One can easily foresee a future, not far away, when Scripps will divest itself of the syndicate because it is unable to generate enough income on its own…this despite the fact that many of the licensing division’s revenues–most–are directly spun off from comic strip properties signed by the syndicate.

    @Mike: “From what I understand Peanuts accounts for like 95% of UMS business though.”

    One of these days, Mike, it’s going to be an Internet rule that you can’t just make stuff up and state it like a fact.

    You don’t “understand” syndication, not a little bit, and you are absurdly wrong about that number. That said, maybe you should join the Scripps board; you’re probably better qualified than they are. Idiots.

    [Disclosure: Disgruntled former employee.]

  6. @Scott – Why would the syndicates go out of business? As more websites go behind a paywall, wouldn’t the syndicates be the ones to provide the same type of source for digital content as they now provide for print?

  7. From what I understand, internet porn accounts for like 95% of UMS business.

    Can I join the Scripps board too?

    Perhaps smaller, more effective syndicates will emerge from an eventual shakeup.

  8. And this is perhaps one of the reasons why a few of the big syndicates are seemingly lost in the new world. The talk about expanding their revenue sources through new media, but really they are completely stuck in print. If they were cognizant of the new climate in media, they would be more focused on syndicated strips that have potential in the world of animation, games, interactive tutorials for education, phone apps, and a whole list of new ways to license a feature. They sure seem slow to realize the potential here.

    [Disclosure: Disgruntled repeatedly rejected cartoonist.]

  9. @ Ted,

    That was interesting insight into your time at United, by the way. No wonder things didn’t work out. You were an impassioned employee that was probably a perfect match for the job. Old timey companies hate that, especially when they don’t see the iceberg in their path.

    Been there/done that in another industry.

    “We’re going to hire an alt cartoonist in tune with today’s young minds! He’ll do something ‘radical’ like, I don’t know, a Beetle Baily with a MUSTACHE!”

  10. @Ted,

    Mike didn’t make anything up.

    It took me about 10 minutes to find the EW Scripps Company 2008 annual report online. If you search the PDF for “Peanuts” you find the following:

    “We continue syndication of previously published Peanuts strips and retain the rights to license the characters. Peanuts provides approximately 95% of our licensing revenues. Licensing of comic characters in Japan provides approximately 41% of our international licensing revenues which are approximately $52 million annually.”

    You better think before you accuse us webcomic guys of being ignorant of syndication. We’re not. We look this stuff up. We talk about it. We talk to syndicated cartoonists about it in detail. We dissect it. We learn. That’s why we’re doing great while the rest of you guys are crying in your beer.

    For 2010, you should shelve your familiar refrain of calling everyone who offers up a compelling argument “liars.” You’ll embarrass yourself less.

  11. Don’t feel bad for Ted.

    Shortly he’ll be in here making some incoherent argument that the report only references licensing and that doesn’t include money made from newspaper sales and how that’s where the real money is and we’re all a bunch of idiots who lie and just…don’t…get it.

    Then he’ll push away from his laptop. Take a stiffening shot of whiskey, put on a Ramones CD or something and stare out the window smugly.

  12. shhh….we’ve secretly switched his favorite brand of BS with our coffee crystals. lets watch and see what happens…

  13. 95% from Peanuts? If I you’re a creator licensed to UMS and they don’t seem to really be interested in getting your stuff out there at least now you know why.

  14. I wish this was over now, but history has proven Ted will be back with equally ridiculous statements. Ladies and gentlemen, the airhornsman, Ted Rall:

    (please give up now, Ted)

  15. @Matt S:

    Disney was my thought, too: But on the heels of their over-priced Marvel acquisition, I don’t know how keen their board would be to fund another adventure so soon after. (Especially given that they’d have to extricate the licensed Peanuts theme park appearances from Knotts Berry Farm in the take-over.)

    But who knows! Disney’s had a pretty solid past few years, with just a small slowdown in 2009, so they’re among the few in contention.

  16. @Dave Kellett.

    Maybe Google. They do seem to be aquire happy, and it’s possible, of all the companies in a position to make comics work in a digital environment, Google and Apple are the ones most likely. But I don’t see Apple doing so quite so boldly.

  17. When Sparky had his stroke, I alerted the editors that the strip was ending and that we needed to be ready when it happened. When he died, we made the jump to a living strip by a living artist. Seemed logical all around.

    We were among, IIRC, five percent of Peanuts clients that decided newspapers should publish news. The rest were happy with old strips from the Way Back machine.

    The lesson, if there is one, is that this is a business. Sell stuff or get out. And Peanuts continues to sell stuff.

    I’m not saying it’s good for newspapers. I think old strips are what the Internet is for — I read Latigo and Steve Canyon and Big Top and Peanuts and Geech and Shirley and Son every morning on line.

    But Peanuts has entered the realm of Winnie the Pooh. It’s a commodity, not a comic strip.

  18. Obviously, I stand corrected about the licensing stats. Mike’s past history of talking smack here clouded my mind.

    Scott, your own history of making things up here–demonstrably–belies your claim that all webcartoonists research their facts thoroughly.

    That said, that figure is not what I was told when I was at UM. But I got canned before the ’08 figures had been released.

    Even so, the Cult of Snoopy is definitely one of the big problems with the company.

  19. “the Cult of Snoopy”

    I bet that group dances at midnight on a baseball diamond in purple robes and drinks caninus spiritus.

  20. @Ted,

    I don’t have a history of making things up. I only have a history of enduring your constant accusations that I make things up.

    All I can say for sure is that neither Mike nor I have EVER worked at United Media and somehow we managed to get our facts straight. Despite being the uninformed liars you insist we are.

  21. For some reason I’m not surprised by the 95% number … After all, Peanuts has been frequently described in the media as a multi-billion dollar industry.

    What other comic strip property compares to that at United?

    It’s no wonder that Peanuts accounts for 95%

    I’m more surprised by those here who are apparently surprised.

  22. @Scott: People who read TDC have memories. They don’t need me to remind them of some of your more outrageous statements (or mine!).

    Anyway, I was wrong. No big deal; doesn’t hurt me to say it.

  23. There’s also Dilbert, Pearls Before Swine, and get Fuzzy.

    Bear in mind, a lot of what UM licensing does isn’t related to strips at all, or to strips nobody even thinks about anymore but still have lives in other countries.

    Well, by “a lot” I guess we’re talking about 5% lol.

    It’s revealing that, when you walk into the lobby at UM, there’s a huge Peanuts merch display, but nothing about, say, Get Fuzzy or Pearls or, as at other companies, their newest properties. As a fellow payoff victim told me, it’s problematic when your biggest creator has been dead for a decade…and you don’t seem to care.

  24. Although, doesn’t United own copyright for Peanuts?

    The copyright for Dilbert, Pearls, and Get Fuzzy all belong to their respective creators, with United being the distributor. Dilbert was initially owned by United, but about five or ten years ago, Scott Adams was given the rights back to him.

  25. @Ted,

    I agree, people who read these boards do have memories. I think that’s why whatever credibility you once had in this ridiculous argument has long since been stripped of you.

    Mike, myself and others saw the news of EW Scripps pursuing the idea of selling off United Media and it took us all of four minutes and one internet search to become more informed than you are, a person who worked at United Media.

    So claim that we’re ignorant all you want. Claim we’re liars all you want. Blow your airhorn long and proud, Ted.

    Blow your airhorn.

  26. Yes, Scott, I will do that. It’ll be an awesome airhorn spectacular, Vegas style!

    (I hear there are people who sell jokes to cartoonists…reach out! Hire one!)

  27. I hope you didn’t breathe in any of that layer of dust you had to blow off of that joke before you used it, Ted. Such things cannot be good for your lungs.

  28. We should gather all of the Ted and Scott conversations here on TDC and make it into a book. We can call it: “The Bickerers”

    Thanks for cheering me up, ya knuckleheads.
    (all in good fun)

  29. Just for you, Scott, I changed a couple lines.

    Ah, poor Ted Rall,
    Just listen to him squall,
    What a whiney know-it-all,
    And he wants that shiny ball
    That the Web kids have.

    But when they toss it to him,
    He squeals in mad confusion
    Accusing them of every kind of crime!
    “Those nasty web-based artists
    Give me cooties with their baseless
    Claims of making money just like me!
    There’s no way on this green earth
    They could profit from their stuff
    Which by the way they give away for FREE!
    So they must be faking all the income –
    Who knows where it all comes from?
    Scott Kurtz is just a liar, can’t you all see?”

  30. “We should gather all of the Ted and Scott conversations here on TDC and make it into a book. We can call it: ?The Bickerers? ”

    No no, make it a web comic!

  31. But then who would pay?

    By the way, all people interested in the web/print topic should consider reading “I Am Not a Gadget.” It’s an interesting polemic centered around the premise that an Internet culture that places advertising front and center is toxic.

  32. Ted your discussions with Scott are already a webcomic!

    Think about it, the avatar’s serve as a crude panel (well luxurious by editorial standards) the divisional bars between posts are a new kind of word balloon.

    Ted Rall is one of my favorite web cartoonists. And i get to read his collaborative works with Scott Kurts for free.

    I’m such a fan of this stuff that I would love to buy a print edition or maybe even a plush Ted Rall doll (squeeze his belly and it makes an air horn noise)

  33. Because the internet is so unique in placing advertising front a center.

    Well, so far every webcomic I’ve seen is largely an advertisement for the print products. And that is toxic to innovation on the web because print can’t do any of the things that the web can do – the endless canvas, interaction, and links. But if you have to format the web version so it can be printed, then you have to limit it to print layout restrictions. Toxic.

  34. Because, you know, you webcartoonists always do research before opening your mouths about stuff, I know you’ve read the book.

    So what did you think?

    Or does research only entail Google searches?

    Personally, I thought such a ferocious indictment of Web 2.0 culture as antidemocratic and vacuous, written by a leading tech guru, was thought-provoking. Especially the chapter on journalism and pop culture. I thought he was a little Boomer-centric, and a little chauvinistic about music, but his broader points seemed valid.

    Your thoughts?

  35. And yes, the Internet is unique in that respect. In the “content is king” era, which encapsulates everything through Web 1.0, ads followed content. Now, for example, comic strips online are designed specifically to attract advertisers–thus the numerous video-game-themed strips and the relative absence of, say, political webcomics.

    Previously and in print, content was picked to draw readers…and ads followed circulation. The same is true about radio and TV…few producers create radio or TV programs specifically to draw certain types of advertising.

    There are, of course, exceptions–the fashion spreads of magazines, for example–but the Web is a gamechanger in that respect.

  36. No Ted, I didn’t run out and read the book. Shoot me. Again.

    I have spent some time at his website:


    It looks like he’s advocating a micro-payments system for paying for content. Same as a paywall, a lot of people are trying to find a way other than advertising. I’m all for it.

    BTW, I was actually supporting your earlier argument and got winged by that bullet you fired at Scott. Ouch!

  37. Historically, many of the successful webcomic appealed to geek and video game interests, but I don’t really think it’s like this anymore. Just think of all the successful webcomics that are much broader in content, including: Achewood, Cat & Girl, Dinosaur Comics, Overcompensating, Wondermark, Sinfest, Girl Genius, Daisy Owl, Templar AZ, Devil’s Panties, Dresden Codak, Octopus Pie, The Adventures of D. McNinja, and on and on. This seems like a pretty diverse list if you ask me. Many of these comics don’t even feature prominent advertising.

  38. @Ted

    Oh god. You caught me. I never read the book. I totally commented on how the subject turns me off before I read it. Damn. Foiled again by Ted Rall.

    This TOTALLY makes you look less stupid about the United Media thing.

    Vindication achieved. WELL played, sir.

  39. How many successful webcomics out there are about video games? Penny Arcade and who else? PVP hasn’t focused on video games in literally years except for the odd strip here or there.

  40. Also if you think print doesn’t cater content for advertisers try and find an in depth story on the housing price bubble in a newspaper prior to 2008. Let’s just say that the the real estate weekend pull outs bring in a significant chunk of change.

  41. @Tom: Sorry. You were unclear. Or I can’t read. One or the other. Stupid English language!

    @Scott: Thank you. I knew it wouldn’t take long. Any word from Comicon?

    @Charles: Gotta be. Although there’s lots of inspiration for Tomorrow’s Law.

    @Grant: There’s a big difference between a publication that sucks up to advertisers and content that is created to generate a specific type of advertising.

  42. “There?s a big difference between a publication that sucks up to advertisers and content that is created to generate a specific type of advertising.”

    neither description applies to webcomics. Smart biz guys find advertisers and revenue opportunities that compliment the content. We don’t suck up to advertisers OR cater our content to attract advertisers. Not if were smart.

  43. Scott, I didn’t say webcartoonists sucked up to advertisers–I said that old media companies often do.

    But it is very clear that the concepts behind the more remunerative webcomics are market- rather than reader-based. I.e., advertising-driven.

    Most webcomics are based on geek culture, which is by definition fringe. Print-based comic strips and editorial cartoons have always been designed in order to appeal to as mass an audience as possible.

    Online, a broad-based strip like “Beetle Bailey” would hardly make a splash. It has a lot of readers. Not dedicated fanatics.

    What the anti-Web 2.0 people are arguing is that the Internet is destroying what remains of mass culture by splitting everything into a zillion sub-genres, and destroying journalism by making it impossible for good journalists to earn a living.

    I don’t really care if “Beetle Bailey” lives or dies–I much prefer Daily Dinosaur Comics–but there is much to worry about here.

  44. Note to self. Don’t EVER pick a fight with Scott Kurtz unless you want to know what it feels like as the broom in curling. Of course, I wouldn’t ever pick the fight to begin with, because he’s right.

  45. “Most webcomics are based on geek culture, which is by definition fringe.”

    Video games fringe? On what planet?

    The video game industry generated $22 billion in 2008 in the US. Guess how much the movie industry generated. $9 billion. And the music industry? $10 billion [1]. Since then those numbers have probably diverged even further.

    So the industry you consider ‘fringe’ is larger than the music and move industries COMBINED. But a webcomic based on movies or music (bring back F Chords Straub!) would probably be considered mainstream right?

    To give an example: Lady Gaga has sold 10 million units of her album ‘The Fame’ since release in August 2008. Modern Warfare 2 sold 7 million units on it’s first day!


  46. @Ted,

    I don’t know how you can breathe will all the crap bubbling up in your throat. Don’t you ever get tired of making excuses? Don’t you ever bore of grasping for reasons that so many of you are failing right now when all you have to do is look inwards.

    Blame. Your. Self.

    Content is content. People like what they like. in 1950, Peanuts was mainstream. in 2010, video games are. The fact that you don’t understand this doesn’t make it less true. It just makes you APPEAR less informed.

    The problem is that you and I both know you’re not misinformed or stupid. You’re just acting out some ridiculous role you’ve invented for yourself to seem relevant. This persona is your new “content.”

    Nothing gets more niche than what you’re offering right now, Ted. The problem is that this content won’t scale for you any more than your tired political cartoons will.

    You can blame me for it. You can blame web 2.0 for it. But the only person who’s really to blame is yourself. Adapt. Or shut up. Seriously.

  47. Content is content. People like what they like. … The problem is that this (Ted’s) content won?t scale for you any more than your tired political cartoons will. … Adapt. Or shut up.

    In other words, produce pabulum that doesn’t actually say anything?

  48. @Tom

    No. That’s what the comics page does now and nobody cares. That’s why it doesn’t matter that Cathy can’t fit into her summer bathing suit AGAIN this year. Nobody cares.

    Good content finds an audience. It always has and always will. People who are products of their time and speak honestly from their heart will always attract and audience. And with that audience they will attract earning opportunities to support their work.

    I really good example is Kate Beaton and her comic strip “Hark, A Vagrant.” It’s probably the most amazing webcomic in existence today. Fresh art, and a unique look at a subject that most people find boring: history. Kate makes history, politics and literature enthralling.

    Good things are coming her way. She doesn’t even have to go looking for them. She just needs to be prepared to manage them as they come her way.

    She’s certainly not sitting around whining about how the system isn’t serving HER.

  49. @Scott

    But you just spent a week of strips about getting hit in the arm by a girl.

    And you’re somehow successful with that.

    Editorial/political cartoons will always struggle because they say something about something, and that scares people. Especially advertisers.

    Not to sound like I’m whining, but I recently got rejected by Adsense for content. Content? My stuff is so tame compared to Ted’s but it was still too much for them.

    So it’s up to me to find a different route, I know. NOT whining. But I just don’t see the point of doing this if I’m not going to say something.

  50. @Tom,

    I find your comment “And you’re somehow successful with that.” to be completely and intentionally insulting.

    I’m successful with it because people find it funny and they relate to the situation. Nothing more or less.

    Adsense dropped a lot of webcomic sites for not having enough updating blog content for them to contextually sell ads based on. Your site doesn’t have enough text based content on it to work effectively in their system. It’s not that your work is too hot to handle.

  51. @Scott

    I was comparing your storyline to the Cathy storyline. Which, I’m sure fans of Cathy relate to and find funny.

    Neither of which I find funny, but it wasn’t meant as an insult. Okay, maybe a little in the sense that I don’t see any point to either versus editorial cartooning. My preference.

    I had a writeup under each of my cartoons, plus the script below that, when Adsense rejected me. I put that writeup there specifically for them even though I preferred the cartoons stand on their own. After the rejection I took off the writeup and left the script in place. Which is what you see now.

    I let the lure of all those pennies from the the ad entice me into doing something I knew was wrong for the comic. Toxic.

  52. Scott, for the love of God, don’t even waste your time on Tom. You have a comic with well-developed and enjoyed characters. Tom apparently makes comics about high-energy physics that don’t even reference the physics correctly. He’s debating whether or not he should alter his site to keep Adsense from rejecting him. But given how much traffic he gets, he would be better off searching his couch cushions for change than serve ads from Adsense.

  53. @tom

    If you want to find at least a better way to advertise there are plenty. check out project wonderful.

    The best way is to handle it yourself and find paying sponsors on your own, but thats also part of managing a small business i’m guessing your not interested in?

    I hardly think web comics is about advertising until you have a critical mass of readership. Your much better off using the 1000 true fans theory.

    While pvp does have fun weeks like this last one it also has weeks about the fear of one day becoming a father and losing something you have with your wife. The point is his work connects with people, anyone who asks for more then that is delusional.

    It’s fairly obvious that as communication and distribution become easier, culture is changing from moving in cycles to static niches.

    Saying one is better then the other is just politics. Unification can be used for evil just as well as partisanship.

    Mass media was used fairly well to create people like Hitler right? Just like i’m sure craigslist is responsible for letting some really messed up stuff go down.

    The issue is not if niche is good or bad but how you are going to deal with the change.

    And how are you going to deal with the blow to your ego, 1000 true fans may be enough to live off of. but I guess it’s not enough to make you feel better then other people.

  54. I think it’s cool that Scott is “wasting his time” with Tom. He’s treating him as a peer.

    It’s not like Lynn Johnston, Mort Walker, or any of the few super-successful syndicated cartoonists are posting here (although I’m always interested in their point of view).

    I don’t care who you are, you have to admit that PVP is a testament to consistent and hard work. The layout of the site is instantly appealing, the artwork is very skilled, and it’s an entertaining strip for many, many people. There’s no arguing that.

    Scott has earned each and every one of those dedicated fans with hard (and hopefully fun) work. That’s an amazing acheivement.

    Not that Scott needs another bit of praise from this “nobody”, but I think he’s been pretty giving to people interested in doing what he does, whether it’s through a syndicate or not.

    Carry on.

  55. @stephen
    sorry, i did not want to go there, maybe i should have said Oprah or dr Phill or something?

  56. @Tyler Gibson – Each of my comics is about something different. “Multiverse” is, at its core, about this video: http://tinyurl.com/y9xkj6m

    Brevity forced me to truncate the physics, but that’s why I included two links, inside the comic, to the source material.

    @TylerT – I don’t care about Adsense at all, that wasn’t my point. I was using it as an example that lowest common denominator advertisers can’t exhibit on a standalone editorial cartoon website. Why? Because the subject matter for each cartoon is all over the map, preventing a focused ad campaign. And, any given cartoon has the potential to blow up in their face, as witnessed by the recent college newspaper cartoons.

    I appreciate Scott and Ted taking the time to have this discussion.

  57. Tom–

    I don’t thiiink that’s why adsense rejected you. My content is similarly random (and, in fact, involves physics from time to time) and I’ve been with adsense for years. Did they give you any specifics?

    Either way, you’re better off with project wonderful. It’s perfect for people who are newer webcomics because you can monetize a relatively small audience that premium providers won’t touch.


    Email me if you have any confusion over setting up. I HIGHLY recommend a large rectangle ad. They’re great sellers if they fit on your site.

  58. Thanks Zach –

    Here’s the Adsense email:

    We did not approve your application for the reasons listed below.


    – Unacceptable site content


    Further detail:

    Unacceptable site content: Your website contains content that we do not allow at this time. Please review our policies
    (https://www.google.com/adsense/policies?hl=en_US) for a complete list of site content not allowed on webpages.

    Seems clear to me. Note that at the time there was a summary paragraph under each comic, plus the script below that, plus the fact that Google can now read the text inside the Flash player. So there was plenty of textual content to read. I have to take them at their word.

    In any case, I only brought up advertising in response to the book Ted mentioned above by Jaron Lanier.

    I’m in contact with other ad networks with an unusual proposal, and I’ll contact Project Wonderful once I’m over their 30 comics posted requirement. I’m at 27, so next week.

    If you go to my site you’ll see instructions for how to place my comic and ad space on your site using an iFrame. If this works the way I want, all views of my ad and comic at your site will count for my site.

    And, if the ad networks can track the number of views of my ad at your site, I can offer to pay you an, um, incentive, to place my content and ad on your site. It wouldn’t take too many placements on high traffic sites to get my numbers up pretty quick.

    This completely flips the ad paradigm because I’d now be paying you to run my content (with ad) rather than you paying me for content. Which is important to someone like me who is interested in spreading ideas.

    Anyone see why this wouldn’t work?

  59. Huh, that’s odd. You might try sending an email to adsense. My experience with their tech support has been generally positive.

    I don’t entirely understand your ad sharing idea. Or at least, I don’t see how it’s an improvement on the old fashioned forms of traffic sharing (links and ad buys). But, good luck!

  60. Other political cartoonists, some quite well established, have had the same issue with Adsense. More generally, advertisers tend to shy away from potentially controversial content online. In my experience, I have found myself censored and canceled far more often online as the result of controversial work than by print newspapers–and print editors are hardly brave.

    @Scott: Once again I have to ask what planet you live on. Where I live, the most popular bands are among the worst and the most talented have trouble scraping by. The same is true about comics.

    Your comment that “the best work always finds an audience” is specious and belied by your own experience. Do you really think Mort Walker is the best cartoonist in America? I don’t. More to the point, the best work usually finds a small niche…which, online, isn’t enough to support the work.

    I will say it again: as currently configured, the Internet cannot sustain enough good cartoonists financially to be viable. What it can sustain, apparently, is a few dozen extremely lame strips with no social or political content whatsoever.


    The more I think about the problems of the Internet–privacy violations and libel issues (the Google Italy case), the inability of journalism to find support, etc.–the more I’m being forced to conclude that it is the ultimate expression of a vicious, vacuous form of Mad Max-style capitalism.

    P.S. I don’t want to degenerate into issues of taste which are inherently subjective, but suffice it to say that many, many more Americans prefer “tired political cartoons” to generically-drawn webcomics without punchlines about video games (yawwwwwn).

  61. Tyler,

    Music industry income is down more than 50% over the last decade:


    Countless great bands, indeed whole genres, went under or never stood a chance as a result.

    The iPod has been good for Apple, but not for musicians. The thing is, music wasn’t free before the iPod. It was very, very expensive–I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on it–before people started being allowed to steal it digitally.

    The music industry’s big mistake was not suing every single illegal downloader into bankruptcy.

  62. Why would anyone, especially Ted Rall, mourn the death of the music industry? I don’t think a single industry has exploited it’s artists and extracted so much value out of them with so little in return as much as the music industry has.

    Have a read what Steve Albini has to about the music industry and it’s exploitation of musicians: http://www.negativland.com/albini.html

  63. I agree. The music industry is/was terrible. But things can always go from bad to worse–ask the Iraqis who miss Saddam.

    I’ll ignore Steve Albini’s wretched production of the Wedding Present and Nirvana and read what he has to say.

    There is little doubt, however, that music has lost its way in the last ten years, and that that’s at least in part due to the fading dream of being able to earn a living.

    The problem is, the Old Order has been destroyed. But no one planned for the postwar era.

  64. I think people just use music less these days.

    Piracy is no doubt a problem but it’s the same problem EVERY industry has. Video games have problems with piracy but seem to have grown well in this past decade.


    “When we started the last decade, video game industry sales, including PC games, totaled $7.98B in 2000,” added Frazier. “In ten years, the industry has changed dramatically in many ways, but most importantly it was grown over those years by more than 250 percent at retail alone. Considering there are many new sources of revenue including subscriptions and digital distribution, industry growth is even more impressive.”

    Could it simply be video games that took music’s 8 bill? Is it piracy or just a shift in culture. What sounds better to record exec and what agenda would they push in the media?

    Maybe music is not the industry it once was, in my limited experience i’m getting to listen to and pay for music I would otherwise never have access to under the old system. The music industry is notorious for treating the artist like crap. Digital distribution has given the independent artist a real chance to find an audience without selling their soul.

    “Countless great bands, indeed whole genres, went under or never stood a chance as a result.” try selling that line to http://www.jonathancoulton.com and http://frontalot.com/index.php/

    Point is digital music distribution was made into a real business by improving the end user experience with iTunes/iPod.

    I suspect the iPad will do something similar for reading.

    E.W. Scripps should sell it’s licencing business. The days of a few editor’s, execs and distributors holding the key’s to the world’s culture are over. I still think they have a role to play, it’s just a smaller one.

  65. Currently, Tyler, I think you’re right. In the not-so-near future, however, people will start to appreciate the role that gatekeepers play in filtering information and presenting it in a form that is manageable and digestible.

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google and other companies who “give” us “free” content and platforms begin charging us for it after we’re hooked.

  66. “people will start to appreciate the role that gatekeepers play in filtering information and presenting it in a form that is manageable and digestible.”

    I know I do when it comes to animation. Most web animation I’ve seen are amateurish at best with poor Flash animation, crappy character developments, and just plain poor story. It pretty much makes up at least 99% of Newgrounds. Homestar Runner and Simon’s Cat are some of the very few exception that I can think of as far as web animations that’s actually good.

    Majority of the TV animation…I don’t like, but I’ll acknowledge that shows like “Family Guy” are professionally made, at least, even if I don’t care much about it.

    Even independent films have some sort of gatekeepers. Don’t forget that film festivals have the right to reject films if they don’t meet their standards.

  67. @Ted

    Popular does not equal good has been the lament of the pretentious comic book creator for years. Go to any SPX and listen to people go on about their lack of success being the fault of the ignorant masses. It couldn’t possibly be the complete inaccessibility of their work or the fact that their art is horrible. It’s that the dumbed-down masses can’t stomach their hard hitting social commentary. Because the PEOPLE are stupid. The art is solid.


    Is Mort Walker the best cartoonist out there? Of course not. But it’s 2010. In 1950, Mort was downright edgy. The syndicates had a staffer xacto knife out every exposed belly-button that he drew on the “sexy” military receptionist. So yeah. In 2010 he was. So in his time, yes. He was popular for a legitimate reason. Now he’s just safe and nostalgic. He’s far from popular these days so I don’t see how your argument even stands up.

    I would love to see your data on how more Americans prefer “tired political cartoons” to our webcomics. Because I suspect that any numbers you could muster would once again be a part of this ridiculous co-opting of paper circulation numbers as your own. Just because someone bought a paper doesn’t mean they sought out, read or even remember your political cartoon that’s buried in it.

    Conversely, a majority of my readers don’t happen to accidentally read PvP looking for some other content. They are actively seeking it out.

    You’ve built this wonderful facade about webcomics to make yourself feel more comfortable about it. But pretty soon you’re going to have to accept that most of them are not about tired video game jokes and a lot of them are producing content that you and your ilk simply aren’t talented enough to compete with.

    Which probably explains why you’re out of a job.

  68. (this is Tyler T, read i needed a last name to post here)

    Even the digital world has it’s gate keepers. I will outline it for you.

    a gate keeper on the web is anyone that knows at least one other person that listens to them. Some people can literally have millions of people who read their blog, twitter, news feed.

    Good work often experiences leaps and bounds of popularity when someone links it, one link is often caught by a slightly bigger site, down the chain that link eventually gets linked on boing boing and then suddenly you have a following and maybe even traditional publishing outlets asking if you want to work with them.*

    Were starting to see a trend where institutions that were once gate keepers are now more like custodians of whats becoming popular. Like random house publishing penny arcade or dark horse picking up achewood. I’m guessing these creators are getting much better treatment then a nobody first timer who’s book was found in a slush pile.

    I think it’s a much healthier practice and probably better then agents, slush piles, and simply guessing what people may want to read. It’s awesome that these creators get to leverage the abilities of these massive institutions.

    * if anyone is wondering “well if thats how it works, why has it not worked for me” well I have two possibilities.
    1. Wait it out. each new post, each new cartoon is a new chance to connect with the right people and hit that domino effect of links. sometimes it just takes time
    2. Get better, change what your doing. your work may not yet be good enough to earn those links. your work may not be getting seen by the right people. study, work hard, wait a bit and you will hit it just right.

  69. @Tyler: Interesting observation about the “new gatekeepers.”

    @Scott: I am sick and tired of your endless personal attacks. Making fun of me for having lost my job is not cool–talk to anyone who has ever lost a job and ask them. Neither is attacking the quality of my cartoons. No one besides you does that here, and I don’t know what makes you special.

    It’s not like I can’t give back as good as I get back. Here’s one: your cartoons suck, Scott. Suck suck suck. Everyone thinks so. That’s why no newspaper took them, even for free. Here’s another: I may be old, and I may be poor, but I’ll always look better than you. Even after I’ve been dead for a few years. And another: I can find 50 better cartoonists than you at any SPX.

    Do you think that’s productive, Scott?

    You know what I think? I think you’re a bully. I think you resort to ad hominem attacks because you’re too lazy and/or uninformed to form coherent arguments and because you’re insecure because you got mistreated in the past. Well, tough. We’re cartoonists. Being insulted comes with the territory–but not between cartoonists.

    In the future, if you can’t stick to discussing the facts and ideas here (spare us the juvenile “blow your airhorn, Ted” wtf remarks), I will ignore your posts. Which would make me sad because, deep down under that a-hole blowhard personna of yours (yeah, yeah, takes one to know one), I think is someone who has some worthwhile stuff to say.

    As things stand, you’re the Sean Hannity of cartooning.

  70. @ted
    To be fair, Scott has been given bull droppings from portions of the established cartoonist community for a very long time. Your arguments bare a close resemblance to what those same people threw at him. You kind of stepped in front of a fire hose by doing so.

    Also I would hope turning to emotional arguments is beneath you. Scott does not use much tact but i’ll be damed if he’s not on target. Most of how I work is based on the awesome advice found in webcomics weekly http://ww.libsyn.com/

    While it may seem impossible that anything gets noticed on the net, a place where nearly anyone with a pulse can self publish. The truth is the “new gatekeepers” do a much better job of finding the absolutely best material being created then the old system could ever hope to accomplish.

    Your no longer working alongside creators who were lucky, talented, dedicated, or desperate enough to navigate the old distribution channels. You are literally working in a field with the best the world has to offer.

    http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/ (read minus)

  71. Ted you need to go look at this entire thread and see who attacked first…….YOU

  72. Oh Ted. Just call me fat. You’ll feel better about it. I know I’m fat, you can say it. Fatty fat fat.

    If you want to keep challenging my business model, methods and work, and you want to keep claiming that your business model, methods and work are (in the long run) better for everyone, then you better be prepared to having people question your ability to earn a living as a cartoonist. It’s not like we sought you out, started challenging your claims to your salary or started pinning our financial woes on YOUR business model.

    When the business model you use daily, didn’t pay off dividends for us, we invented our own. If you want to continue to deny and challenge it, then be prepared to defend your own. If you don’t want us bringing up your job loss, or how you have to beg for money to be a journalist or write a book, then shut the hell up about how we earn our money.

    I’m still waiting for you to reconcile your previous statements that one isn’t a cartoonist if you don’t make the majority of your money from cartooning against your statement that losing your syndicate job cut your income by 60%.

    You manage to twist every topic in this forum to some thinly veiled blame-game where the people giving away their comics for free on the net are ruining things for your socially conscious and world changing artists. And then you want to take the fact that you can’t earn a living from your awesome global-economic-changing comics off the table as an ad hominem attack?

    I suck, but I’m a bully. I’m failing, but I’m succeeding to a point where I can affect you. I’m nobody but Im Sean Hannity.

    I got your number Ted. As fat and ugly as I am, I got your number.

    You just don’t like it.

  73. This reminds me of that awesome scene in 8 Mile when the two best rappers in town are going head to head… but then two cartoonists start arguing off to the side of the stage, and everyone else just gets uncomfortable and eventually goes home.

  74. Ted R.to Scott K.: “As things stand, you?re the Sean Hannity of cartooning.”

    I think this nails it. Not so much that Scott is Sean Hannity, but that Ted is also Keith Olberman and both “Sean” and “Keith” use insults and personal attacks to make their points and are outraged–OUTRAGED, sir!–that the other does so.

    Initially, those who lean towards either personality’s worldview side with their champion. Eventually, however, both wind up embarrassing their own side and become a turn off.

    Personally, I have no fixed position on Print vs. Web so I find it all hilarious. Carry on.

  75. Why do you take criticisms of your business model personally, Scott? You didn’t even invent the thing. And even if you had, it’s only a business model.

    It’s a funny thing that you mentioned “Terror Widows.” I’m proud of that cartoon–it sparked a lot of discussion at a critical time, which is what editorial cartoons should do. As for bullying, well, you should look up the definition of the word.

    Please stop with the personal attacks, Scott. It’s not that they bother me–if anything, they’re boring. It’s that they distract from the discussion.

    Am I mistaken, or didn’t you promise Alan you’d stop?

  76. “This reminds me of that awesome scene in 8 Mile when the two best rappers in town are going head to head? but then two cartoonists start arguing off to the side of the stage, and everyone else just gets uncomfortable and eventually goes home.”


  77. @Ted,

    I guess I take it personally because every time I talk about being a professional cartoonist, you call me a liar. I’m not sure HOW you expect me to take it.

    I also don’t understand how you can reconcile asking me for a W9 to prove I actually make a real living at this while losing a day job cripples you financially to a point where you have to beg for money to write a new book since admittedly no publisher will pay for it.

    I grok why suddenly you see my desire to reconcile this logical fallacy as a sudden “ad hominem attack” on my part. I just don’t grok how you really expect us to buy your sudden wounded routine.

    what’s obvious from this thread, is that you like to position yourself as an expert, and when someone easily just points out how you’re really nothing but a blowhard pretending to know everything, you start grasping at whatever straws you can.

    This started with a simple and factual observation by Mike Krahulik, followed by you calling him a liar for it.

    But I’m the bully.

  78. @Scott: You repeatedly claim that it is possible for any cartoonist to make a living on the Web. I know hundreds of cartoonists, none of whom earns more than pennies online. Since you are advising cartoonists to abandon print and become webcartoonists, it is relevant to ask how much you make. That is not a personal attack–it’s asking you to back up your claims.

    As for your other statements here, they are so prima facie stupid and ignorant of the cartooning and publishing businesses that they make me wonder whether you’re an impostor.

    Again, I am not hurt by your personal attacks. I am annoyed, since they interfere with our ability to talk about actual ideas and have a real discussion.

  79. Since those hundreds of cartoonists are all better than, say, PvP, and you claim that quality guarantees making money online, one logically has to wonder what’s going on.

  80. @TED

    I don’t really have a horse in this race, but if you’re going to write something like this, “Since those hundreds of cartoonists are all better than, say, PvP” than you really have to shut up about being annoyed with personal attacks.

  81. -Never said it’s possible for any cartoonist to make a living on the web. If you read our book on the subject we say over and over that it takes years of hard work, luck and a lot of talent to ever succeed. And more than likely the most you’ll accomplish is scratching your creative itch and making enough money in the process to feel the time spent was at least not totally wasted.

    -Never advised anyone to abandon print. Print is a huge part of my business. Why would I ever advise that? Never said it. I said abandon syndicates and publishers, sure. Never print.

    -It’s none of your business how much I make and I don’t have to reveal it to you to justify what I do for a living. It’s a stupid argument you keep bringing up to deflect. Nobody but you insists on believing I’m not making a living with my comics.

    -There is no fundamental lack of logic behind why PvP is successful. I work hard at it. People like it and buy my stuff. So long as that continues I get to keep doing this. What’s illogical about that?

  82. @Guy:

    Um, in case it wasn’t clear, I’m feeling free to respond in kind to Scott’s personal attacks. If he wants a truce, I’m happy to agree to one. In the meantime, I’m tired of arguing with one arm tied behind my back.

  83. Hey thanks very much for the kind words, Scott! I read this website sometimes, enough anyway to know that when there are over 100 comments there’s no need to guess what folks are discussing.

    Man, it’s hard to know what is being argued at this point.

  84. man…. I can’t believe you. You are a spoiled curmudgeon. You must have had it good for too long to be so closed minded.

    you remind me of Sam I am from Green Eggs and Ham.

  85. “P.S. I got laid off from a job Scott could never have gotten in the first place.”

    how …childish.

    Well good luck with your fight, fellas.

  86. @Ted “I got laid off from a job Scott could never have gotten in the first place.”

    Scott did one better – he couldn’t get the job you have, so he built he own job. He set his own rules and it paid off. It’s continuing to pay off, and it will be paying off for some time to come.

    Meanwhile you got fired from the job Scott couldn’t get but that you so desperately try to cling to. You sought a position that already existed and couldn’t keep it. Changing world, Ted.

    You constantly try to paint a picture of yourself as the victim, as the person being bullied. But you talk a tremendous amount of bollocks and you lash out at people who challenge you. What’s more you go too far – you take it to extremes. You have a habit of doing that, if “My War With Brian” is anything to go by (and that’s assuming it isn’t complete airhorn), but where before you were a teenager trying to actively kill someone you believed had wronged you, you are now lashing out at someone who has found success by taking a road differently from yours.

    In all my time reading comments here on TDC I have *never* seen Scott start shit. It’s always you, Ted. You blow your airhorn before Scott even reaches the podium.

    Scott’s making bank. You aren’t. That’s got to hurt, hasn’t it? Couldn’t blame a guy for being a little jealous about that, could you?

  87. I don’t believe for one second that Scott is “making bank.” I think Scott has a trust fund, or rich parents, or a spouse who earns a real living, or sells magic mushrooms, or something.

    It’s like Bernie Madoff. What he says just…doesn’t…ring…true. Not to me. Not to anyone who knows this business.

    As for who starts what here, well, you’re high. I may start discussions. Scott adds the personal insults.

  88. @ Corey
    “In the distant future of 3761, there will be dirt, twinkies and Ted Rall and Scott Kurtz slap fights.”

    You forgot Keith Richards.
    He will be hurt by that.

  89. “It?s like Bernie Madoff. What he says just?doesn?t?ring?true. Not to me. Not to anyone who knows this business.”

    Kinda rich coming from the same guy who was seemingly unaware of where 95% of his previous employers revenue came from.

    And as for trust funds, remind me again which one of you attended the University of North Texas ($3 500/year for TX residents) and which one of you attended Columbiua University ($21 5000/year).

  90. @Ted:
    “Also, I didn?t work for United Media Licensing. So I don?t know what you?re talking about.” Given how much United Media literally IS Peanuts, that’s a little dysfunctional on their part, isn’t it? If senior staff don’t understand how their bread is buttered and where they exist in the companies revenue picture?

  91. Yes, Robert, you’re right. United Media was wildly dysfunctional. Licensing and syndicate not only rarely talked to one another; they were actively at odds and competing against one another. Everyone knew it was insane, yet no one ever did anything about it.

    Top management encouraged this weird idea that executives and divisions should “compete” internally. Synergy was non-existent. The heads of various divisions had obvious antipathy for one another. Younger staffers were underpaid, disinvested and unmotivated.

    These management problems manifested themselves all sorts of ways. Many creative properties with great potential were underexploited. Tired older ones received too much focus. And we all remember the fiasco that was and remains the Comics.com relaunch–amazingly, those responsible received huge budget increases.

    It was impossible to get modest ideas, much less big ones, seriously considered. One of my initiatives, for example, was to start a book division. For example, United didn’t have the ability to print Dilbert books. Insane! I couldn’t get management to allocate one thin dime to the project. I wanted to go to the big comics festival at Angoulême to search for new talent, but couldn’t get the travel expensed. When we signed new strips, we couldn’t get the Comics.com website to promote them because the Web Division was unanswerable to us and didn’t care about our requests.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. What had started out as a fun job with endless possibilities for revitalizing comics pages eventually became just depressing. It was always no, we don’t have any money, no budget, do more with less, typical corporate crap.

    My favorite tale about bureaucracy at UM was the expense report. I had run up $195 and change in cash expenses at some point. They had a rule that they wouldn’t cut a check until the sum exceeded $200. So month after month for at least a year I had to complete and submit a form, getting it signed by my boss, noting the carry-over expense of $195. I only got the $195 after they laid me off. It was like the Soviet Union.

  92. Let’s break for a moment and recognize something that Ted and Scott have in common: being slapped around on TV!

    Ted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SP2W9N6BYfg

    Scott: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USvCMRF5xwo

    I’m not familiar with the history between these two fighters, but I do find it interesting how Ted openly doubts and questions the success of another man’s business (and also mocks his appearance). Likewise, I find it interesting that Scott openly taunts another man’s job loss and underfunded ambitions.

    I’d imagine that a meeting between these two in real life would sound something like this:

    Ted: Hey Fatso, did your mom buy you those elastic-waist jeans?

    Scott: Hey Hobo, should I give you a pair so you can use it as a tent?

    I used to actively seek out and enjoy reading Ted’s syndicated articles around 2004-2005. Then I educated myself politically and I stopped doing that.

    I occasionally read PVP and though I am not a fan of the comic itself, I admire Scott’s success at branding his comic.

    To conclude this unsolicited commentary:

    From the videos above, we have a man with the “hotness”of Ted mocking the appearance of a man being mocked by a glorified sock who is mocking Ted for thinking comics are world-changing scribbles.

    God help cartoonists.

  93. If you don’t think Scott is earning actual, real, actual money from the real, actual, real webcomic he’s actually made work in the real world then, frankly, I believe all discussion with you is more or less null and void. You’re like a Creationist who, when presented with information about fossils and carbon dating and real “age of the world” stuff, sticks his fingers in his ears and starts singing his favourite hymn.

    You’re a jerk, Ted Rall. A total kneebiter. And I feel genuinely sorry for you.

  94. @Ben: Maybe, but at least I don’t cut and paste my characters from one panel to the next. What, you think people won’t notice?

  95. Ted….. You are such a dik…..you are so blinded by your ego you can’t see.

  96. …a lot of them are producing content that you and your ilk simply aren?t talented enough to compete with.

    Which probably explains why you?re out of a job.

    Skipping the petty callousness of this comment, Scott, where is the logic in it? Ted didn’t lose any job as a cartoonist, his position at United Media was eliminated where his job was, primarily, to try and get deals for the same young and talented artists you continue to believe he doesn’t support. Ted’s “ilk” in one of his books included R. Stevens, Nick Gurewich, and Stephen Cloud. Yeah, he’s really railing about how they suck and can’t compete with him the way he tried to get them nationally published and competing with other print cartoonists and all that.

    I just don’t get it. Of all the stupid petty BS you two throw back and forth here, why you seem to constantly gloat about the loss of a position at a major company devoted to making newer artists more popular and successful- regardless of who held it- is beyond me.

  97. To quote Winston Churchill: “Never have so many, fallen so far, saying so little.”

  98. C’mon guys – draw some funny pictures! It’s fun, you should try it! Ah, but what do I know, I’m just “some random caricature artist” who has *not* been “making bank” for 15 years… LOL

    I’m never going to be rich doing this, but, hey, I can buy a car, buy a home – heck, I can even buy a Macintosh computer and contribute a little bit to The Daily Cartoonist and Ted Rall might not call me a liar, who knows? LOL

    Ah, listen to me whine… Really, I’ve got no complaints. Drawing funny pictures for a living, there’s nothing better than that for me.

  99. I liked Ted’s cartoon Jason linked to. Aside from liking the joke, I’ve always felt like the less detail the better if you’re going to do talking heads. No backgrounds, a splash of color and an iconic style that instantly draws the eye.

    But I like Ben’s a lot, too. If you’re going to do “talking heads” with a lot of detail, that’s the way to do it. It’s very beautiful just to look at and it makes me stay to read the dialog.

    Why was I posting? Oh, yeah. I agree with August! I don’t understand any happiness that Ted lost his job. He was doing exactly what every cartoonist says they want syndicates to do when they look for new talent.

  100. First time to the site so I’m new to this whole pissing contest between Scott and Ted (Scott seems to be winning with his fat-man bladder).

    I don’t really read PvP, but it just seems silly to doubt that it’s making money. I live in Ireland and there are PvP print comics on the shelf in my local comic shop, so the print distribution is at the very least transatlantic in scope. The website a high-traffic site that runs ads and there’s plenty of merch.

    Someone compared comics syndication to the music industry earlier, I’d just like to point out Jonathan Coulton, who seems to be doing alright in the music industry following something very like a webcomics business model. I’ve downloaded a bunch of music for free off his site, but I paid to see him when he played in Dublin last year and I bought a couple of t-shirts at the gig.

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