The Future of The Daily Cartoonist

I’ve dropped hints here and there that major changes were afoot here at The Daily Cartoonist. I want to take this opportunity to communicate what changes are coming and why.

I created the blog five years ago as a means of better understanding where comics were heading – more specifically syndicated comic strips and editorial cartoons. I had no “business plan” or goal as to what the blog would become and I had know idea that it would become the community that it has become. The first three years, I enjoyed a positive reputation. I often received compliments on how informative and civil the comment section. Sure there was the occasional flame war, but overall the blog had become a destination for excellent commentary.

Since then the tone in the comments changed. Moderating the comments became more difficult and I adopted a freer “if they want a flame war, let them have a flame war” attitude. Unfortunately that decision has altered the perception of the blog. No longer is it viewed as the informative place to go but where all the bat-shit-crazy (excuse the French) cartoonists go.

Looking at the blog as a business, the blog is the sum of two products – news and commentary. It’s hard to calculate the number of people who visit each day just to read the comments. Most come for the news and then check to see what people are saying about it. Controversial topics increase traffic about 20%-25% or so. You’d think with increase traffic, ad clicks would increase, but looking at the numbers there is no corresponding increase in ad revenue on those days. Apparently flame throwers don’t click ads.

On the other side of the equation, there are real quantifiable costs to having an open comment system. The blog is not my day job, but it is usually my day job that is interrupted to read the comments, pull comments from the moderation or spam queue, take phone calls or respond to emails from angry reader who feels maligned. These are real costs on my time and energy. Those that advocate the most vocally about how the comments should remain open pay none of the costs. Ask any marketer and they’ll tell you word-of-mouth advertising is king. Unfortunately the word-of-mouth messaging surrounding the blog is negative. The comment section is hurting my brand.

After months of waffling, weighing and wondering I’ve made the decision to close the comments completely for now. The benefits no longer outweigh the costs.

I’m working on a redesign for the site that I hope to launch in the coming weeks. One of the main goals is to redirect the discussion out to you and wherever you socialize (think Facebook and Twitter). That way the discussion can continue and I reduce my costs of having to moderate it.

There will be other content changes. I will continue to cover newspaper based cartooning which has been the core of my coverage to date, but will be increasing my “beat” to include other areas of sequential art that I typically haven’t covered. I’ll detail those changes in a later post.

One last item of business. Last week I made the decision to cut off access to the comments for several individuals. The direction of the blog is changing. It wasn’t personal or based on a disagreement over their views. Mostly it had to do with their inflammatory style of debate that is no longer welcome on the blog.

You may all flog me now for the decision. In a couple more weeks you won’t be able to.

Best,
Alan

PS – if you don’t want to leave a comment, but want to give me your take (positive or negative) on this action or the future of TDC, please feel free to email me.

80 thoughts on “The Future of The Daily Cartoonist

  1. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this site, Alan. I know I wouldn’t be able to do it.

    Comments or no comments, I will continue to visit TDC everyday.

  2. As someone who shares moderation duties with 4 other people for another site, let me say that I fully support your well-reasoned conclusion. The ofted-hailed wonder of web 2.0 user interactivity has real, pain-in-the-butt consequences for the people who actually run things. Good luck on the redesign!

  3. The comments (and the heated debate) are the specific reason I come to the this site. The news stories themselves are of little value without the discussion, IMO.

    I wish you well with the redesign, but I doubt I’ll be reading if comments are not part of the package. I don’t mean that as a slight against you specifically, I really don’t bother with any news or blog sites if they don’t have discussion of the stories, because the discussion is where the best part of the stories come to life.

  4. It’s a shame that civil discussions can’t be had on this site. I totally understand why you’re closing the comments.

    I will miss a lot of the banter between cartoonists. I won’t miss the bickerting. Good luck, Alan.

  5. I follow the RSS feed for the news, and only click in to the site if the article is of specific interest.

    My advice for monetizing things — make sure you’re putting ads in the RSS feed so folks like me are helping you pay the bills.

    As to the comments, I think you’re making the right decision. Communities are critical to growing a fan base, but news sites don’t have fan bases. You’ll retain most of your readers, while keeping yourself largely free of the mud.

  6. I certainly understand the change. I look forward to whatever information you continue to share. Let the flame throwers host their own blog.
    I find it funny that I also work with magicians and one of their magician’s blogs has the exact same dynamics. There the flame ups occur with the, “To expose magic vs. preserving the art” (or something like that). It’s just people with too much time on their hands and not enough contact with people to talk to about what their passionate about. It’s too bad that one can’t just give an opinion and leave it at that. The one ups man-ship is what has become so frustrating to watch. It certainly has kept me silent on this site.
    Good Luck Alan!

  7. When I first discovered this site, I thought people would be discussing technique, bits of history, new stuff coming out and all of that. It happened a number of times, most recently with the post about Tom Racine’s interview with Mark Tatulli, but a lot of times it was like lunch in the 8th grade all over again. It made a lot of cartoonists look like juvenile baboons (which we are, but why show your worst side to fans, editors and other people who are easily drawn to this site?)

    I’ll be sticking around to read, Alan. Thank you for all that you do.
    .

  8. I think you made the right decision. There is no reason for the flame wars, it really does reflect on all cartoonists. In general the cartoonist community is well connected with each other and a majority of us know and have personal contact with each other. If you feel the need to bicker you should take the direct route instead of dragging the rest of the community into it.

    I really enjoy being able to get all the cartoon news, and happenings from a couple major sources like TDC, etc. in one fell swoop. It saves valuable time while away from the drawing boards. I don’t have time to wade through nonsense.

    It is a shame that it had to come to the current decision. Because a majority of the cartoonist community are some of the best people you would want to meet.

  9. As an amateur I can say I was surprised by the behavior of several supposedly “professional cartoonists.
    I will miss the discussions particularly those regarding techniques and materials.
    Thanks Alan, for everything.

  10. I will miss the occasional interaction, but I personally interacted pretty rarely anyway. And I will certainly not miss the disappointment at seeing people you would otherwise look up to embarrass themselves and their work by extension. I really think the flame wars devalue the whole art – as if cartoonists (especially web cartoonists) needed more reason for people not to take them and their work seriously.

    I love the site and what you provide, and thank you for what you do. I hope the changes benefit the whole process! Good luck and God bless as you head in a new, difficult yet respectable direction. I genuinely hope TDC is better off for it!

  11. I got rid of comments a year ago, readership went up. It took too much of my time to referee and moderate anonymous people who had nothing better to do or nothing nice to say. Do it. You’ll feel a weight is lifted.

  12. @Jean – Please don’t lay the blame on Kurtz and Rall. I take full responsibility and hold no grudges or ill feelings toward any of the past participants here on the blog.

    The buck stops with me. It’s my blog, my comment section, my responsibility to keep the comments productive. Like I mentioned, I made a decision not to do that and things deteriorated to the point where I felt the corrective action was to end the feature.

    Ending the comments is going to kill the community aspect of the blog. I understand that – and if anything has kept the comments going as long as it has – it was that. I did’t want to end the community.

    For those of you who came for productive comments and found something else, I apologize.

  13. Fair enough. Sounds like you’ve been talking to Tom Spurgeon, who’s never allowed comments for similar reasons. It’s too bad, and makes me reflect on what “community” really means online: pleasant places with interesting company turn mean and ugly, or run out of gas and dissipate. I have enjoyed some of the flamier threads as theater and will miss the entertainment a little. But it’s your call and I’ll still be a regular.

  14. I understand this move, Alan, but it is a bit of a disappointment to me that you have to eliminate the comment section.

    The discussion of the stories often yielded more insight into a topic than did the actual story. However, it seems we are unable to have a civil discussion. This happens on just about every forum I know. People just love to type crap and walk away.

    Perhaps a real time dialogue would be best, like a skype type of thing. That way everyone has to deal with who they really are instead of hiding behind a keyboard.

  15. I will very much miss the wide-ranging discussions that made this site one that I checked out regularly. The cartoonist community needs a place to congregate and exchange ideas, and I hope a new one can emerge.

    I wrote the comment below yesterday on another thread, but will re-post here because it’s a more appropriate context:

    * * *

    On a related note, many here may not yet know this, but Alan recently banned Ted Rall and apparently some others from commenting here. I think it?s an appalling mistake.

    For one thing, it?s ridiculous for a website about cartoons to ban a former president of the AAEC and one of the most talented and prominent cartoonists around. Franky, you were lucky that he posted here.

    For another thing, Ted?s comments, and those of others with strong opinions, has made this site dynamic and interesting. Without the lively conversations they generate, I will not find DC nearly so compelling.

  16. I’ll still be comin’ around and reading, Alan. Someone mentioned Tom Spurgeon’s excellent commentless site, and I visit it often. I will most certainly do the same here, as, ultimately, its a one-stop site for relevant cartooning news that’s hard to find elsewhere compiled into one place!

  17. I had the unfortunate experience of being in the audience once when Ted Rall was a speaker. His negative comments then turned me off completely. If Alan’s decision to remove the comments means the end of Rall’s rants, all I can say is – GOOD RIDDANCE RALL!

  18. I’m not sure a providing an online civil environment for cartoonists to congregate is even possible.

    Those cartoonists who were on The Wisenheimer know how things just self-destructed over there. Heated arguments over cartooning topics became a brawl. Political and religious discussions crept in and it got even worse. Good cartoonists who had valuable input into discussions walked away. It’s become a shell of what it once was.

    The problem with online forums is participants tend to forget ‘If you wouldn’t say it to my face, you probably shouldn’t type it in an online forum.’

    Thanks for hanging in there as long as you did Alan.
    No one can say you didn’t try to make the comments section work. It just wasn’t meant to be.

  19. Alan,
    Your work is much appreciated…Do whatever is necessary to keep the flow of news going and your passion for the site intact. We’ll adapt. The web is fluid and I expect the conversation will find a place percolate – perhaps, as you suggest, on Facebook or elsewhere.

    I’m just tickled you do this at all.

    Thanks,
    T

  20. Sorry to see the comments go, only because I used them when I had questions about a post or sought additional information. Usually someone in your community had an answer for me.

    As for the click-through revenues, I’ve noticed that the Amazon ads are a bit bizarre. For instance, today on this page Amazon wants to sell me some music CDs that I’ve never heard of. What’s up with that? If you had an ad feed from Amazon that offered all the latest newspaper cartoon reprint books, there’d be click-throughs aplenty from this reader. I have a heck of a time keeping up with new releases.

    Anyhow, keep up the great work!

  21. Well, Jerry, set up a site and don’t moderate it. But Alan doesn’t feel that way, and it’s his place.

    Internet places — newsgroups or forums or listservs or whathaveyou — have always had life cycles that often involve intelligent discussion being drowned out by flames, and flamers, but just as often involve knowledgeable discussion being drowned out by cocksure ignorance. And I’ve been as guilty as anyone in believing that one more post would resolve an argument that was spiraling off into bad vibes and illogic.

    I remember when r.a.c.s. had wonderful discussions of technique, with cartoonists of varying experience dropping by regularly. This mostly shows how old I am. I also remember Toon Talk as a more lively place. These things come and go, and it’s not a failure of Alan’s vision or administration. It happens.

    Hope you can hold audience without comments, because I want to see the news. And I hope I find where the conversation pops up next, because I’ll want to talk about it, too.

  22. I find The Daily Cartoonist an indispensable source of news about comics and cartooning and will continue to read it as long as you publish it. Thanks for your efforts.

  23. Thanks for all of your hard work, Alan. And for your dedication to providing a quality product. I’ve been reading your news stories everyday for two years and will continue to read your site everyday, with or without comments.

    I’ve moderated a blog in the past. I don’t do it anymore. It’s exhausting and the pay stinks.

    I look forward to the TDC road ahead, whatever it looks like.

  24. Sounds good to me, Alan. I visit here less than I used to because of the tedious uncivil discourse.
    Then again maybe you could charge people if they want to make comments?by the word.
    And double the cost if you deem the comments uncivil.

  25. Alan,

    I visit your blog everyday. It keeps me informed and a part of of what’s going on in the profession. I’m in your corner on this. I learned long ago, through very difficult personal trails, that life is too short to put up with things you don’t have to.

    You’ve made the right decision here, I admire you for doing so and I look forward to the new format and the great stuff you provide us everyday.

    I’m in for the next round of fund raising here too. It’s worth more than 50 bucks a year! I encourage everyone who reads this blog to take part in financially compensating Alan for this incredible site. It’s hard work. But it is soo good.

  26. Alan- I will also miss the occasional insightful and civil discourse, but I totally respect (and understand) your decision. TDC will remain a must stop on my daily websurfing agenda. Kudos on the excellent work and in creating one of the best resources in the industry.

  27. I used to read Editor & Publisher (Dave Astor) for cartooning/syndicate news. TDC seemed to be a good replacement. At times, however, I’ve been disappointed with the coverage bias of TDC.

    Alan has also, on occasion, injected sycophantic statements into some of his news stories… something Dave did not do. Yes, Richard Thompson is great and gushworthy, but please stick to facts without adding too much hype.

    Reading the comments was optional for me. I won’t miss them. Good luck with your new format.

  28. The only true downside for me is that I have found some great cartoonists/illustrators via the comment section who I now follow either on twitter or via my RSS reader.

    Good luck on the new direction.

  29. Like CK said in #1, I just click in for the news, rarely read the comments.
    That written, it’s your site, do what you want/need to.
    I’ll keep clicking in.

  30. Keep bringing in the news and announcements, Alan! This will always be the very FIRST link I click on every morning – thanks for all your dedication and hard work… Best of luck to you!

  31. Ah, I’ll miss the Daily Cartoonist Fight Club, but I’ll definitely stick around for the reboot.

    I like the mix of news on TDC. Plus it’s rare to find a site that focuses so much on comic strips as opposed to comic books.

  32. I commend you on an assertive and worthwhile move, Alan. Time for another pledge drive too…I’d be happy to throw some of my tax refund your way! Appreciate all you do promoting the art and look forward to TDC’s continuing evolution.

  33. No more comments??! Time for an Egyptian style uprising by all cartoonists. Our voices must be heard! Just kidding.

  34. I am a regular reader of TDC and find it to be a valuable source of cartooning news. I will miss some of the comments, but I understand and support your decision, and I’m looking forward to your new direction. Thanks, Alan, for all your work!

  35. @Scott Nickel
    The 1st rule of the “Daily Cartoonist Fight Club” is to never talk about the “Daily Cartoonist Fight Club!” Lol.

  36. I’ll really miss this comment:

    @Scott Nickel
    The 1st rule of the ?Daily Cartoonist Fight Club? is to never talk about the ?Daily Cartoonist Fight Club!? Lol.

  37. I’ve been enjoying the site and occasionally posting comments since ’07 and have enjoyed some of the better discussions. But I share Stephen Beals’ comments here about what the forum could have been – discussions of “technique, bits of history, new stuff coming out and all of that” versus what it was becoming. I’ll still drop in after the changes. Meantime, I thank you for your hard work and dedication to comics, and wish you good luck.

    B.J.

  38. I’m a huge fan, and love having Alan on my podcast from time to time to hash over topics of the week. I like the discourse in the comments sometimes, but I have to agree with Alan…it devolved enough times to start to poison my opinion on the site. And that would be a shame. Alan does yeoman’s work here, and it’s a great place to get industry news. So if this is what needs to happen for the DC to continue, then I’m on board! Thanks for all the work you do, Alan, and the support you’ve shown me and other podcasts. I remember when I was on Comics Coast to Coast and we got a mention on the DC…it was really huge to us and made us feel like we’d “made it” somehow. šŸ™‚

  39. This makes me sad. Despite the occasional flame war, I’ve often found the discussions to be enlightening–actually, I found the flame wars enlightening too, in their way. And, as a novice, I liked the sense of community, even though I mostly lurked.

    When the next “cartoonist community” crops up, someone drop me a line, OK?

  40. Alan, your site, your time, your call.

    I wish you the best and will probably still drop by frequently. The format and context here is really great.

    I will miss the comments. I still think it is/was a big part of the draw of the site … but all the best! I was amazed at how few flame wars there were really. I appreciated it when folks kept it civil, but really if a thread got out of hand, all one had to do was stop reading it. I understand the brand implications though, as those comments become fodder for other searches and alerts and attributed to the source.

    Anyway, onward and upward.

  41. The masochistic side of me will miss getting slashed and ripped by those with opposing view points, but at least the scabs will heal.

    My original attraction to TDC was that it promised to be a source of insight into the comic strip universe – as much as I enjoyed the thrust and parry of verbal combat, it became clear the site was becoming more like the flagpole at recess where fights were settled and less of a gentle library of insight, wisdom and advice.

    I must apologize myself for those times when I gleefully and regrettably (and at times reactionarily or immaturely) participated in grenade chucking and dental chipping.

    But if excising the comment section fosters the reputation and position of this site to that of THE place of authority on all issues of comic strips, then dang the torps and full speed ahead.

    I root for good fortune to quickly follow your decision, Alan.

    Cheers!

  42. As an obscure webcartoonist I’ll miss the comments as a place to chat with established professionals and aspiring amateurs, but I’ve poured a couple of futile buckets of water (and, OK, the occasional fun bucket of gasoline) onto the flame wars, so I get the decision to close the comments down and will join the chorus of well-wishers šŸ™‚

    Webcomics Community has been fairly quiet lately. I can’t imagine any objections to people discussing Daily Cartoonist articles over there, so the forum’s here if anybody’s interested in maintaining whatever rapports have been established here.

    It’s owned by Rob Tracy. I think he’s one of the people who were banned here, but he’s actually a fairly liberal moderator (and a pretty good guy if you can accept that being a bit of a d*** and being a good guy aren’t mutually exclusive)

    As a personal aside: I spotted a post from Tom Richmond – your tutorials are really useful! I keep pointing people towards your Hands one šŸ™‚

  43. I’m on board with all who are praising Alan and his decision.
    TDC is STILL where I go for information about all things cartoons, and I too was tired of the threads that devolved into shouting matches over who had the biggest nib. At one point I was even the subject of a great deal of criticism on TDC for a cartoon I drew that was (in my opinion) widely misinterpreted, and while somewhat painful, it led me into certain insights about my work that have only been helpful. The comment thread on that particular cartoon stayed fairly civil, but so many others have turned into the car wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of, and I’m glad that the temptation to look at the carnage is going away.
    Thank you, Alan, for the work you do, and best of luck in the future!

  44. Well, I’m sure this will continue to be a great site, but I will miss the comments. Despite occasional lapses into incivility, they were widely read and I’ve often heard them discussed at cartoonist gatherings. True, they often strayed far beyond comics, but you know what? Comics is my work, but it’s not what I’m really interested in. Politics, religion, Scott Kurtz’s weight…these are the things that really fuel my comics.
    Oh, well…nothing lasts forever. Alan, you are a mensch and you’ve created something of great value here. Thanks and keep on truckin’.

  45. Mark’s weekly schedule:

    Lio (drawn small to save time): 4 hours
    Heart of the City (drawn small to save time): 3 hours.
    Videos About Stephan: 22 hours.

  46. I guess it was a 50/50 thing with me. The comments/discussion were half the fun of visiting The Daily Cartoonist. Now I suppose I’ll only enjoy the site half as much. Aw, well…

  47. Don’t pretend to know but can appreciate the headaches / economics of running TDC but the re-design seems like BRAVO producers telling the REAL HOUSEWIVES OF (insert city here) to just exchange recipes.

  48. I read TDC on RSS and click through to the site when I think there might be some interesting discussion, so it will be a shame to lose the comments, though I sympathise.

  49. Alan did NOT look fat on my video podcast. Webcams give unflattering angles, and make Mark Tatulli’s hair look like that dude in “Eraserhead.”

    @Mark Tatulli….brilliant. šŸ™‚

  50. I’m out. Bookmark deleted. The comments were the only reason I I checked this site. I have no interest in reading press releases from the syndicates. I appreciate it’s a pain, Alan, and it’s certainly your prerogative to bail but this is a big mistake, content wise. I liked conversing with creators I would otherwise never bump into, digitally or real worldly. It was fun while it lasted.

  51. That’s a shame: you’ve missed riveting discussions on strathmore bristol, cartoonists playing guitar, cartoonists on vacation, cartoonists pretending to be women, comic strips from 1964, pen nibs and Pickles.

    I still stand by post #70.

  52. And you’ve missed out on comments about stuff somebody reads even though they don’t like it. But don’t worry, every major website is packed with comments that are the mental equivalent of eating a bag of Cheetos (mmmm…Cheetos).

  53. Don’t know if this will even go through, since I was one of the happy flamers when I came here in the past.

    Not interested in cartoon news as is obvious, because I’m weeks late- I already live the cartoon life. More importantly to you as a blogger, Alan, the main reason I came in the past was because the comments here are in Google and as I looked up either a technical thing or cartoonist or whatever, I would find my answer in the archives of DC comments. Some of the threads were so long it took me days to go through them! Fun.

    Because it’s the (real cartoonists) people here that have the INFORMATION, the VALUABLE content, and that will last longer in Google’s memory than news.

    I assume you’ve talked with someone about SEO, Alan, because it’s a bad idea to remove comments from an active site like this. And of course you also lose all that juicy free (to you) content (the comments) that Google loves. You probably just need some sponsored advertisers – Amazon Associate is too weak.

    As far as monitoring – never understood that part, anyway. I don’t like heavy swearing, but anything else goes. I got into some arguments with Ted here (and just had one with him on Facebook šŸ™‚ ) but one of the worst flamers, who I think you KNOW you should have banned just posted above, so I will be happy to see him shut up.

    Over and out.

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