The future of syndication and cartooning

The Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting article about the future of cartooning. Discussed: The blessing and curse of syndication representation, websites that value cartoons enough to pay decently for them and alternative paths taken by artists in order to make a living.

From CJR:

Cartoons pass quickly around the web. Most cartoonists I spoke with said they’ve never had so many people viewing their work. But popularity doesn’t necessarily pay. Traditionally, cartoonists have had two main paths to solvency: staff jobs-which have been on the verge of extinction for years-and syndication. Syndication companies sell the rights to an artist’s work to publishers in a variety of ways. Individual artists are sometimes offered a la carte (which is most lucrative for the cartoonist), or as part of a package deal that includes the work of many artists. In recent years, individual artists are increasingly being bundled into packages at a discount rate. Using syndication packages and bundles, publishers can have a buffet of cartoons to choose from.

Syndication remains the way most newspapers, their accompanying websites, and other online news outlets obtain cartoon content. But the pay for the artists is decreasing, as found in a recent report from the Herb Block Foundation, entitled, “The Golden Age for Editorial Cartoonists at the Nation’s Newspapers is Over”:

10 thoughts on “The future of syndication and cartooning

  1. Animation is booming while Comic Strips decline. I wish the syndicates would expand into animation again like they did when I was a kid with Beetle Bailey and Snuffy Smith. I would love to see a Pearls Before Swine show or a really edgy Blondie. I used to love the old Blondie movies…

    There are much better strips that would transfer well to an animated TV show sitting on Comic Sherpa. Strips too edgy for newsprint but perfect for animation.

  2. Maybe edgy isn’t the word… not like Family Guy edgy…. I meant like a fast pace humor style with modern overtones. Blonde should always remain a FAMILY FRIENDLY experience… but for TV any cartoon now has to be willing to “sharpen their wit” a bit for viewers who are expecting a laugh every 35-42.6 seconds…

  3. I’m a little apprehensive about cartoon shows. Dilbert didn’t make it and it was an ideal property for tv, most strips aren’t. I think they should go in the direction of movies, but not live action stuff like Garfield. Start with a high-end Pixar animated Peanuts. Maybe the syndicates can become the new Marvel and DC.

  4. Sometimes I really wish I was born about 40 or 50 years ago to have grown up in an era when newspapers were thriving. I enjoy the benefits of today’s technology in regards to cartooning, but I still just love the purity of hand-drawing a 3 or 4 panel black & white comic strip.

  5. The traditional comic strip, as we know it, is in it’s final days. To survive, it’s vital for the syndicates to reinvent the ‘the funnies’ for a world that’s leaving print media behind.

  6. I disagree that animation is booming. I may not be in the biz, but I see what I see. Because of corporate consolidation, changing economics, and unimaginative executives, the boom days of the late 80s through the early ’00s are dead. There were so many series (some great, many good, many others bad) and features (some great, many bad) being made during that time. So much of it has dried up. The markets are completely different now and many slots that once were open to cartoons are closed off. And not only that, because of the advent of certain technologies, standards have gone WAYYYY down.
    There may be a lot of animation on the web, but much of it suffers from the problem I mention above. So many shortcuts, almost no meat.

  7. Just a comment, or rather a question for those of you who are syndicated. Has anyone out there been editred, or as I see it, censored by their syndicate? Lately TMS has been refusing to send certain cartoons to my clients and asking me to change others. This includes my comic strips. Personally, I think it should be up to the individual editors to make that call. I don’t need a filtering system at the syndicate. I know of at least one other cartoonist this is happening with at TMS.
    Anyone else out there with another syndicate experiencing this crap?

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