Rob Tornoe, for Editor & Publisher, takes a look at the current status of
newspaper syndication as it involves comic strips and editorial cartoons (and puzzles).
Rob starts the article with self-syndicated cartoonist Chad (Tundra) Carpenter.
While “Tundra” has lost some papers that were forced to cut back or shutter during the pandemic, he did benefit from McClatchy’s decision last year to standardize their daily comics pages across all their newspapers, which includes big metros like the Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star.
“We picked up 52 newspapers, which was really kind of an unexpected surprise right during COVID,” Carpenter said. “So, that was nice, and that made up for a lot of anything we lost.”
Then moves on to most of the syndicates.
The syndicate … said that as of mid-May, they hadn’t had a single cancelation from any clients as a result of moving from The Washington Post to their own service.
“Basically, we just said no change in pricing, no change in distribution, the bills will go to a different place, and that’s really it for now,” Anderson said. “This has worked out really well for the cartoonists because they may come out of this unscathed. That’s what we’re hoping for, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
“Gone are the days where launching a strip into syndication was the ultimate end,” [general manager of features Brent] Bartram said. “Now, not only do we want to work on getting it into the syndication world, we want to look at book publishing; we want to look at animation, live-action and other entertainment possibilities.”
“Previously, an editor would buy a feature for their publication,” [CEO Jack] Newcombe said. “Now, hedge funds and private equity firms, most notably Alden [Global] Capital, have purchased large groups of newspapers and are primarily focused on cutting costs.”
Instead, the process is more like a corporate negotiation, with large chains like Gannett and Alden looking for the best rates possible.
“This shift has been good for us in that we have been able to forge strategic partnerships with these groups.”
Despite the difficult conditions in the marketplace, King Features has launched several new comic strips over the past few years, including the Argentinean strip “Macanudo” by Ricardo Siri (who goes by the pen name Liniers) and “Rae the Doe” by Olive Brinker.
But King’s most interesting move is a foray into comics journalism with “Legalization Nation,” which covers the growth of the increasingly mainstream cannabis industry.
Many cartoonists hope Pulitzer’s new “Illustrated Reporting and Commentary” category will encourage newspapers and online news organizations to give comics journalism a chance.
[Daryl] Cagle says over 800 clients purchase his syndicate’s content bundle, which offers unlimited use of 26 American cartoonists and 30 international cartoonists for one price.
In the face of so much cost-cutting and consolidation, Cagle has always focused on keeping the cost of his service low, including the refusal to charge a delivery fee, noting that digital content delivery replaced the cost of mailing features years ago.
The above are short excerpts of Rob’s survey of the current syndication business.
A common thread from all the syndicates:
Outside of comic strips, Bartram said demand remains high for puzzles.
Like every other syndicate, Creators touted the popularity of its games and puzzles.
Like other syndicates, Kettler touted the interest in puzzles and games.