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Does a syndicate matter in today’s world?
Fleen has posted the first an interview with webcomic creator and author Dave Kellett on the importance and relevance of print syndication in today’s comic marketplace compared to going it alone in webcomics. Dave shares his experience as a professional webcomicker and as one having a syndicate contract to run his feature Sheldon on Comics.com.
Fleen: Premise: A common impression of newspaper comics is that they’re a passive sort of medium; a few people (mostly older readers) seem to passionately care about a couple (mostly decades-old) strips, and furiously vote for them every time there’s a reader’s poll of what to keep and what to ditch. Most people read what happens to be on the page, unless it’s truly awful. Somewhere between the national headlines and the idiot daughter of Dear Abby are the comics and you just kinda read them.
Webcomics, on the other hand, require you to actively go to a site to read, so presumably the readers aren’t reading a strip just because it’s there. Do you think those impressions are true? And if so, which audience do you want in the long term?
Kellett: By their very nature, webcomics have a “selective” audience – in the sense that that audience has selected your comic as being worthy of the effort to seek out every day. It is a noticeably different dynamic than the casual newspaper reader, who follows Beetle Bailey because the Features Editor of their paper thinks they should.
But now, look at how that relates to making a living. If a webcomic can reliably monetize 5-10% of it’s audience, a newspaper comic can probably only monetize 1-5%. Where the big difference comes in is scale, I think. Most mid-level comic strips probably still outstrip P-A in daily readership, I would hazard to guess. But guess who’s making a better living off their work?
So, I’ve tried to thread the needle between the two: use the syndicate to find a broader audience, then capitalize on my web presence in a way Ziggy can’t. As I’m increasingly finding, though, it’s probably a failed strategy. If you’re only going to appear on the web, it’s probably better to run your own show.
UPDATE: As readers have pointed out, this interview is two years old. Not sure why it came up in my google alerts as something recent, but it did. My apologies to all.