I just saw an article from the 14th about Why Marvel and DC Should Be Making Superhero Webcomics here: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/06/14/marvel-dc-webcomics/?a_dgi=aolshare_twitter
It got me thinking. Chris Sims (the author) makes some excellent points about the popularity of some web comic strips and their viewership. But I think he takes the wrong view of where the industry should go. While web comic strips are popular, it is more accurate to say only some are popular. The ones that are more skit/comedy based poking fun at popular or geek culture. Attempts at story drivin versions of the medium have generally not taken off. Some have of course, but for every one that does ok, dozens flop with no viewership. This suggestion retreads the old “funny papers” business model pre-golden era.
I think the big guys have the right idea of transitioning the current form into a new medium (the web), they just haven’t gotten it exactly right. Sims is right to point out that confusing paywall and flash based systems in use now have large drawbacks. That is to be expected. Asking companies who have been doing it one way for so long to shift their business model is bound to have some hickups. The only question is, can they get it done before they put themselvs out of business.
I believe that Marvel has the right idea with the unlimited digital collection. The price is reasonable considering the amounts that users have access to, and the format is almost right. There are technologies for making comics more accessible then flash. Specifically with the rise of apple portable devices that don’t work with flash. While Marvel has clearly seen this and launched their own app, it isn’t quite right either.
Making users store a one device only version such as the ipad marvel app has limited appeal. Many readers will not want to shell out money for something that they know will not be usable down the road.
There needs to be a true complete streaming plan, available on all devices. Comic lovers re-read issues, so they will keep paying month after month to have access. And many who wouldn’t would forget about canceling and keep paying anyways. Marvel is close to the answer, they just need to stop putting their toes in the water and jump in.
People love comics. People want comics. Its up to the comic companies to find a way to sell it to them.