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01-03-2013, 03:00 PM #1
- Join Date
- May 2009
A New Future For Digital Comics And Retailers, From Tony Panaccio
Tony Panaccio used to run CrossGen's digital comics line. So, yes, he has stories. But he also has an idea about a possible future for digital comics and comic book retailers.I think a lot at night. This is what I came up with after reading more of the Mark Waid tweets on digital comics.Possibly. But, I asked, why would people buy these cards from retailers rather than just download the codes?
Back in the day, I launched CrossGen's comics on the web. I even reported sales figures that reflected print gains based on digital promotions.
Since that time, the digital landscape has changed dramatically, and retailers -- who have propped up the print comics industry on very weary shoulders for years -- are starting to wonder how much longer their shops will be necessary.
I have a business model that I've cooked up, based on my experience in digital (which dates back to my co-authoring The Guide to Electronic Publishing for Prentice Hall back in 1996) and in comics that I believe is a great launching pad for a discussion on how retailers can become players in the digital realm and even become a hub for the community of online comics consumers.
The basis of the business model is a departure from micropayments. Instead, publishers would offer subscriptions for a deeper base of content, which they all now offer. The three subscription models would go from the low ($9.95 for a month of 6-10 comics, $19,95 for a 3-month subscription, or $49.95 for a full year). Retailers could sell top-up cards like a prepaid cell phone for those subscriptions, taking 10 to 15 percent as their marketing fee for each.
Now, why would retailers sell those? Because it has been proven that digital comics distribution actually helps increase print orders in some cases. I have the numbers from my CG days to support this.
Moreover, retailers could then bundle that subscriptions plan with an in-store subscription plan. The higher the print orders, the more the discount across the board, the same way they do them now. The revenue they generate from the digital subs will be minimal, but retailers could market those subs as a way for customers to try out new series with lower risk. More often than not, those digital subs will result in print sales of the "tryout" book, and pad their bottom line. When new books are launched, their sales typically drop after launch, because most comics shop customers have a limited amount of money they can spend each month. However, creating a way for the store to shift some of those dollars to newer books can help create new growth where it was moribund before. Moreover, it can hep new books survive, and publishers will see them surviving, and be inclined to launch more new titles. As far as comic publishing goes, the key popular titles will always sell. It's getting the new titles to move that will keep traditional comics alive. That's how retailers can make the digital paradigm work FOR them instead of AGAINST them.
Retailers can take part in the digital revolution, but their participation must be strategic and targeted so they can reap longer term benefits and keep print comics alive. Make sense?
The idea would be that only retailers would carry the subscription cards. Fans could buy single issues online, but they'd get a better deal with the sub cards. That drives the bulk business to retailers and maintains the micropayment business model for comixology and other download sites.Why would publishers only sell to retailers? Why not direct?
The smart ones would find huge direct benefits for selling subscriptions through retailers. It gives publishers something they don't currently have for online comics - a sales force.It's a theory. But what do you think?
Online comics are a passive purchase, driven only by online ads and pr. The sites are up and they wait for people to traffic them. Having retailers as sales agents will make online comics an active sale instead of a passive one, and they will sell a lot more than they would without it.
Plus, those who buy print comics regularly are less likely to buy digital, because they prefer the printed product. Selling to those customers represents much needed growth in online comics sales.
01-03-2013, 03:09 PM #2
It's a similar plan to one I originally wanted to implement at Radical. The pre-paid cards would all be limited edition collectables themselves so you would collect them after you used them. i was going to go one step further and have these cards in values similar to iTunes gift cards where you could buy them in $5-$50 increments and could be used as 'gift cards' like the ones that Visa uses and could be redeemed for both digital and/or print comics online or in store. It would also be a way for parents to give kids their own credit card for comics and toys.
Interesting concept. Be even more interesting to see who is game for it.http://deevelliott.deviantart.com/ Twitter @DeevElliott
01-03-2013, 03:20 PM #3
Its is certainly a much better idea than the current approach where LCS owners whine and cry and demand that comics be the only entertainment medium that wont push digital ever because it will kill off the direct market dinosaurs faster than they already are dying.Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason ― Mark Twain
01-03-2013, 03:31 PM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
I agree with microzone. However...
It is transitional only. As we've seen with other entertainment - books, music and movies - once people get in the habit of downloading or streaming the product, sales of hard copy fall off dramatically.
Once the Big 2 realize that selling direct to consumers allows them to capture all the money from a sale instead of allowing the bulk to go to third party sellers and second party distributors, we'll see print sales plummet.
A few stores will remain, much as there are a few record stores for hardcore collectors. But I don't expect there to be very many in the next decade or so.
And yes retailers, I understand that print is a guaranteed sale in the DM. But the general public is moving in a different direction when it comes to entertainment. At some point, guanteed dwindling sales will not be as attractive as the upside to digital where the product never goes off sale.
01-03-2013, 03:34 PM #5
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
His assertion that comic retail store owners are the sales force is questionable. Often when a customer asks a retailer for a specific product, the reaction is a "Simpsons Comic Book Guy" beratement or sarcasm about the customer's poor tastes.
I think for LCS to promote digital sales will only hasten their own inevitable demise.
01-03-2013, 03:34 PM #6
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
While I am, frankly, all in favor of the comic store dying and comics being a digital purchase for the most part and a trade the for the rest...I don't think this is a bad idea...the reality is that store traffic leads to impulse buy's...whether that is new comics or action figures or games or whatever and store recommendations can often be a source of new finds for buyers...I also think the subscription model makes a lot of sense...seems that Marvel could just say "have access to everything for $20/month) and they would sell thousands of subsriptions...if the model was $20/month gives you access and access disappears if you don't renew...it would create lots of people just accepting a $20 a month bill...but, that makes far too much sense to ever happen.
01-03-2013, 03:41 PM #7
- Join Date
- May 2011
I agree with a lot of the replies. You need to give customers what they want, and if they want digital books-- give them digital books but don't throw roadblocks in front of them because you think its "better." The LCS has super tough competition from digital bookstores. End of story. There will be fewer LCS around. And the ones that survive will need community support and top notch customer service. End of story. The days of "I do this as a hobby, not to get rich" are over. Sorry, its the nature of the changing economic and digital landscape. You cannot turn back the clock. You cannot go back to the 60s where comics did not have competition from video games, the internet, video rentals and other cheap entertainment. Survive or die. And this idea just seems like another ploy to delay the inevitable by training your customers to change their buying habits in a way that is more cumbersome and not less.
The LCS will survive in the future through community support and top notch customer service. That's it. As soon as you accept this, the sooner you can figure out what to do next.
01-03-2013, 03:50 PM #8
That's not a bad idea.
IMO, I think that the future of comics might lie in the form of either silent (no voice actors) motion comics or comics done like the MARVEL INFINITY comics that are downloaded at comic shops (and other venues) from digital comic book vending machines on collectable flash drives and SD cards (which will replace comic book boxes). Comic shops would either rent or buy these digital vending machines and pay a monthly fee to those publishers whose digital comics they choose to carry (fees will be based on the number of titles the stores subscribe to from the individual publishers).
01-03-2013, 04:03 PM #9
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- London, Ontario
It's funny, over the holidays a lot of stores had $50.00 iTunes cards on sale for $40.00...and I kept forgetting to go pick any up, because it would have required me to go out to an actual store and find the physical object. I went to ONE place, they were sold out, so I didn't go out again.
That would have saved me 20% on all of my purchases...but I didn't do it because the barrier to entry is going out and grabbing the physical thing.
I think the same thing would happen with digital comics. The entire reason I've gone digital is because I don't have to leave my office at lunch to get my comics. Heck, now I read my DC comics with breakfast every Wednesday. That's revolutionary for me.
01-03-2013, 05:53 PM #10
I don't know, part of the appeal of digital distribution is avoiding going to a shop. But giving readers a 10-20% discount who buy from stores could be pretty cool. Implementation might be a bit difficult, but could be worth it, especially to those hardcore fans who read 10-20+ books a month.
Also, I think an online rental for comics might help increase sales. Someone could pay $.99 and have access to the comic(s) for a week. I think it would be a good idea because many people end up reading the comic only once anyways.