Solutions for the Newspaper Industry

Solutions for the Newspaper Industry
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These are jokes, but it doesn’t make the slow extinction of newspapers any less frustrating. At some undefined point in the future, things will most likely sort themselves out, but right now we are living in a world where folks will pay $1 for the iFart to be installed on their iPhones, but not for comprehensive investigative journalism, or even scatalogical topical cartoons like Big Fat Whale.

I have no answers. I’m not a media guru. All I can do is look out for myself and try to scratch out a living in this new media environment. It’ll be tough. But we cartoonists had it easy for a long time. All we had to do was schmooze and dazzle a hundred or so editors and then they’d present our comic to hundreds of thousands of readers.

Now that those gatekeepers are obsolete, everyone has to cultivate their own audience. I’m just beginning to accept and embrace this. Webcomic authors will be slapping their foreheads and saying “Duh!” at this statement, but many of them most likely ignore the fact that papers exposed our work to thousands of casual readers. They liked our stuff enough to endure an ad or two, but not enough to buy one of our t-shirts or books. Sure they were lame, ineffectual, casual readers, but that kind of milquetoast support made HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS OF ADVERTISING DOLLARS. Unfortunately, that no longer applies, and readers are now too smart and too busy, and only read things that they LOVE.

In a world of infinite entertainment options, the only solution is to make something that enough people love to become invested in its success.

I’m not entirely on board, and hope for a revival of alt-weeklies’ comics pages.  But every newspaper closing makes me more and more likely to adopt the 1000 true fans approach, or that of Jesse Thorn, who, (please excuse my channeling of SCHARPLING) despite his refusal to ACKNOWLEDGE MY CRUDENESS by name on the most excellent Jordan, Jesse Go! podcast, has carved out a fan-supported niche that serves as an example to independent online content producers everywhere.

Matt Bors and Abell Smith have excellent cartoons on the subject as well.

Next Week: Shitty Jobs for Shitty People

11 thoughts on “Solutions for the Newspaper Industry”

  1. Why not have a website/collective that was basically just a comic page, that works together to support all the people involved in it. One person could work as editor to keep quality up/handle technical stuff – and instead of t-shirt sales just going to support the one super populist artist, it works to support the whole page. But like, each update would have a comic from each artist and the whole thing would look a lot like a sunday funnies page.

    I don’t know. crazy. I feel like people are so much more apt to be all for themselves because it’s so hard to get anything for us trying to make a readership/fanbase types right now, but it would allow the weirder niche stuff that IS awesome to keep being seen by casual readers of the other stuff.

    It’s like how so many good strippers got their start during another artist’s hiatus, or by being placed next to Garfield or something stupid like that.

  2. Maybe it’s different in the US but over here in Australia there is not a single newspaper that is not absolute garbage. The only Australian news service that does anything close to investigative journalism is our free to air alternative language broadcaster and it’s clear that though they try hard they have no money.

    Our newspapers are doing quite well. We don’t have many true regional newspapers because our previous government de-regulated the industry and Murdoch bought most of them (as well as “local” radio stations which are now “hubbed” in a major city and re-broadcast on local radio towers). Our broadsheets are doing well but that may be related to the utter garbage they produce.

    I stopped reading newspapers about 6 months ago when I realised it was causing everyone I know to avoid me until midday (when I stopped yelling). I got a subscription to a physics journal now people avoid me because I try to discuss quantum mechanics.

  3. As far as comics goes, the more niche a comic is, the better it is at finding and focusing its audience. Actually, that’s for all content on the internet.

    The best way I see it is that since you can make more money per-head online than you do in print, appealing to the ten thousand people who REALLY LOVE something does better than being printed in front of the two hundred thousand people who aren’t all completely passionate about the subject.

    That’s sort of how it was explained to me, it seems to work, I suppose!

  4. Great comic.

    I think your point about casual readers is important–especially for editorial cartoons. Political cartoons need to be out there engaging fans, opponents and casual readers the same way opinion columns do. The web gets more insular as time goes on and no one is willing to read–let alone financially support–things they don’t agree with.

    But if that’s the future model, and it works, then I’ll take it. I just think we’ll be losing something important about what we do–something that isn’t really acknowledged by all the people celebrating the death of newspapers.

  5. Ian – It’s a good idea, but a logistical nightmare. CWA is a step in that direction, but once you add revenue sharing and impose editorial standards on your peers, that could turn friendships sour real quick.

    I think online publications that cater to quirky and/or politically-minded audiences would benefit from adding comics. The AV Club is expanding and covering all sorts of topics, except when it comes to comics. Red Meat is great, but they could really expand their comics rotation to include one for every day of the week. Currently Salon is the only online mag that does this, and I imagine the comics are a pretty big draw. I know that’s all I read over there.

    Anthony – They stink over here too. But if the alternative to being poorly informed is being uninformed, I’ll have to reluctantly go for the former. Murdoch is a news cancer over here too!

    Daryl – Devoted readers are better, but if there is a way to get 200,000 casual readers, I don’t know any content creator or advertiser who’d refuse them. I’m just not convinced that can happen now that everyone is retreating into their own tiny spheres of interest like Matt said.

    Matt – Audiences have been fragmenting since cable TV exploded in the eighties. And the internet’s only made it worse. If it can be quantified, I’m sure partisanship and rancor directly correlate with it. I’m doubtful anything can change it. Which blows.

    Warren – Experience with newsies and a 20 year prison sentence? I had no idea you were 85 years old!

  6. “folks will pay $1 for the iFart to be installed on their iPhones, but not for comprehensive investigative journalism, or even scatalogical topical cartoons like Big Fat Whale.”

    What a terrific idea! When can I expect to see iBigFatWhale in the iTunes store? I admit it, I’m lazy. I’ll click a $0.99 button to support you, but only if it’s quick and easy. (We become what we behold?)

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