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.
Next Week: Shitty Jobs for Shitty People