Convention Attendance Changes?

Peter David wonders:

Has anyone been noticing a general drop in attendance at conventions, or is it only the ones where I’m guest of honor?

It’s an interesting question. Of course, it has nothing to do with Peter David, because when I’ve seen him at shows, he’s a terrific guest, very entertaining and outgoing. But these days, so many things that used to happen only at conventions are easier to do in other ways:

* Look for back issues? It’s a lot easier to have a computer do the searching through Google or ebay than spending hours on the floor looking through pawed-over stock, and you’ll find a bigger variety of comics online, often at prices as good. And if you’re female, you don’t have to put up with those few retailers who assume you’re looking for Sandman or whose eyes never meet yours.

* Meet big names? Why wait in a long line for a five-minute handshake and signature when you can hang out and maybe get noticed at the pro’s message board?

* Meeting like-minded fans? Again, message boards are year-round and much more cost-effective.

Ok, no one’s yet found a good substitute for late-night bar-hopping. What else keeps you going to conventions? And have attendance levels really dropped?

11 Responses to “Convention Attendance Changes?”

  1. John Says:

    I guess at some of the professional (Creation, etc) cons, all you get with the big names is a five minute handshake and autograph. I, personally, don’t see the point of going to these anymore, and don’t. If its the autograph one wants, I suspect most of the media stars will still autograph something for you if you send it to them in the mail.

    At fan-run conventions there are usually at the very least panels where the names will sit there and talk to you about how to break into the business, or answer questions about their upcoming projects. You get a lot more than 5 minutes. There may be a ‘dinner’ with the pros as well. (There was even a pool party at the convention Peter David referenced on his website… and PAD attended.)

    Costume masquerades can be fun — and aren’t something you can really get online. You can find pictures of people wearing costumes, but it’s not really the same, and at cons you can participate.

    Filking can’t be done online. And if it weren’t for local cons, I wouldn’t know Dr. Demento was still on the air, and there was a whole new generation of Weird Als.

    I have to admit, since I have joined the staff of both major fan-run cons in the area, I don’t pay full price. But I would if I had to.

  2. Eddie Mitchell Says:

    Maybe it’s generational, but I don’t think buying comics online is as fun as searching through back issues in person. But there are lots of ways to do that besides going to cons.

    For those of us stuck in the vast parts of the country where there are no nearby cons, I would imagine that gas prices are playing a part in people’s decisions about con attendance right now.

  3. Johanna Says:

    John, panels are an interesting subject. For the company presentations, I find it more useful to get the info online, since so much of it is puffery. For individual guest panels, a lot depends on how good the moderator is. Masquerades and filking are areas I’ve never particularly been interested in, but yes, those are good reminders of what can make a convention unique, thank you.

    Eddie, I think it may depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re searching for uncommon books, looking through back issues is unlikely to be fruitful. As time goes by, most of what people bring to cons cheap is younger than what I’m interested in.

    And excellent reminder about the costs of travel increasing.

  4. John Says:

    There was a day I would drive five hours to Chicago for a con, but I won’t do that anymore. I am happy that I am lucky enough to live in a large enough metropolitan area that we can support fan cons.

    Of course, if I lived in ‘the middle of nowhere’, I might decide its worth it to spend the money, but as one poster said in the thread on Peter David’s blog, I’d probably pick one con a year.

  5. Johanna Says:

    That reminds me — is this related to the aging of the superhero fanbase? I saw PLENTY of kids at Otakon last year (so many that they had to cap attendance), but as we know, the young are more likely to be interested in manga and anime shows than the more traditional conventions. As you point out, outrageous car trips and the like are the province of the young.

  6. Michael Denton Says:

    Well, don’t know about general trends, but Heroes Con attendance seems to be way up (based on selling out of hotel space and such) but that could be related to the increase in high profile names this year (and the press it got in its battle with Wizard).

    But what I think may help Heroes year around is that it is family friendly – which based on my online perception of other cons – may be rarer and rarer as attendees and model guests get close to popping out of costume and other possibly undesirable elements. That’s a total guess, but I know seeing some of the gawdiness and questionable nature of cons via photos on the web, I’m turned off and I’m by no means a prude.

  7. James Schee Says:

    Travel cost is a big one to me, not only in the money I spend there, but what I lose when I’m not working.

    It is great to see friends who live far way in person.

    Plus it used to be great to find new stuff, and meet new creators who were just starting out.

  8. Kelson Says:

    I stopped looking for back issues at cons several years ago, but kept going for the panels. In fact, I’ve started enjoying San Diego Comic-Con more over the last few years since I stopped hunting for back-issues on Saturday and started going for a full con of panels. It’s less crowded, and there’s plenty of stuff to do and see off the main floor.

    Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that my con experience comes from going to general science-fiction conventions when I was younger, where the dealer’s room is only a small part of the experience.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this year’s Comic Con goes, since I’ve recently started a new back-issue hunt. (And it’s Golden-Age stuff this time around…)

  9. ~chris Says:

    With all the latest upsetting news on Taki Soma’s case (my thoughts here and here), I thought I’d post here on a lighter subject.

    I went to my first Cons 10+ years ago to find back issues. Now I go to meet creators. Most of my fave comics are indy, so I get to talk to my fave creators at length, and get personalized sketches for a small price (sometimes for free!). I also like to browse the small press area, attend panels, and meet people from fave genre TV shows (especially ones in the Whedonverse). I haven’t purchased a comic book (cheap TPBs are another matter) from a dealer in years.

    Since I live in Orange County California, the one Con I go to every year is San Diego (I’ve been to APE once and a couple of small cons in Las Vegas). Travel is cheap, and attendance of professionals is numerous. I do miss the people who can’t afford the long trip here though.

  10. Crocodile Caucus » Blog Archive » On Comic Cons and comic formats Says:

    […] Yesterday, after Peter David noted a general drop in convention attendance, she asked, “What else keeps you going to conventions?” […]

  11. Michele Ellington Says:

    One important difference in attending an event versus searching out your interests online is diversity. While it is certainly easier for me to find books and art online from authors and artists I already know, attending a convention introduces me to many new interests. Some conventions are dropping in attendance while others have become so mammoth they are hard to enjoy. There needs to be some work done on bridging the gap between old style cons, largely print media driven, which are dropping and aging in membership; and new style cons, largely visual media driven, that are crammed to the roofline with enthusiastic youngsters. Both could benefit from exposure to one another.




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