Wowio in Flux

WOWIO seemed like a magical place where everyone’s wishes got answered. Readers got free comics for download as PDF. Creators got paid 50 cents per download. It all supposedly worked due to the magic of embedded ads (which was why the service required registration and was only available in the U.S.).

Now, the site is down, with a message that they will be back in mid-July and operating globally. Brigid rounds up what news is known. Some of the numbers are quite impressive, with one small publisher claiming they’d made over $90,000 a year from the service. I hope it’s not gone for good; it was a creative approach to serving the needs of both reader and creator.

I previously interviewed Bill Williams of Lone Star Press about his company’s experiences with WOWIO.

14 Responses to “Wowio in Flux”

  1. James Says:

    I corresponded with them earlier this month, and was under the impression that they were just changing stuff. I was submitting my work to them for consideration, and was asked to wait until the end of the month when they’d be done with the changes.

    So, I think they’re still around.

  2. Nat Gertler Says:

    Wowio had cut back their payment to new publishers, bringing it down to a quarter, at the beginning of the year. Still doesn’t mean that it was profitable for them, but being willing to lose money to build audience is a standard web start-up move.

  3. Bill Williams Says:

    The WOWIO approach seems to work in terms of a digital delivery system of material that benefits the original creators. The revenue that came in as a result has been welcome and has funded more projects from us and I assume helped out the freelancers who made it happen. I know one of my guys described a WOWIO royalty check from me as a lifesaver. (Ah, the glamorous life of a freelancer.)

    The web audience has been conditioned to think of digital work as essentially free, so the pay-per-download distribution sites have an additional hurdle.

    My biggest surprise has been the response to my webcomic, SideChicks. The comic runs on my home page as well as at Graphic Smash. And, the compilations at WOWIO have been generating revenue. So, without killing trees, SideChicks has inched toward something that is self-sustaining before a long-planned trade has dropped.

    The thing that amazes me is that I have a job that could not have existed five years ago.


  4. James Schee Says:

    Have any of the former CrossGen folks been compensated for those Checker books on Wowio?

    I know a few of them, and when I asked them about the CG books that were there. They hadn’t received any revenue at that time, its been a while now though, and were kind of annoyed to see their work twice now without payment.

    Wowio’s a great service, but I don’t want to download the CG stuff if the creators don’t get their due on it.

  5. Bill Williams Says:


    I asked a WOWIO rep the same thing about the random Golden Age books that are on the WOWIO site for download. Some of the creators (like Joe Kubert) are still alive and kicking and I asked if they were being compensated from the revenue generated.

    I was told that a share of the revenue coming in was donated to a charity that gives to elderly cartoonists.

    I don’t know if most of that work you refer to was done as work-for-hire for Crossgen. I do know that if you acquire material (like those books) that you are not always legally bound by the contract that you did not sign. In some cases, like Marvel’s donation to knockdown the costs of Gene Colan’s ongoing medical care, they are following a moral obligation to one of their key freelancers from a time of prosperity.

    But looking for a publisher that feels a moral obligation to talent can be a long thankless task.


  6. Nat Gertler Says:

    Thing is, it’s too late to stop Crossgen from screwing people over. They went bankrupt. It was Crossgen who owed the creditors money, and Crossgen owned the rights to the material.

    The money that was used to buy the rights went to pay Crossgen’s creditors, and the owed freelancers were on that list (although if I understand the way that bankruptcy settlements generally work, they were very low on the list, and likely saw none of that money.) If the material were to be sold with an obligation (legal or otherwise) to pay the creators for the use of the material, that would’ve driven down the value of the rights, and left less money in the bankruptcy pot to pay creditors. Checker is paying for the rights to reprint the material; that the creators aren’t the ones on the receiving end of those payments is a known risk for taking on work-made-for-hire assignments. Expecting a small publisher to make up for the multi-million dollar failings of CrossGen is a bit much.
    (This is not to say that there’s not room for Checker to work with CrossGeners for mutual benefit. I don’t know their license, but perhaps they’d be able to go back to some already-long-since-mostly-downloaded issues and offer up a writer-and-artist commentary edition, squeezing out new downloads from the same material, and generating money for those who wrote the commentary.)

  7. Johanna Says:

    James, thanks for sharing that indication. It looks like they definitely plan to return.

    Bill, I like that line. A job that didn’t previously exist. And yeah, I think you have to be creative to figure out how to make money when the expectation is “free”.

    Nat, I think James’ perspective is, regardless of the legal rules, he doesn’t want to indulge in material where the creator didn’t get fairly compensated for it, regardless of reason.

  8. Bill Williams Says:

    If you’re only going to read comics where the creators were fairly compensated, then you’re left reading what…? Hellboy?


  9. James Schee Says:

    Thanks for the info/insight Bill and Nat.

    Johanna, yeah that’s pretty much it. I guess its because I actually know some of the CG creators, won a trip to their HQ way back and made friends, so its harder for me to ignore wrongs in this instance.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Bill, webcomics, or any creator-owned project. Or even corporate comics where the creators were paid for the work that was printed per their agreement with the publisher.

  11. Wowio Gives Free Gift » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Wowio was down for its ownership transfer earlier this year, I said I wanted to be notified when they returned. […]

  12. Wowio Traffic Declines; Now Same as When Closed » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] TeleRead’s analysis of Alexa figures, Wowio’s traffic now is about what it was when the site was shuttered during the handover to Platinum. […]

  13. Sean Says:

    I’ve tried to log on for several weeks and I can’t get to it. Is it down or am I just having my own pc problems?

  14. Johanna Says:

    I don’t have a login, but the basic site comes up for me.




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