New Platinum Wowio Contracts Discussed; Goodbye, Wowio

WOWIO worked for everyone: free comics for readers and real payments for creators of 50 cents a PDF download. (I previously interviewed Bill Williams of Lone Star Press about how well it worked for them.)

Then they were acquired by generally shady Platinum. Even if you don’t mind the ethics, Platinum lost over $5 million last year, mainly because their business plan appears to be “acquire comic properties, don’t publish them, hope someone gives us lots of money to make them into movies”. This is not a mature business plan.

A financial analyst speaking generally about publishers said movie and video game deals are typically seen as one-time windfalls, not a bankable business strategy. And the auditor’s going-concern warning took into account Platinum’s future business plans. Much of Platinum’s financial challenges owes to the company’s spending, which one former employee called “outrageous.”

D.J. Coffman, cartoonist and internet gadabout, was one of Platinum’s biggest supporters, because he won one of their contests (which involved them, at the end, taking his property, neglecting to pay him what they promised, and threatening him legally when he told people what was going on). Now, even he refuses the new Platinum-rewritten Wowio contact. As he points out, there are way too many unanswered questions and clauses that basically say “trust us” when the company has demonstrated it’s completely untrustworthy.

But then, company CEO Scott Rosenberg has a very long history of shady comic dealings.

Which leads me to a digression: I was talking with friends one night who hadn’t heard certain stories about unethical behavior from certain comic publishers because it happened last decade. It was fun digging up the old dirt, sure, but I also realized that some people, if they can just stick around long enough, will get a fresh start because comics doesn’t have much of a memory for these kinds of things. Which is a shame, because it’s what allows crooks to keep preying on people. Combine that with the “oh, that won’t happen to ME” egotism many have, and you have a recipe for predators to keep culling the herd.

So, anyway, it appears that the Golden Age of Wowio is over, and while it may return, it won’t be the useful tool it once us, because a gang of crooks put themselves in the middle of it.

Update: Sean Kleefeld is more optimistic than I am, although he does provide advice for users to download whatever they’re interested in quickly once the site reopens. He also has an interesting rumor, that providers will be required to line up their own advertisers. Like him, I’m not sure that’s plausible; if that’s the case, then what, exactly, is Platio providing that justifies them taking half the proceeds?


13 Responses to “New Platinum Wowio Contracts Discussed; Goodbye, Wowio”

  1. Adam_Y Says:

    Wow, those are some pretty harsh words against Platinum… I just wish they weren’t true.

    The idea of lining up your own advertisers reminds me of a print scam I encountered whilst working in publishing…

    Certainly not a sound long-term business model since if you can attract your own advertisers, the chances are you don’t need Plowio to to take their cut.

  2. Dave Says:

    According to the Wowio website, Wowio will be back online in one week (they even have a countdown meter) – two weeks from what they’ve been saying (mid-July). Given Platinum’s record for timeliness, make of that what you will.

  3. Ian Thomas Says:

    This is a real shame. Your point about the industry having a short memory is particularly valid. I suppose that as long as there are newcomers that are hungry to make there mark in the industry, there will be companies around to take advantage of them.

  4. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 25, 2008: Culling the herd Says:

    [...] “I was talking with friends one night who hadn’t heard certain stories about unethical behavior from certain comic publishers because it happened last decade. It was fun digging up the old dirt, sure, but I also realized that some people, if they can just stick around long enough, will get a fresh start because comics doesn’t have much of a memory for these kinds of things. Which is a shame, because it’s what allows crooks to keep preying on people. Combine that with the ‘oh, that won’t happen to ME’ egotism many have, and you have a recipe for predators to keep culling the herd.” – Johanna Draper Carlson [...]

  5. Nat Gertler Says:

    I suspect the “Wowio worked for everyone” claim is false. I’m really dubious that they were actually recouping 50 cents from sponsors for the ads in the books. The books had two ads, if I recall correctly — who is paying 25 cents per ad to reach comics readers? And by the end, the downloads I was getting only had ads for Wowio, and obviously that’s not an income generator.
    What it always looked like to me was the traditional web startup, burning through venture capital in order to establish a sufficient user base that they become of interest to someone else. In order to get the users, they had to get the content, so that’s where they threw the money.

  6. Avalon's Willow Says:

    Linked you.

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