- Posted by Johanna on July 24, 2008 at 8:05 am
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
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?