Remember Wowio?

Me neither. But Sean Kleefeld reminded me.

To recap: A year ago, Wowio was something of an online success story, making thousands of dollars for participating publishers. Six months ago, Wowio was acquired by Platinum, a dodgy company with a shady track record. The changes they implemented, including eliminating most of the free PDFs, were unpopular. Then the payments stopped.

Now, if I’m reading Sean’s post correctly, Platinum hasn’t ever caught up with the Wowio obligations and has no definite date on which they’ll be able to. The company president, Brian Altounian, said (over Twitter, of all things) that they had to get more investment money since there wasn’t enough revenue coming in, and investors didn’t want to pay “old debt”. Given Platinum’s track record, I wonder how likely it is that anyone wants to pump more money into the company, especially given the current economic environment.

Most fascinating about Sean’s post is that Altounian shows up in the comments to spar with him. Understandably, the official doesn’t like people pointing out what bad shape his company’s in or how low the readership has dropped, but the explanation boils down to “you don’t understand how big business works; we’re trying our best”. Sean responds:

… it’s a superiorly bad business decision to either A) buy a company which owes any amount of debt with no plan for repayment, or B) buy a company with no knowledge of the debt it already has. I’m not familiar with the due diligence that may have been done on your part, certainly, but the only other option I’m seeing is amoral … I simply do not understand how a business run so poorly can continue to operate.

In a followup at Digital Strips, Brigid Alverson reviews the Wowio site as a new reader.

13 Responses to “Remember Wowio?”

  1. Scott Bieser Says:

    I think the most significant revelation in that discussion was Altounian’s remark that during the first two years Wowio’s creators were getting paid out of the pockets of the company founders and investors, not from revenue streams. Which I rather suspsected all along.

    So Wowio was never really a success, as a business model. The corporate sponsorship that the expected revenues depended upon simply never showed up. Platinum has bought the corpus (and attached debt) in an audacious gamble that they can reconfigure the model to make it work.

    Well, who knows?

  2. Johanna Says:

    You’re right, I should have been clearer that it only seemed to be a success.

  3. Charles RB Says:

    Altounian says 2009 may be a big year for Platinum, and then says “and we’re a total bargain for investors!”. Looks to me like the company’s still banking on outside investment to magically arrive and that their whole strategy is based around this – how often has that ever worked in comics?!

  4. Bill Williams Says:

    WOWIO did have sponsored downloads for a while. But when they did not have an advertiser, they paid the publisher out of pocket and that was what made the difference. I saw the change in business model as something too radical, a solution in search of a problem.

    Now, its a moot point.

    Bill Williams

  5. Alan Coil Says:

    Platinum–The Next CrossGen!

  6. Dwight L. MacPherson Says:

    Sadly, I’ve been burned by Wowio, too. In the pre-Platinum days, I made a decent income from my books. Now? Not. One. Penny. Creators would do well to avoid Wowio at all costs.


  7. Thomas Sansone Says:

    Ok, so if Wowio is out. Where can we turn? What other site offers the same type of service and also provides traffic?

  8. Bill Williams Says:

    I have been getting tiny little checks from WOWIO. They clear, but they are tiny.


  9. Johanna Says:

    Thomas, no one else that I know of provides free comics while paying the providers. That may indicate that the business model isn’t sustainable.

  10. Wowio No Longer Owned by Platinum » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] is, since Altounian is still President and Chief Operating Officer of Platinum, and he was the one defending the company when people pointed out that they still owed creators money from June 2008. That debt has still […]

  11. Anthony Lopez Says:

    There is no real fast way to make anything a SUCCESS!!! What there needs to be is a forum, online – as it is the most inexpensive form of getting anyone’s art to the masses – not unlike what the Image boys did back in the early 90s…What that is, who knows? I suspect that if the right creators, with the right intentions, get together and brainstorm it, something will materialize…Cheers!

  12. Nick Says:

    It seems like digital comic distribution might be the way to go for indie creators. Things like Panelfly and the like seem to be gearing up to allow individual creators to easily make a little money off their work. And with a growing distribution system to boot.

  13. Wowio Says “All Debts Paid” » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] dated from June 2008, and that’s a long time for an artist to wait for funds. And given that a year ago Altounian had no plans to pay, I’m glad he changed his mind. […]




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