Not Getting Digital: Weekly Webzine? Going Out to Buy Online?

People are trying to hang onto existing businesses in this brave new internet world, but clinging too tightly to the way things have been done just looks silly.

Why Restrict a Webzine to a Set Publication Schedule?

Exhibit A: After abruptly closing Wizard magazine amid talk of an online presence, Gareb Shamus revealed more of his plans in an iFanboy interview. The new Wizard World digital magazine will be a free weekly download.

That approach doesn’t seem to understand the speed of news online or how there is no traditional publication cycle anymore. But since Shamus thinks “websites are pretty worthless”, that explains why he’s ignoring the way the digital world works. With plenty of comments like “we reach the influencers out there, the people who actually vote with their dollars, that buy products, that want to know what they’re going to get are going to do that,” it’s clear Shamus is only interested in spinning bullshit to advertisers who think he’s actually a conduit to selling to fans. Those prospective customers will find out soon enough that he and his projects are jokes to that audience.

Shamus wants to “work with everybody to get it everywhere,” but given how the email spam is already going out, I think it’s just a way to build a mailing list for his ads. Bear in mind that if you do support this project, you support someone who thinks “People don’t know what to buy. People don’t know what to read. People don’t know what to believe” and they need Gareb to tell them those things. He continues, “we are going to continue the dominant influence that we’ve had on people’s taste and what people will like and what people will want and because we have the influences out there, we have the people that are the people that the companies are looking to reach, and we reach them en masse all the time. We reach the people who have the dollars that spend money on this product, and we’re going to be marketing to them every single day now.” Shamus has nothing but contempt for anyone who buys a ticket to his show or reads his magazine, in whatever format. Keep that in mind before indulging.

Why Do I Need to Go to a Store to Buy Online?

Diamond Digital logo

Last week, Diamond Comic Distributors announced that they would be fighting the threat of online comics by launching a program in which physical comic stores can sell digital comics. So to get an online comic through this program, a customer has to travel to a shop. Not only does this have most of the problems of other digital comic “solutions” — limited selection, $2 pricing, complicated rules, restricted files, and no truly cross-platform options — it adds a brand new one: making users travel.

DC and Marvel aren’t included, so most comic shop customers won’t care. (Also omitted are Dark Horse and Image, which means four out of the five of Diamond’s biggest publishers aren’t participating.) It’s using the iVerse technology, which so far is losing the digital distribution race to its competitors, which means customers will likely have to install yet another program and sign up for yet another account. Digital copies are 99 cents if you’ve already paid $3 or 4 for the print version, so this becomes a backdoor way to up the price of the paper version. Most importantly, many many of those interested in buying online don’t have a viable local shop — that’s why they like digital. This is a brand-new way for the backward-facing to stomp their feet and demand progress not pass them buy. Todd Allen has a lot more reasons this is a ridiculous idea.

The key reason it doesn’t make sense for Diamond to get involved in digital comics is that online eliminates middlemen. It’s a way for producers to sell directly to consumers. For now, the only intermediary that makes sense is the enabling software, and that’s where companies like comiXology and iVerse come in. There’s no reason anyone else should get involved — or get a cut. What service is Diamond providing, other than preventing prices from dropping because someone else has to get paid?


18 Responses to “Not Getting Digital: Weekly Webzine? Going Out to Buy Online?”

  1. Chris Williams Says:

    The real question is, why buy online at all? You pirate your comics anyway.

  2. William George Says:

    The Diamond plan is another cash grab from the same group of superhero fanboys who have always been falling for their cash grabs since the first comic shop opened. It’s the variant cover for the digital age.

    The reason for them dragging their asses on digital, and the reason for all of Jim Lee’s string-waving, is that they know as well as anyone that digital is not a market they can dominate.

    People who aren’t superhero fanboys (99% of the population)who may be open to reading comics will demand better formats, different genres, and compelling work. As far as Marvel, DC, Image and the rest of them go, this is something they pull off rarely.

    So while they continue to dominate a shrinking market, they will also have doofuses screaming that piracy is the reason for their failing business and if you’re not going to a comic shop, you’re obviously a pirate as well.

    And Gareb Shamus is a parasite.

  3. Jaylat Says:

    Not sure why you tossed $2 pricing in your list of digital problems? That sounds pretty reasonable to me, as long as it’s an unencumbered pdf.

  4. Johanna Says:

    It rarely is, though, and I find it too much to pay on a continuing basis for 20 pages of a partial story that I don’t own and can’t lend to a friend. Digital sales are minimal right now, it’s true, but I believe that’s because no one is taking it seriously as a market and giving customers what they want. Why should they? The decision-makers have too much invested in the market as it is/was.

  5. Joshua Says:

    @William George: Since DC, Marvel Image and even Dark Horse aren’t included in this scheme it’s hard to see this as being driven by a cash grab aimed at superhero fanboys.

    @Johanna What this actually is aimed at is comics shop retailers, who correctly see digital distribution as a threat to their livelihoods. They are Diamond’s customers, not the consumers, which explains every idiotic feature of this scheme.

  6. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Wizard’s been very good at giving my friend, Glenn Walker, press passes for the Comic Widows website. I’ve attended the Philly show the last few years, and find the comment “we reach the influencers out there” a bit funny after last year, when the dominant booth position was given to Microsoft’s kool new Kin phones. They were cancelled less then a month later.

    Think about that- a “comic con” didn’t have Marvel, DC, Image, or Dark Horse as a guest or vendor, but instead had the worst mobile phone ever. And not just anywhere, but in the up-front, right-as-you-enter position.

    As for the digital publication, I’d be happy to read it if I knew who was going to *write* for it. He fired all the writers, didn’t he? His GeekSpamDaily sheet is little more than three press releases reworded with snark. Are we going to get a 32 page PDF of the same? I can’t imagine any writer with even a little bit of self-respect would consider working for the Great Shamus Stock Scam.

  7. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Also, note to Diamond- any logo that possibly looks like balls hanging is not a good logo.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Ray! I didn’t see that until you said, and now I can’t NOT see it!

    And who’s going to work on the Wizard website is a good question, but they’re one of those companies who always seem to have a lot of openings for interns, providing “experience”.

    Joshua, you are completely correct. This is a plan to let some people feel like they’re doing something, even if it seems to be going the wrong way.

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  10. Torsten Adair Says:

    Why include a middleman? To make the system easier to use. Diamond provides the access point, handles the invoicing, and convinces publishers to participate in the program.

    ComiXology also has a retailer initiative, and some nice retailer doodads.

    My questions:
    Who gets what from each dd sale?

    What happens when B&N or Apple want to sell day-and-date? Both have digital newsstands…

    Will I be able to buy a digital comic ONLINE from a comics shop, which would email me the redemption code? If so, what does that do to the stores which do not have an online store?

  11. Grant Says:

    Wow. If people (at least based on certain posts here) are this angry with hardly any publishers on board, I can just imagine the outrage if DC, Marvel, Dark Horse signed up. That would really halt progress wouldn’t it?

    So what if it’s a stupid idea? If it helps out some comic shops and helps people who would normally never download a comic to get involved with the process then I say go for it. It seems the only people upset by this are the ones that probably don’t venture into comic shops much any more anyways and have no use for the direct market all together. Eventually, even those that do sign up on this will eventually bail and move on to better platforms. Are people really that upset because they have to go to the lcbs to get a digital copy of the latest bluewater or moonstone offering?

    And how this lines up with some strange, deep seated hatred of superhero comics and those that read them, I have no clue. If digital is all that (which, based on sales isn’t yet and might not be for a long time)and the pro digital crowd is right when they say the DM is doomed and will vanish in a matter of seconds, then what’s the worry?

    I personally think the notion of reading a comic on a tiny phone screen is ridiculous and having read a comic on an Ipad, equally so (I like comics, not “digests”). The laptop isn’t as bad, but equally devoid of magic. But then I’m a superhero lovin’ fanboy dinosaur and clearly part of the problem.

  12. Johanna Says:

    So what if it’s a stupid idea? Well, I hate to see people putting resources, time, and energy into something I think is a waste when I’d rather see them doing something with a much better chance of succeeding and helping them continue. You seem to be taking this quite personally, when there’s at least one thing we can agree on: paper is much preferable to on-screen.

  13. Grant Says:

    I’m not taking it personally. I’m simply pointing out that the “hostility” to the idea is just as silly as the idea itself and the angry tone of certain posts on this thread is silly. It seems those that are enamored of digital are taking things far more personally (why this is I have no clue). To imply that this isn’t so is, well, silly.

    Regarding the cutting out of middlemen or more accurately, businesses that employ people, if diamond chooses to try this in some misguided effort to keep the DM plugging along, then whats wrong with that?

    It seems that the main criticism is the producer having to share more of a cut and the inconvenience of having to go to a comic shop to download a comic. But it’s pretty clear that this is intended as a stop gap for diamond and the DM.

    Given the state of the industry, I think both producers and consumers can take away one thing from all this; it’s not always about you.

  14. James Schee Says:

    Its odd really, this could have been something I’d of found very interesting years back when I went to shops.

    It would be neat to get the standard DC/Marvel stuff I was getting at the time that was widely available. Then order a digital of some Indy book I wanted to try, or had ordered but for some reason Diamond didn’t ship. (or my retailer just didn’t order for whatever reason) Though I would hope ordering it from the store, that it would send an automatic order to Diamond to send a paper copy out to me. (which his doesn’t seem to offer)

    Little late for that now with my shopping habits, and other options out there now though.

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