Are Webcomics Going to Be the Next Crash?

A conversation I saw on Twitter started me thinking. Here’s the exchange, between webcomic writer Kevin Church and cartoonist Cathy Leamy.

I can understand why webcomic creators might be tired. Few cartoonists are making good money, since the early days, where someone could get a lot of attention for being one of a few covering a particular topic, are long gone. Running a business with so much competition and so few ways to distinguish yourself is tough, and to really break through and gain an audience takes both years and luck. Even Kickstarter, which is considered a saving grace but is really more of a fad, requires having a substantial following to be successful.

Are we headed for a webcomics contraction? Does that even make sense? Is anyone tracking the entire number of webcomics, and would we notice if there were fewer of them?

Another response to that Twitter conversation says something else that suggests a big change coming:

Google Reader disappears July 1, in just another month and a half. Any time a change like that happens, there’s attrition. A number of users will simply go away without finding another tool or replacement. Webcomics may find their regular follower numbers dropping as a result. For those not worried about running a sustainable business, it may not matter, but surviving on ad support is already difficult. Then again, life is change, and we all need to be prepared to cope.

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7 Responses to “Are Webcomics Going to Be the Next Crash?”

  1. Anthony Says:

    Maybe I’m not finding the right webcomics (and not to sound old-fashioned—I still read newspaper comics, albeit online only these days), and not to offend anyone, but I wonder if a bigger variety of creators/subjects in webcomics might help. It feels like too many of the webcomics I’ve run across seem too narrowly focused (video games, weird “Adult Swim”-like randomness or crudeness for its own sake, etc.) or not the most diverse cast-wise (the characters in a lot of them seem largely Caucasian twentysomething geeks, if they’re not robots/aliens/etc.).

    That said, I do think webcomics have a much brighter future (even if there is a contraction) than newspaper comics, which feel moribund (or tied to the issues of newspapers overall).

  2. sairuh Says:

    You raise a good point about Google Reader. I don’t use it, but I know people who do, so like you I wonder how that will affect readership (esp. readers’ access; it might be too much of a pain for some to find/setup an alternative RSS reader).

    I wonder if webcomic aggregators like Comic Rocket will help with connecting creators with (potential) readers? I’ve been enjoying using that service, since I follow so many series—but then again, I use it in combination with a standalone (non-service) RSS app.

    Are there other webcomic aggregators out there that people like using? I recall there’s at least one mobile app that does something similar: Comic Chameleon. I don’t use it (yet) because it carries only a couple of the comics I read.

  3. Antares Says:

    It isn’t going to crash, it’s simply more people are failing.

    Most of our comics are growing and I’ve been hiring people. The issue comes when people think they can do something for nothing. While some people can, social marketing is much weaker than it used to be so people who go into the game without a hard marketing budget are outta luck.

    The online world is now mirroring the normal world.

  4. James Schee Says:

    Only web co,ic I follow currently is the incredible JL8, and that’s helped because it pops up on my FB page once a week. I had followed Tania Del Rio’s My Newly Blonde Life, in tbe same way but it hasn’t updated since August of 2012.

    I guess people just move on and do new things more these days. Makes it hard to follow at times though. Lol

  5. Johanna Says:

    Anthony, it’s true, many webcomics reflect a certain point of view, one that I think stems from many webcomic creators being about the same age and background. Yet I’ve found greater diversity there than on the newspaper page.

    Salruh, I have been happy with RSS, so I haven’t experimented with aggregators, but perhaps one will step up — but as you say, it’ll have to have the ability to carry any strip one wants to follow. No one wants to run 3 or 7 or more aggregators just to read all the comics they want.

    Yeah, James, when I transitioned from Reader — I’m finding Feedly a nice substitute, by the way — it was sad to note how many strips I liked had just faded away. Not that I blame anyone. I know more than most how much life can get in the way of something you used to do online.

  6. Jaylat Says:

    Really most webcomics are deadly dull, and almost impossible to navigate. Not to knock Kevin, but clicking though his twitter account to his website and clicking on “Agreeable Comics” (the only link that mentions comics) gives you a dead link. How does he expect to get readers?

  7. Kevin Church Says:

    Jaylat:
    My sites, along with others on the Dreamhost network, have been the victims of an ongoing attack from DDOS jerks, probably based in the Ukraine. I’m sorry you weren’t able to read my comics. You can pay what you want (even $0) for collections of two of them at https://gumroad.com/kevinchurch.

    Or you could try again tomorrow.

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