Future Tense: The Burst of the Geek Dot-Com Bubble

We love to wax nostalgic at PoP!, but sometimes it’s what’s yet to come that most quickens our nerd pulses. For better or for worse, let’s start the speculation over what’s making us Future Tense.

dotcombannerCongrats, nerds. You’ve transcended the musty confines of the metaphorical parents’ basement, and have become the sexiest, most sought after demographic in entertainment media.  The Avengers was one of the biggest movies of all time, Walking Dead  is one of the most watched shows on television, and comic books are still being printed and sold…WHO KNEW!?  Along with the rise in popularity of geeky properties came the proliferation of comic book websites, following the latest developments in the industry with bated breath.  But what comes up, must come down, and with the market saturated with nearly identical sites, is the pie big enough for everyone to survive?

ifanboyclosedThis editorial might be heavily reactionary in the wake of last week’s announcement that iFanboy would cease day to day operations, but the sky might very well be falling, Chicken Little.  It’s not quite an epidemic, but there exists a trend that doesn’t bode well for nerdy sites, large or small.  Earlier this year, Comics Alliance pulled down the steel shutters, albeit briefly, after AOL dropped the site due to cost-cutting.  CA would rise again, pick your favorite metaphor, saved from certain doom by conglomerate Townsquare Media.  iFanboy hasn’t been so lucky, with no white knight swooping in after being dropped by parent company Graphicly in January.  If sites with name recognition and broad fanbases can’t appease their corporate overlords in order to keep nerd-raging for a living, where’s the hope for the rest of us?

You might be surprised by the number of sites within our industry that answer to a higher power.  Newsarama is funded by Tech Media Network, Bleeding Cool is owned by Avatar Press, Superhero Hype is part of Crave Online, Comic Vine was recently purchased by CBS Interactive, and The Mary Sue calls Abrams Media Network “Daddy”.  The most notable name amongst the comic news sites without a corporate bankroll is Comic Book Resources. They are the exception to the rule. Most independent sites in the game struggle. There aren’t enough ad dollars to go around for every site to make a profit, let alone a living, or even enough to cover hosting.  The reality is, most site-runners and staffers depend on their day jobs to pay the bills, unable to dedicate themselves full-time to low-paying or unpaid web work.  Creative burnout is an inevitability when there is no pay and little feedback in the echo chamber of the comics internet.   Upon the announcement of iFanboy’s demise, co-founder Connor Kilpatrick explained:

“After five years spent running iFanboy.com as our primary jobs, we had to transition back to running iFanboy part-time after Graphicly handed it back to us in February of this year, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to focus on everything we need to focus on in the manner that it deserves to be.”

Remove their corporate funding, and any one of those aforementioned sites could become the next iFanboy.

Back in the good old days, there was one journalistic voice in the comic book community, and that was Wizard Magazine.  The disintegration of Wizard’s print and online presence left a gaping hole in comic news, and countless sites threw their old-timey reporter hats into the ring.  The market has become more saturated than a Stormtrooper’s underoos in San Diego in July, and all of these sites are providing essentially the same content while fighting for the same audience. Meanwhile, the big guns have gotten into the game, with Hollywood Reporter, MTV, Huffington Post and CNN all offering their own geeky news offshoots. Then there’s Tumblr. Anyone and everyone can be a comics journalist these days.  We are literally fighting for scraps.  Not that PoP!’s 1000+ Facebook likes and Twitter followers are scraps! Not at all!  We love you guys…

Where does that leave us? Not just PoP!, not just The PoP!ulation, but the comics web as a whole?  We should be clear of the writing on the wall, but we shouldn’t let it loom over us like a massive dull guillotine.  Whether or not the choice of a new generation is PanelsOnPages.com, be sure to support your favorite site.  Share their links, buy their swag, pledge to their Kickstarter(s) and donate a couple of bucks when possible.  While we can’t all make a living off of this, if it’s something we love to do we’ll find the way, and a few dollars can go a long way in keeping the site up and running.  Don’t forget to send good vibes through the interwebs, either, by commenting on your favorite articles, contacting podcasts, so on and so forth. It’s a lot easier for content providers to provide that content if they know someone appreciates.  And to those sites out there looking to carve out their niche; find your voice.  Stand out from the crowd, and provide original content to your visitors that will bring them back for more. If your heart is in it, after the inevitable bubble burst and the mainstream has left us for dead, you’ll still be standing.

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Who ARE these people!?

Jason Knize, K-Nice if you're nasty, is a co-founder of PanelsOnPages.com, resident News Editor, and one-half of the World Tag Team Champions, The 11th Hour. You can usually find him in the most wretched hive of scum and villainy...The PoP!ulation Forums.

   

Comments (14)

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  1. nubbins says:

    Very well written. I think (hope) pop with its loyal base stays for a long time. Sure the boards are a little dead. But the articles are amazeballs! You guys do a good job and keep it fresh. I think that is a key thing the freshness and your pop!ulation cheering you on. Its sad to see independents struggle. I didn’t realize that many sites had big daddy companies pulling their strings. I wish everyone good luck. Pop was my first comic site and is were I will forever call home for as long as I can!

  2. Mary Knize says:

    I knew about Dan Abrams owning The Mary Sue, but I didn’t know about all of those other sites. Makes you wonder what PoP! could do with major corporate moolah rolling in… (as long as we’re still allowed to be our same adorable selves, that is 😉 )

  3. Jason Kerouac says:

    Well, this sure hits close to home.

    While the team at PoP! knows why I’m no longer with the site, the PoP!ulation may not: four years ago we had an idea, three and a half years ago we made it a reality, and since then, we’ve worked towards realizing a dream. The goal of PoP! was always to make a sustainable living off of doing what we love. But with profitability seeming ever more the pipe dream, fan response luke warm to any but our most controversial articles, and the creative well running dry… I chose to step aside. If I had all day every day to sit around and muse over our favorite topics, I’d likely have lasted longer. But working a full time job just didn’t leave me the energy to create.

    I Only hope I’m the exception to the rule, and that – profitable or not – PoP! is able to live long and prosper, continuing to create the best comics news and editorial content on the web

  4. Tito says:

    #RIPKerouac

  5. Since the actual facts, trailers & announcements are just there for people to take in whenever they pop up I think a lot of sites like this become not about the facts but an opinion about those facts. Comics Alliance takes a hipster/academic approach, The Mary Sue has a feminist perspective, this site…does not. 😉 It why a lot of stories don’t necessarily get “sensationalized” like Lee said on this week’s PoP-Cast but it’s the interpretation of those facts and the reaction to those stories that makes things kind of blow up and also either draws in or pushes away an audience. For good of for ill, people want to read things by people that share their perspective.

    CBR and Newsarama exist outside that bubble by being an announcement platform. Anything a publisher wants to promote they’ll go along with it but tread very lightly when it comes to journalism for fear of “lack of access.” No one is going to grill Dan DiDio about DC editorial because he’ll just get up, walk away and that site will never get exclusive content or interviews with their editors any more. More than anything, *that’s* why there’s no real comics journalism. If sites can’t or won’t be opinion-less, middle of the road announcement platforms that churn out information every hour on the hour, they tend to fall into the aforementioned “opinion site” category. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  6. Tito says:

    “For good of for ill, people want to read things by people that share their perspective.”

    The numbers of hits and comments disagree with you. The more “sensationalized” and “controversial” stories get the most hits and most comments/RTs/shares. People love to be outrage and they love to share that outrage with the world. That may be why other sites that won’t be named go for the sensationalism and controversial. Hits = $$$ and that cash keeps them viable and afloat.

    Ultimately I didn’t read this as a critique on comics journalism but as a statement that unless a site has “higher power” (like Newsarama, Comic Vine, and the others that were mentioned) it is very difficult for a site to maintain sustainability.

  7. Matt (shark) says:

    I may not be the most active poster as I was just a few years ago (full time job and baby versus a few years ago I was just a college student), but this place has that great vibe of a restaurant or bar where you are a regular. A fun bunch who you can be yourself around. Big enough to get information but small enough where people know you and recognize you. If this place ever does go down, I am not sure where we would all go. I would probably just drop reading about nerdy/geek stuff and have to go hang out at a LCS more…

    You guys have/are doing a great job. Love the PoPcast network, love the boards and the main site…

  8. Mary Knize says:

    That totally gave me all the warm ‘n’ fuzzies. 😀

    Also, I think it’s fair to say that we’re ALL busier than we were 3-4 years ago.

  9. David page says:

    Bleeding Cool is owned by Avatar Press

    That….explains a lot….

  10. I give a promise, that if I ever win the lottery. You Guys, Superfly, and Foxy, will become really happy. but my ass I kind of broke, so I help by Posting links, on twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and the like.

  11. CBR DID lose DC earlier this year when they asked Bob Harras to comment on the Orson Scott Card controversy in their weekly interviews. Harras suspended the interview and terminated his weekly Q&A.

    There is the flipside to the access paradigm though. Publishers may provide access to enable sites… But if a publisher pulls up the drawbridge, sites don’t go away. They have to find and adopt and interpretative bias. Basically, publishers can give a site a bias with access but if publishers denied access to all outlets, the result would be pretty much all of the sites rallying fans to storm the castle for various reasons, none shared with any other.

    Access isn’t really optional in this business. Who you give it to? Sure. But if you don’t give it to somebody, you’re forcing sites to bang the war drums for clicks.

  12. ZombieNightingale says:

    And it’s stories like that that make me stay away from the Mary SUe and I HAVE a vagina!!!!

  13. ZombieNightingale says:

    Damn it! Why is it when I wanted to reply to Tito’s post it instead put it down here!!! WTF? And I accidentally said SUe instead of Sue, my bad. My initial comment was meant to be a reply to Tito’s comment. 🙁

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