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.
Congrats, 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?
This 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.
Filed Under: Future Tense