The webcomics blog about webcomics

Kellet Interview Followup II: Electric Boogaloo

Time for part two of the followup questions to the Dave Kellett Interview Extravaganza. When last we left our intrepid heroes, they were asking Dave Kellett about what the syndicated comic strip could accomplish.

Fleen: You’ve spoken very bluntly here about (a) the impending doom of print and (b) considering a move to Blank Label‘s servers. How do your syndicate editors respond to statements like these? Are they pissed? Do they chalk it up to cartoonist iconoclasm? Do you even HAVE an editor?

Kellett: It’s pretty telling that United has had three head comics editors in as many years. That’s not me being snarky, that’s me getting a bead on a situation just by turnover alone. If you’re ever going to invest in a company, keep an eye on the turnover rate of key positions: it’s very, very telling.

So yes, I’m sure on some basic, day-to-day business level it bugs my editors, but they’re smart folks. They know what’s going on with their industry. They know it far more intimately than I do … hence the turnovers.

Fleen: Do you forsee a point at which the sort of unique syndication deal you have with United Media becomes commonplace? And further: Do you see really big webcartoonists eventually having the leverage to say, “We’ll let you distribute the strip, but we keep all rights to archives, forums and merchandising?”

Kellett: It is entirely possible that, were an economic model to be worked out that could benefit both parties, my kind of web-only syndication deal could become commonplace. There are a lot of cartoonists, myself included, that would love to turn the day-to-day business headaches over to a conglomerate and just accept checks for your cartooning. That impulse won’t change. And sooner or later some company will figure out a way to make it work online, and cartoonists will submit to them the way they did with syndicates.

But for now, the money that can be made from an online comic can at best support it’s creator(s). When you involve all the overhead costs of a large syndicate staff, it becomes completely unworkable as a business model. There’s just not enough money to be made.

Fleen: As the baby boomers die off and syndicates are forced to turn to the web for revenue, do you see them finally going PG-13 or even R in terms of subject matter? Is there any print channel they could distribute such material to?

Kellett: The two Chicago papers are already trying more risque stuff with their youthoriented papers. But not living in Chicago myself, I couldn’t really tell you the impact these are having with the Average Joe.

As for what a syndicate will allow online vs. in print, I know for a fact they let me get away with stuff that just wouldn’t fly in print. And I’m not even particularly risque! My strip is about a ten-year boy and his duck … so it’s not like I’m drawing naked Valkyries hurling cusswords from the backs of dragons.

But before she left, Paige Braddock once laughingly told me that she keep getting more and more risque with Jane’s World just to see what would ask her to change … and they never really did. So they’re much cooler about what appears online.

With papers, it’s a Catch-22. Somehow they’ve been locked into a bygone day of 1950s content when all other media have moved forward. And if they update themselves and their content, newspapers risk losing their current crop of diehard readers. But if they keep doing what they’re doing, they’ll lose any hope of gaining a future audience, and so die a quiet death. So far, they’ve chosen the latter.

Fleen thanks Dave Kellett for shucking off the shiny surface of syndication for a scan of its seamy substructure. Part three of your questions coming soon.

I live near Chicago, read the Tribune regularly, but I’m only vaguely aware of this “Red Eye” section. It didn’t seem appealing to me because it looked like another watered-down version of the Tribune, which itself has gotten increasingly simplistic in its writing level and more dependant on huge color photos to fill up its pages. I had no idea that the Sun-Times was trying a similar project.

Wow, and I didn’t know that the Sun-Times’ project to create a youth-oriented paper had already failed. Thanks for linking to that story in the interview

To have the publisher of the Sun-Times come right out and say “They’ve conceded they can’t sell newspapers to young people” …that’s pretty damning.

[…] Secondly, it’s been hinted at for some time, on this page, and elsewhere, and now the day has finally come: A heads-up for Sheldon readers…on Tuesday, Nov. 7th, I’ll be moving the strip to a new site at […]

RSS feed for comments on this post.