The webcomics blog about webcomics

Some Days I Feel Like A Real Goddamn Journalist

Your source for press scummery since 2005!

And let me tell you, it’s much easier to just sit back and ramble until I fill up a column; sometimes though, a story presents itself and you’ve got to follow it wherever it goes. And yikes this one goes lots of places.

A small bit of background — as you may or may not have read, last week Keenspot and Kel McDonald parted ways, with a certain degree of hard feelings, judging from McDonald’s telling of the tale. Keenspot responded, the flood of comments began, musings appeared from third parties, at least one other creator decided to leave (no permalink; newspost on 18th December) as a result, and Bobby Crosby tossed in his two cents (at some point in the future, there may well be a “Bobby’s Law”, the point after which no useful discussion on a webcomics topic can take place). The claims and counter-claims of the parties were all out on the record, and if it seemed perhaps similar to John Troutman’s departure over the summer, there also didn’t seem to be much of a story there.

Fast forward to two days ago.

I was given (or, if we’re gettin’ all journalistic up in this bitch, “leaked”) what purported to be a confidential communication from Keenspot to its creators (and which you may read for yourself below the cut). Short form: the (in the copies I have received, unsigned) communique announced that on 1 July 2010 new, mandatory contracts will go into effect, which would essentially transform Keenspot into a traditional publisher and away from the nature it has had in the past (although we should note that Keenspot has had numerous corporate personae over the years). Creators that signed the contract would be required to be hosted by Keenspot, use their updating program, turn over control of ad slots, and accept a 50/50 revenue split on the advertising.

We’ll let those terms soak in for a moment.

I spent time yesterday contacting various Keenspot members, looking to confirm the validity of the document; some declined to speak on the matter, but those that did all confirmed that the posting was genuine. More than one said that they had not known about it until contacted by other creators, none said that they had received communication directly from Keenspot.

By last night, Keenspot CEO Chris Crosby had contacted me to make himself available for questions, and also confirmed the news. So it’s official: sometime about six months from now, Keenspot will cease to be what it has been, and will become something entirely different.

In the meantime, the existing creators will have to decide whether or not to accept the new contract terms; the announcement makes clear that Keenspot does not expect many of its members to stay. Crosby noted that:

As well as not inviting or accepting any new members, we may also politely decline existing members who decide to sign the new contract. We’ll be having long discussions with each interested creator (assuming there are any) in order to work out what’s mutually beneficial and what’s not. If Keenspot cannot bring something substantial to the table for the creator in question, we will stop working with them.

He went on to describe the business decision to reduce their pool of associate creators by such a severe degree (I have no formal data to back this up, but I feel it would likely be at least a 90% reduction) as allowing a greater degree of focus and ability to manage those comics that remain:

Keenspot has always been spread far too thin, and this will immediately solve that problem.

The reactions of creators that were willing to talk with me (and each on the condition of anonymity) to the announcement are uniformly negative. One creator of long standing expressed it as:

Every Keenspot member I’ve spoken to agrees that this is the Crosbys’ way of firing everyone without having to fire anyone, since trying to ditch Kel [McDonald] blew up in their faces.

The new contract is ridiculous, completely unreasonable, and they know that. It doesn’t just mandate a revenue split, but requires cartoonists to give up their domains, and the contracts are slated to last three to five years.

The Crosbys are doing their best to pretend that this has been in the works for ages, but it’s clear this is fallout from the beating they took over trying to fire Kel. They were still adding new members up until very recently, like Tiny Kitten Teeth. Those aren’t the actions of people contemplating a radical restructuring.

For the record, in case the “of long standing” part wasn’t sufficiently clear, that last quote was not from Frank Gibson or Becky Dreistadt of Tiny Kitten Teeth. Asked to respond to this point, Crosby replied that the announcement did run earlier than planned:

[P]artly in reaction to the Kel McDonald situation, but this is something we’ve discussed over and over again internally for years. We formally decided on finally doing it within the past month or so. Terminating Kel’s contract was a step in the direction of reducing the line-up (as she represented four Keenspot comics), but we don’t plan to terminate any other existing members in advance of the change.

He also indicated that the two most recent Keenspot additions (from August and October of this year) were from prior to the final decision on the transition, although that would put the acquisitions well within the period of “years” of discussion of the forthcoming change.

The other chief objection I’ve heard from creators is that the form of communication (posted to a forum) was insufficient. One reported being in communication with five other creators, none of which had learned of the impending changes from Keenspot’s efforts. Crosby characterized the notification as:

The initial announcement was made via a mass E-Mail to the private Keenspot member list that linked to a private forum thread where the full announcement was located.

Although this has been disputed by creators; one told me:

I did have to read that Keenspot thing on the message-board and rumors had been out for days and days before they made their official announcement. Scott Kurtz knew before I did.

Continuing on the topic of a more formal announcement, Crosby said:

When we formally introduce the new contract in January, we will contact each member directly. We decided to do the initial announcement earlier than originally planned in order to give attentive members as much time as possible to make other plans. In any case, all members will have at least six months to do so.

As an aside, one has to wonder if the mechanism for announcing the changes wasn’t the real cause of friction with the Keenspot creators who have spoken with me. From a purely logical standpoint, one also has to wonder about the secretive manner in which Keenspot attempted to make the changes.

Certainly, a company has the right to do business as it sees fit, and nobody is suggesting that Keenspot’s principals should have had their strategic discussions in public. But once they decided on a course of action, a direct email to all creators outlining the plans, followed by at least a small public announcement of forthcoming changes, with details to be forthcoming once the creators had been consulted with formally, would have allowed much more control of the process, and likely far fewer bruised feelings.

In any event, the thought that the process could be kept secret was a severe miscalculation; in the entire history of the world, no memo headed FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, DO NOT REDISTRIBUTE OUTSIDE OF [whatever] has ever been kept quiet absent an understanding on the part of the recipient that the sender has the means and willingness to absolutely ruin (or end) the life anybody that talks. No disrespect to the Crosbys and what they’ve built, but Keenspot ain’t the CIA.

Which leaves the question of what Keenspot is, or more accurately, what it will be. As one creator expressed it,

By the summer of next year, Keenspot will effectively be The Crosby Show.

Presumably, Chris, Teri, and Bobby are choosing colorful sweaters; some of the new fabrics are actually pretty lightweight and won’t be overly warm in the San Diego heat. But that slightly disturbing mental image aside, where is Keenspot headed? It’s had a long history in the world of webcomickry, and it’s completely fair to say that the medium would be in a very different place today if Chris Crosby and Gav Bleuel hadn’t seen the potential for a replacement to the failed Big Panda webcomics portal. Crosby sees the changes as offering a chance to resolve tensions:

I had hoped Keenspot the webcomics collective and Keenspot the independent publishing concern could co-exist happily. But after two years [following a 2008 reorganizaton and the buyout of former partners] the resounding answer is no. Those two sides of Keenspot resent each other, and neither side is happy.

[G]oing forward our focus will be directed solely at properties we have a long-term investment in, which is primarily Crosby-produced comics and related projects. That’s what makes the most business sense for us as a company, and we make no apologies for it.

Crosby added that Comic Genesis (née Keenspace) will continue without major changes, “for the forseeable future.” In the meantime, Keenspot will be nothing but major changes for the forseeable future, and once those changes all shake out it appears that The Big Green K will pretty much stand for “Krosby Komics”.

More on this story as it merits. Fleen thanks all who provided information (both on and off the record) for this story.

The text of the Keenspot reorganization internal memo is included here so that any discussion of these changes can proceed from a factual basis.


By July 1st of 2010, Keenspot as it has been known for a decade will drastically change.

Two years ago, we introduced the optional “New System” aka “100% Revenue” contract that turned a large portion of Keenspot into something more resembling a collective, or rather a glorified link exchange with optional free hosting, rather than the web publisher we began as. From most accounts, for many creators it was successful in terms of increasing and keeping 100% of the ad revenues they generate.

For Keenspot the company, the results have been mixed at best. The “collective” side, in which decisions are generally expected to be made by and in support of the group, and “publisher” side, in which decisions are solely made by the company owners at our discretion, are in a constant battle against each other. As a result, no side is truly happy.

The facts are, you do not need Keenspot. For members on the “New System” contract, everything you’re doing on Keenspot can be done on your own. You should go independent.

For those still on the original contract, you should strongly consider leaving Keenspot if you are not extremely happy with it. If we aren’t doing something for you that you can’t do on your own, there is no reason for you to stay.

On July 1st of 2010, Keenspot goes back to being solely a publishing company, but for the first time, one with a focus. We assume the vast majority of our existing members will leave, and we completely understand that. The comics that do remain will be given the attention and investment that a small company like us could not possibly give to the more than fifty comics currently active on Keenspot (and the hundreds inactive).

On that date more than half a year from now, a new mandatory contract will go into effect that does the following…

* Requires Keenspot to host your comic.

* Requires your comic to use the updating program of our choosing (currently AutoKeen).

* Requires your domain name to redirect to a URL.

* Puts all ad slots in control of the company.

* Requires a minimum of two ad formats displayed per page.

* Requires a longer term.

* Pays the creator a set monthly rate in advance of 50/50 split.

We will present this full contract to remaining members in January 2010, but those few who decide to sign will not need to do so until July 1, 2010. If a creator requires more time to make other plans, we will continue to host them for as long as they need.

Additionally, we do not plan to invite any new members to Keenspot.

Thank you for being a part of Keenspot, and best of luck to you in the future wherever you end up.

Any questions? If you need anything from us, do not be afraid to ask.

why did it get a giant poster at the booth though if it wasnt out yet

wouldnt more people come to the booth if they saw a poster for something they recognized, like goblins or menage a 3

its good business to have big displays of stuff you hope to make money on, it’s better business to use big displays of really popular properties to draw people in and then sell them the stuff they weren’t aware of

Those are really good points, Matt. Though no one responsible for the creation of GOBLINS or Ma3 in particular were attending this year, and we did only want the banners to represent creators at the booth.

We chose THE FIRST DAUGHTER to promote because we were debuting a printed book of the first issue at the convention (which writer Mike Rosenzweig was there to promote), and because we thought the iPhone issues would be released sooner than they actually were. We originally planned to release them ourselves, but ended up signing an exclusive deal with another comics app and that resulted in a delayed release.

FYI, the Keenspot banner was originally spread out on top of the table with books and merch carefully placed to still show off the “Keenspot”. I think it wasn’t until the end of Wednesday that 2 or 3 exasperated Keenspot cartoonists took it upon themselves to hang it in front. I suppose they had no choice, what with all the banner using up the prime space.

Scott Kurtz: Webcomics Magnate and Perpetrator of 8,000 Lies.

You’re going to need new business cards.

Don’t forget “Tastemaker” and “Pioneer.”

“Why does Kurtz care so much about it? Why is he apparently breaking into private Keenspot forums, as I just got an e-mail about. He’s obsessed with Keenspot.”

And of course there would be no way to verify this claim as true or false for anyone not on Keenspot, so it’s a safe accusation to make because nobody can prove you wrong. It can only turn into a yes-no situation. Very cold, calculated and obvious attempt to discredit Kurtz. So he is the one with the personal vendetta, you say?

Please guys. You’re trying to engage in logical conversation with someone who won’t be logical. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
(Henh. My Captcha says “Assizes This”. I this thing psychic?

Wow. This thread is… WOW. It’s like webcomics drama was all pent up all year and just exploded inside the pants of Fleen and has left a big yucky mess.

You should see all the fun everyone’s having over at the Daily Cartoonist.

OT: The ReCAPTCHAs are fucking hilarious, “comprehensive siege”.

Wow, most of this reads like a war between Trolls. Step back, take a deep breath, drink a beer, relax. Remember, arguing on the internet is like running a race in the Special Olympics. You may win, but you’re still retarded.

There only happens to be one Keenspot comic I read, and if Thunt chooses to take Goblins elsewhere, I will still read it.

Anyone else notice that comicgenesis (I.E. keenspace) seems to be melting down? Updated comics are getting corrupted, the current comics of and both show similar corruption, and the green-avenger one has a comment about it.

So the theory about this only affecting keenspot and not keenspace seems a bit optimistic. When the crosbys bought out Bluell (the nukees guy), they lost their webmaster, and the people who are left don’t really seem _interested_ in administering web infrastructure. (Especially not for anybody other than Bobby the wonder twit.)

The corrupted comic files on CG are due to a server outage earlier this week. The creators of any comic files uploaded to CG FTP between 5pm on December 27th and 7am on December 28th need to re-upload or overwrite those files.

[…] Out There’s  Two Cents in Sixty Seconds, Fleen article on Keenspot, Tin Lizard Productions, Comic Tools, Atop the Fourth Wall, Dungeon Legacy, WAGON Webcomic Battle, […]

[…] has a good round-up of chaos at […]

[…] has a good round-up of chaos at […]

Hi chaps! I heard there was a good ol’ ding dong going on with lots of fire being spewed everywhere so I thought I’d come in and…hey..lads? Where are you all going?

…jesus bloody christ even the CAPTCHA is trying to get in on the war between Halfpixel and the Crosby Clan:

“Flaming elections”

Actually, I saw all the hubbub between Scotty & el Bobbo, checked youtube, found the following video and thought of you two at 02:30, 04:25, 04:58 and then 06:56.

Dawwww… :)

[…] Anyway, I’ve got to sit on a panel discussion about webcomic collectives and co-operatives and how the world of Webcomics is a fantastic medley of peace, harmony, ANZAC cakes, punch and pie. The reality however is really high profile figures in the webcomic community such as Bobby Crosby and Scott Kurtz are doing this: […]

[…] since Keenspot announced its dissolution, there has been much chatter on the web condemning comic collectives. The gripe is that Keenspot, […]

It’s been years since I tried Comicgenesis, but I remember the CMS being terrible. Also the documentation was written by the community instead of the company, so it had huge gaps and poor organization. Was Keenspot as bad?

My previous job involved working in a company very similar to Keenspot – big name, high profile, but behind the scenes is a big mess. It seems like once somebody gets big enough they just can’t bring themselves to stop and fix what they have. They have to just keep expanding and expanding, adding new features as the bugs and problems continue to pile up. It just goes to show, being able to make money is not the same thing as being able to do a good job!

Well. After muddling through that deep pile of excrement (my god, Bobby, how the hell do you ever get enough to eat with the amount of shit that flows out of your mouth?) I must state: I am sorry, Scott Kurtz, for normally ignoring what you say when you foam at the mouth over Keenspot.

Whatever Keenspot once was… these days it is something pitiful and broken. And I hope those people who are still a part of it leave. Before their comics are tainted by association.

I was once one of Keenspot’s more ardent defenders. But the latest bullshit as revealed here… makes me regret ever defending Keenspot in the past.

Rob H.

At some point, I just had to skip the bulk of the comments and come down here to just say that Chris and Teri and everybody else at Keenspot have been incredibly helpful and supportive — massively and *consistently*.

The reason the original concept of Keenspot has outlived its internet usefulness is because it has been not so much a “link collective”, but more like a virtual family. That’s the part of it that’s going to be missed most. It’s not “passive aggressiveness” — it’s about community. That’s why it’s been disappointing that a better business model couldn’t be wrapped around it, even though that’s a backwards way of doing it. Like Maritza said, the internet’s changed a lot in 10 years, and it’s just hard to let go of this close relationship, even though the business side of it doesn’t make so much sense anymore.

That’s probably why this all sounds weird to Scott Kurtz. I don’t think he ever got that family aspect of it. A long time ago, before he started hating on me, he tried convincing me that Chris & co. were robbing me, somehow. But I’ve always been better off by being associated with Keenspot than I would have been otherwise. It’s one place where I always knew I could rely on help and support.

And that the Crosby family are finding a more valid path for the business — I’m not sure why that’s supposed to upset or hurt me. From my perspective, they have helped me far more over the years than I have helped them. For years now, they’ve been the central pillar of support for a web activity that didn’t use to have much support at all.

Well, it’s their business after all. They could fire a bunch of authors and just keep those they want, but with the risk that those they want would walk. In this way, they know that they can count on the people who sign the contract and they can cull their numbers later. It’s not pleasant but it’s nothing that you wouldn’t see companies do with their employees (“voluntary redundancy” schemes and all that). Anyway, whatever the audience of a comic, I’m quite sure that with the current prices of bandwidth, ad revenues will always cover abundantly for hosting costs – there’s no reason to be managed by someone else.

Well, it’s their business after all. They could fire a bunch of authors and just keep those they want, but with the risk that those they want would walk. In this way, they know that they can count on the people who sign the contract and they can cull their numbers later. It’s not pleasant but it’s nothing that you wouldn’t see companies do with their employees (“voluntary redundancy” schemes and all that).

Anyway, whatever the audience of a comic, I’m quite sure that with the current prices of bandwidth, ad revenues will always cover abundantly for hosting costs. There’s no reason aside from companionship and booths at cons to be managed by someone else.

Also, I’m quite grateful to Keenspot because I started on Keenspace back in 2004 and I might never have started if it wasn’t for it – it seemed costly and scary to put a comic on the web by myself and I didn’t know the first thing about how to do it.

[…] content. At first I thought it was a joke, I really did. This was happening in the wake of the Keenspot debacle, something that happened very suddenly and out of the blue, just like this was. It was also […]

Bobby, I stopped reading anything on the internet that was webcomic-newsworthy that had anything to do with keenspot, because unfortunately, I associated them with you. I know you were bought out years ago, and that decision was recieved happily; the forums at the time thought you were going to go away. For a time, you did…but much like some kind of cancer, you came back and continued shouting where you left off.

So I walked away from KS forums, and largely the KS business. I still read a few comics there, but the last one Gaming Guardians) just left.

Still, STILL, I find you elsewhere on the internet, shooting off wildly, being a gigantic douchebag calling everyone liars, when the “liars” are the only ones offering any supporting evidence. In other words, you’re behaving like a four year old.

Never had a problem with Teri, Nate, or Gav. The only issue I have with Chris is that he defends your behavior, even when you’re making death threats, or suggesting people should die, in between all your yelling of LIES AND SLANDER.

Honestly, if you want to talk about who hurts KS’ reputation, it’s you Bobby. You’ve been making KS look terrible for years. You need a muzzle, anger management classes, or god knows what, but you need professional help. This much is clear.

Seriously, you DO do the things they fired Kel for. You make Keenspot look bad every single day of the week, every time you log onto that computer and find the keyboard, you make them look bad.

Go back and read the thread here in its entirety, you’re going to notice you’re the only real dissenting opinion here, muddled between a lot of actual professionals.


[…] their work done. For a hack pseudo-journalist, it’s depressingly sane … even the Great Keenspot Reorg went by without a peep. Let’s see if the mailbag has anything […]

[…] You’ve heard of the Keenspot thing by now and some are starting to chime in about it. I suspect more will come out about it but the […]

[…] of publishing, it’s been a year (more or less) since news of Keenspot’s reorganization broke, and six months (more or less) since the changes announced at that time went into effect. I […]

[…] Out There’s  Two Cents in Sixty Seconds, Fleen article on Keenspot, Tin Lizard Productions, Comic Tools, Atop the Fourth Wall, Dungeon Legacy, WAGON Webcomic Battle, […]

[…] Skullkickers page, but at Keenspot. I may have missed something in the two years or so since the Great Keenspot Realignment, and I don’t recall any new properties being added to the Keen banner in that time that […]

[…] Out There’s  Two Cents in Sixty Seconds, Fleen article on Keenspot, Tin Lizard Productions, Comic Tools, Atop the Fourth Wall, Dungeon Legacy, WAGON Webcomic Battle, […]

[…] Out There’s  Two Cents in Sixty Seconds, Fleen article on Keenspot, Tin Lizard Productions, Comic Tools, Atop the Fourth Wall, Dungeon Legacy, WAGON Webcomic Battle, […]

[…] and Keen Spot head by Chris Crosby (Reference: Fleen) […]

RSS feed for comments on this post.