Man, if webcomics could calm down for like a minute, that would be awesome. Let’s round this up, shall we?
- Little Dee has entered the endgame with its last storyline; Christopher Baldwin informs us on the main page that it will take three to four months to play out, but then that’s it. No more Dee, no more Ted, Blake, or that magnificent bastard (with the soft, gooey center) Vachel. Fortunately, Baldwin won’t leave us high and dry, as he’s brought a brand new strip in the form of Spacetrawler. The sci-fi hijinks (sci-fijinks?) started on Friday with a small archive, but take a look: each update (there will be two each week) is a full-page, full color extravaganza. Get in while the gettin’s good.
- Changes over at Unshelved, too — new back end to the site, some features still getting ported, and a new schedule. Per art-half Bill Barnes:
When we launched Unshelved … we adopted a newspaper schedule: seven days a week. Later we made the Sunday strip the Unshelved Book Club. Well, newspapers may run seven days a week, but our website statistics overwhelmingly show that most of you work five days a week. We think that sounds nice, so we’re adopting a five day work week too. Starting next week, Unshelved daily strips will run Monday through Thursday and the Unshelved Book Club will run on Fridays. [emphasis original]
- Then there was the bombshell: as of yesterday afternoon, visitors to Webcomics Dot Com were greeted with a slight change of policy:
Starting today, Webcomics.com will begin charging a $30-per-year subscription fee.
Yikes. Given the trend towards free, this seems both a) sudden, and b) unlikely to succeed, and c) really sudden. I talked with WDC E-I-C BG to get the lowdown on the changes, leading to the following factoids:
- Brad remains in charge of WDC, and this was his decision
- Abstracts of new articles will be available on the main page, with the full text behind the pay wall
- Fellow Halfpixellite Scott Kurtz will contribute to this new iteration of WDC, as will Robert Khoo, Penny Arcade business guru; it doesn’t appear at this time that Kris Straub and Dave Kellett will be (although to be fair, while WDC was launched as a Halfpixel common effort, it’s been All Brad, All The Time for quite a while)
- Finally (and I hope that people read down this far), John Campbell hourly comics return! Wait, let’s try that again:
Honestly, I’m not sure that this is going to succeed; WDC has been a pretty active and useful resource for webcomickers, but that accumulated wisdom is now locked off behind a subscription wall — the archives of the free days are not freely available. The change was dropped into the laps of readers pretty abruptly (something that I’m bitter about in other circumstances right now, in fact — but I’m far more pissed about Scripps yanking programming from my cable company just before Iron Chef America Super Chef Battle, dammit). Asked about this, Guigar replied,
[T]his site has become the second volume of How To Make Webcomics. There’s incredibly useful info there. And I’m not getting compensated nearly as well as I was for HTMW.
It becomes a little hard to argue with that rationale — Brad does Evil, Inc. and gives it to me for free, against the possibility that I’ll buy stuff; he can run ads on the site based on a wide and large readership. HTMW isn’t entertainment, it’s a resource for a much smaller audience, and it exists only in pay-to-read form. I can see the argument that WDC takes Guigar as long to produce on a daily basis as any of his strips, but with no recompense other than perhaps driving a few people to his strips (although I doubt many who frequented WDC didn’t already read his comics). That effort deserves remuneration, and Guigar has set what he thinks is a fair price.
I just don’t think that many people are going to pay it.
Guigar’s betting that the distinction between entertainment and information is sufficient that people will pony up a couple bucks a month for access (side note to those attempting such things in the future: “ten cents a day” sounds much less than “thirty bucks a year”).
Unfortunately, with the exception of very few prominent brands, with high-quality content, pitching to niche audiences (we’re talking Wall Street Journal grade, here), this hasn’t proved to be the case on the internet so far — people pretty much equate “content” and “free”.
Guigar’s got a brand, quality content, and a niche audience, but I don’t think this is going to work any more than when Murdoch attempts to monetize his entire media portfolio (and/or get fees from Google) this year.
Anyway, there’s a … lively discussion occuring at what is now the oldest accessible post at WDC. All that remains is to see if it works or not.