Today it was announced that webcomics.com would change it’s format. No longer would articles and comments be available for free to the public, instead a $30 annual subscription fee was offered for exclusive content. I’ve read through the article and comments on webcomics.com. I’ve also discussed the matter today with other cartoonists and fans on twitter at #webcomicschat. I also recommend a blog post by Byron Wilkins, @tr1guy about it. With that I’d also like to post my thoughts about it here.
I’ve met the halfpixel guys. I’ve purchased and read their How to Make Webcomics book. I highly recommend the book and learned a great deal from it. The question I have for myself is, if I’m willing to buy and promote their book, why do I hesitate in signing up and recommending a subscription to their site? The only answer I can come up with is that I still value books more than the internet. For whatever reason (I admit this may be a generational thing) I’m much more apt to pay for a tangible object I can place on my shelf than digital content on the web. This, ironically, is why I was so affected by HTMW. It made sense to me that the online content would be free because it was subsidized by the sale of books and merchandise.
Admittedly, Brad comments on the fact that the business model still holds for his own comic Evil, Inc. but is impractical for a professional content site like webcomics.com. He is right of course, news sites and other publishers have been struggling with that fact for a long time. No one wants to pay for news online, and if no one’s paying for it online then how do you stay in business? Who pays the journalists? Who keeps the lights on? Ad revenue alone is not going to cut it. If that’s true, then how does one expect to make it in webcomics? My answer has always been, aim low and have a day job. Consider the webcomic a small business that over time has the potential to make a one family income. It doesn’t need to be successful enough to maintain a large media conglomerate, just enough to provide a reasonable salary for one cartoonist and his family. Kept in that context it’s always seemed possible.
Again, from what they’ve said Brad and Scott still agree with the webcomics business model and intend to continue it for their own comics. What it seems to come down to for webcomics.com though is that it’s too much work and too much free content to give away for nothing. This is totally true, I agree with it. Brad deserves a good salary for what he’s been doing. He’s a very good writer and editor. All true, but isn’t that exactly what we’ve been trying to “un-learn” for all this time working on our own comics? They can’t have missed that fact, the irony seems too obvious. That being said, I don’t fault them for what they’re doing I’m just disappointed by it. Not disappointed in them, just disappointed that it had to happen. It’s true I guess, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.