Wednesday, June 08, 2011

August 31st, 2011 - The day it all changes!

Not sure what I'm talking about?

You can get the news anywhere, but why not drop over to Topless Robot for a very profane summation of what's going to happen as this summer wraps up: DC hits the reset button

Two big pieces of news have surfaced lately, and they both happen on August 31st. DC Comics is going to do two things that will change the way they do business in the comics medium for the foreseeable future. They're going to push their single issues to digital on the exact day that they release them to the comic stores, and they going to hit a great big reset button on their universe.

And everyone seems to have an opinion about this news.

They're not alone.

Comic Retailers Reaction.
I can't say I care for the decision to go digital on the same day, and all but stab their longtime vendors in the back. DC, like music companies, and just about every other form of media that could be translated into digital, snubbed the internet market when the opporuntity to embrace it first arrived, and they've paid the price.

You can download almost any comic book you want for free if you know where to look.

Now, in an effort to recapture that reader (who I personally find strange, because the joy of a comic doesn't come from another hour spent in front of your computer!) they're going to embrace that market at the expense of their traditional business partners. Not only is that cold blooded, it's reprehensible. It makes me wonder if there's any reason for us to ever expect companies to do the right thing. Comic retailers have kept DC in business for decades, and while that's no excuse for ignoring the future (which may be digital distribution - although I can envision moving beyond comic books entirely, and into webisodes) it should at least buy them some consideration. Would setting the digital release exactly 1 month behind for the next five years have been such a bad strategic move?
I suppose the argument would be that that would encourage impatient downloaders to go and get unpaid for copies off of the net the week they're shipped. The counter-point to that defense though is that people inclined to download for free, are going to download for free no matter what. It's what they do.

In any case, I'm with Bendis on this one. It's a move that slaps DC's longest standing business partners in the face, and I can't support it.

Now, as for the reset....


VanVelding said...

Maybe comics retailers have been keeping DC's head above water. Maybe their nearly-exclusive position as comics gatekeepers is what's been causing the market to steadily shrink. I'm sure everyone has a well-informed pet perspective to argue from.

The fact is that comics consumers want what they want and they want it now. That's why they release hardcovers before cheaper TPBs, and that's why they're offering day-and-date online content with drop off prices.

Hopefully, comics retailers will find a way to get a cut. Those that adapt will have a far better chance of it.

The 4th Man said...

Let's be honest. Time Warner keeps DC's head above water on the whole. Still, measured as a business unit within the massive company, DC Comics have had great need of comic specialty retailers for decades, and not because they've held a nearly-exclusive position, but rather because every other foray into the marketplace has spectacularly failed.

Not just for DC, but for comics in general.

Now the demand for immediate satisfaction is absolutely what's driving this bus, but I think the interesting question in all of this is whether or not online readers will stop getting their books for free and start paying for them.

I'm not convinced that that's a guaranteed outcome. Are you?

VanVelding said...

I had some stuff written up, talking about iTunes and whatnot, but really, May sales numbers tell the story:

Rude39 said...

Can't we all just get along?

The 4th Man said...

Are we not getting along?

I didn't realize that. I also can't say I'm sure what story exactly you think May sales numbers are supposed to be telling us.

Are you, like the author, suggesting that fans aren't interested in the reboot and the road that leads to it?

Or are you intended to infer some correlation between that down month, and the decision to go to same date digital releases?

To me the May sales numbers suggest a couple of possible issues:

1. Some fans are treating the next 3 months of DC books as optional reading, since the reboot will render it all worthless anyways

2. Flashpoint isn't capturing the public's imagination the way past summer events have

3. The human element may be coming into play - comic retailers may be more interested now in pushing a business partner who isn't planning to undermine their revenue stream in the near future. Let's not dismiss the influence that retailers can have over the buying decisions of many of their consumers.

4. Marvel is doing a better job of gaining share as a direct result of their movie tie-ins and promotional efforts than DC is

I think what is interesting, and nobody in the other thread commented on, is that in April Marvel dropped a much larger share of the market. Over 2% of the market vanished from their share in March, while DC's drop in May isn't even one half of 1% from April, or 1% from March.

VanVelding said...

The article is pretty clear that those sales figures are from orders that were placed weeks before the big announcement. DC was losing, and losing bad, to Marvel. It has been for a while. It's in the weaker position and has to take risks to try to get back on top.

But yes, I think they will make money on digital. And yes, I think that appealing to new readers is a good idea.

I could ramble on, but I have my own blog.

The 4th Man said...

Making money on digital isn't in question. Making enough to validate alienating a primary business partner is.

DC isn't getting back on top soon. They've been primarily the trailing party of the big 2 for ten years. There's no magic wand for that situation.

There's no proof what they're doing will appeal to new readers. None whatsoever. After all, this isn't the first continuity wipe they've done. Where was the giant influx of readers last time?

VanVelding said...

1: Moving the goalposts
2: Missing the point
3: Nirvana Fallacy

This started as being mildly entertaining; now it's just boring. Later.

Rude39 said...

Whoa, when did this get so tense? All I see is a reasonable discussion. If you feel he's missed something, explain what that something is.

I think you're being a bit harsh.

Comic debate is supposed to be fun, guys.

The 4th Man said...

The funny part is that the moving goalposts are coming from your pal. I've answered his commentary with casual discussion each time. ANSWERED. As in following his moving and hopping around on the issue.

And nobody's missing the point, because the point is in my original post; what DC has done is unethical in relation to the primary business partner. Nothing in any of Van's responses, or shifting excuses has justified that lack of ethics.

"Because I want more money now" is not a justification for acting unethically.