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Re-examining old issues in light of Bitpass
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gazorenzoku
Reinvents understanding


Joined: 08 Nov 2001
Posts: 629
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2003 9:33 pm    Post subject: Re-examining old issues in light of Bitpass Reply with quote

From bitpass.com:

"Currently, the BitPass system is undergoing beta testing and we are restricting enrollment of new earners at this time. However, if you are interested in becoming a BitPass earner, please let us know.

We will contact you when the site is available for open enrollment of earners.

Thanks. "

---

So now it's been several months since the Bitpass system has sprung into existence, and it seems that they are opening their doors to new "Earners". This means that we can all now install a Bitpass system on our sites and began the dream of actually making a living off of our online cartoons. Or does it?

I think it is time to re-examine some of the basic ideas that have been revolving around on this forum, like:

1) How do you actually get people to come to your site to view free content, let alone stuff that costs money?

2) What about that old saying I've seen getting thrown around: "I deserve to make money off of my web comics." What do we really "deserve"? Do any of us deserve money? What standards are there for pricing? How much do you think we can realistically charge for stuff, assuming that people are coming to our sites in the first place.

3) And of course, will signing up at Bitpass bring extra viewers?

4) How many people out there actually like to get their comics off of a computer screen? I've almost given up on the online comics world simply because I've re-connected with print stuff, and I just love looking at paper so darn much. Not something open to debate for me, because it is a personal preference. What I want to know as a guy who does his own comics, though, is how many people are there like me out there still, and how many people actually enjoy web comics over print comics instead? I may or may not change my personal preference, but what are other people like? Is it feasible to put up a comic and expect, say, 10,000 people to even be online wanting to see something like that?


I guess some of these questions don't really need answering. Or rather, anything we say here won't really matter because in the end, "market forces" will decide our fate in their own squirmy little way. Especially the "how much to charge for content" question. Personally, I am thinking that if a standard American magazine style comic book is 24 pages for an average of $2.50 or so, I wouldn't mind paying 25 cents for the same amount of content online. However, I prefer the Scott McCloud Flash format that loads up takes you through relatively fast, or at your own pace. I am less of a fan of going through a system of HTML pages and waiting for your browser to load up each page as you click through.... because I have a slow connection, I guess.

So, there is hope for the Bitpass thing after all. If we offer fast downloading content in a style similar to McCloud's recent experiment, maybe people will be interested in paying, say, 25 cents for the equivalent of a 24 page comic...

Also, what do other people think of that Flash format and the standard HTML click through format? What about the "infinite canvas" (which of course, isn't really infinite, but in fact contains "infinite possibilities" instead...)

But yeah, even though "market forces" might decide some of the issues I've posed here, we can still actively monitor what those market forces are doing and give our own opinions here....
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gazorenzoku
Reinvents understanding


Joined: 08 Nov 2001
Posts: 629
Location: Sapporo, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2003 10:32 pm    Post subject: a rough model... very rough... Reply with quote

Giving it some more thought, I came up with this:

Ok, let's say that the average cartoonist with a family wants to make $2,000 a month. I have no idea if in reality this is a good figure considering taxes, insurance, advertising for the site, supporting a family, etc. But I imagine that it is pretty good. Let's say that you don't want to fall below $1,800 on a bad month and set our sites at $2,000 at least for the begining of your career.

So, if you go and do the equivilant of a 24 page comic book and want to put in online in whatever format you choose, and sell it at 25 cents a pop, you will need about 10,000 people to actually purchase it to hit the $2,000 mark.

Is this even realistic?

I suppose there are two things to think of, and they are

1) Positive: you might get overflow from the previous month's comic, so you can add that to the income from the current month's project

2) Negative: you really can't count on that many people coming to your site in the first place, unless you are really good and also pull some maniac stunt advertising. Or already have a name of some sort.

But yeah, this model is, while maybe not realistic, simpler than the "make a profit (or at least break even) through Diamond sales". I went through all of the info from Diamond and some printers, and after considering advertising costs and all sorts of other pit falls, it didn't look like breaking even was in the realm of possibility, let alone making a profit large enough to justify quiting the day job. And I'm not even in the realm of "getting wealthy" yet, which isn't really a concern of mine at this point. Though don't tell the wife I said that!

Face it, it's nice to be able to buy cool things.

Anyhow, yeah, so what my 25 cent with 10,000 readers model lacks in "reality", it makes up for with simplicity. No shipping fees, no calling up comic book stores, no ads in Diamond catalogues, etc. Just you, your work, 10,000 people, Bitpass, and their 15% cut. If you go ahead and create about 6 months worth of material as you might before getting started with Diamond, and you package it in a Flash movie system or something of equal coolness (and quick downloading), and do all this before quiting the day job, and then put it online "issue" by "issue" each month while working on new "issues", and if by chance you hit the 10,000 mark at some point and keep it up there steadily, you might have yourself a business....? Could this really work? Of course quality, punctuality, etc. are the big issues. But let's say for the sake of argument that you are doing stuff that is really good and putting it out there on time... is a 10,000 reader count each month for a 25 cent product realistic? I am thinking that you will have to build up to that 10,000 reader count through hard work and all, but at some point, is it realistic to hit that kind of a number with online comics?...

I'm sure that besides the idea of not getting that many people to your site in the first place, there are other loopholes or potholes in my rough "25 cent 10,000 people" model...... So let me know what they are.

I offer this idea of a rough model not only as something for myself, but for something that might be possible for the whole online community. Because as much as I don't get into online comics right now, it really would be cool to go back to the 25 cent price for comics!!! Imagine how much you could read!! What about online graphic novels collecting the equivilant of 6 issues for $1.50? That's still less money than you would pay for a standard American comic right now!!! When I was a kid comics at the 7-11 were 75 cents.... wouldn't it be cool if prices went down below that instead of continually up as they seem to be doing??

And of course that begs the question: what would this do to the non-comics reading portion of the world out there? Would people come back to us if we were offering all kinds of genres at all kinds of quality levels and age levels? Which in turn, of course, would make that 10,000 reader count a little bit more of a reality....

What if some of us banded together to offer a montly 25 cent comic company? A company that based its output on the 24 page comic for 25 cents online, every month, from a variety of artists? Kind of like an online Image Comics.... anyone interested? Could this work?.....
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2003 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay Vince, look at it this way ... to make a profit in print comics you have to sell lots of copies to cover all the expenses. To make a profit online all you have to do is make over $20-40 a month you pay for the server space.

While I have been victim of stary-eyed dreaming about my own comic art making money one day, I never said anything about quiting my day job. Which most of the people here online do this on their spare time after work or weekends. We are currently living in bad economic times and every cent counts. One day I aspire to be a "semi-professional" cartoonist and make maybe an extra $100 a month. Not enough to live by, but nice to have.

I have not had a chance to look over this BitPass thing yet myself. I have looked at Modern Tales' Web Comics Nation which looks like they will be offering a web comic server service. They hype that WCN will have a full-featured portal organizing, promoting, and spotlighting the hosted comics, as well as a database-driven control panel where cartoonists can schedule their comics and make use of the service's other features, like micropayments (which I am assuming is BitPass) starting at $4.95/month. How many readers at 25? will you have to sell to cover costs?

Note, Modern Tales had 700 people signed up in the first two weeks and is curently running about 2000 subscribers. Neither one of us is Modern Tales, but it should tell you something. There are people out there buying these comics.

How many readers do you have or think you could possibly achieve? Just how much does your living expenses rack up to be? Frankly, I can live off about $1,000 a month with rent, utilities, and food. I think logicly I could get about 100 readers a month or more if I made the right connections and put out a regular comic on time. Rent ? Readers =? Of course nobody would pay $10 a month for an online comic ... but you get my drift here.

I think BitPass could make a diverence here, but right now I am waiting and seeing.
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gazorenzoku
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2003 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

David,

Interesting comments, as usual.

Ok, after thinking for a while, reading David's comments, and discussing the issue with a friend (who hopefully will be making an appearance in this forum soon), I have refined my original ideas.

First of all, I was basing my original 25 cents on my perspective of what a customer might want to pay. Or rather, on what I would want to pay. Since I like print comics better at this point, I had to ask myself how much of a drop in price I would want if my favorite print comics were offered only through the web. I would feel justified paying 25 cents for reading a good comic on the web...

But thinking about what I would want to get as an artist... that is a different story. Hitting the $2,000 mark for me is a big deal since I am married and am hoping to have kids in a year or two from now. Really, $2,600 or so a month would be ideal, but that is something to work up to and not something that has to happen right away. Starting at about $1,000 or so and working my way up would be just fine with me.

Anyhow, thinking about all that, and thinking about how many readers is realistic, I have realized that the price has to be a little higher than 25 cents.

Only 2,000 subscribers for MT isn't such a good sign for what I am thinking of just yet, but then again, these 2,000 people are paying about $5 or so, aren't they. A lower price might fetch more people?

I am thinking, now, of 50 cents a pop. That comes out to, what, about 4,000 people a month to hit the 2,000 mark. But that isn't taking into acount the 15 percent from Bitpass and the advertising money, etc. So let's say... 5,000 people?

Heck, before Dave Sim freaked out he was getting about 6,000 readers a month to pay about $3 or so for his comic. Of course, he built up to that (or rather built up to more than that during the heyday of comics and has now settled down to that figure... and is dropping, of course, but that is a different story). He has said that you can't expect to make a profit off of self publishing for the first 5 years you do it... So let's set that 5,000 people as a goal to work up to. Is it feasable? I might be way wrong here, but I am starting to think it is. That same friend I mentioned ealier got about 50,000 people to come to his site in one day because of a cool article he put up. If that many people are on the web, 5,000 people a month paying 50 cents is not an impossible dream....

Yeah, and that thing about overhead that you brought up David. I have been thinking a lot about that. We all here pretty much run our own websites, so no costly fees for website designers. Heck, advertising and stuff will probably be expensive, but other than that, all I can see is paper, ink, a few bucks for running a site, etc. And of course the 15 percent that Bitpass takes...

So yeah..... the project I am currently working on might not work as well online, but maybe I might try it for a future project.

Always something to keep in mind....
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2003 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 2000 subscribers figure was based off a slightly outdated "About" page on their site. Who knows how much it is now. That is also based on $3 a month or $30 a year ... which might have more subscribers if it costed less. But consider this, just how many readers do you think Modern Tales have that read the free stuff week by week? I know I do. And how many subscribers are there at MT's sister sites and how many of them pay for more than one site? How much would they make if they did not offer weekly free comics (and maybe just one or two samples) and made it so you had to pay?

Other than those questions, I say you make some good points in your post and really have not much more to add. I think with adverstising, most of web veiwers comes from search engines and word of mouth. Paid advertisement hardly works on the web. When was the last time you clicked on one of those banners?

My thoughts on getting more readers are simple. Post in all the general public forums that are about comics like we are doing now allong with the hype sections. Make fan art to popular web comics and work on doing guest strips if possible. Web artists love fan art as it is admiration to their comic and usualy have a section which people tend to look at more than the links page ... and the guest strip is sample of your artistic product with a link to your page right on their index (and then archieved for future links). When you come out with a new series, write a press release and send it to webzines like Comixpedia. They might just do a review or article if it peeks the interest of a writer/editor. Thesee are just some of the free ideas to get readers. However the main thing you need to have to maintain readership and have it build is regular updates. Have a schedule and stick with it. Everybody has new readers, but get them to continue reading.

THat's all forr now.
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