Comics, is there any way to make a business here?

Another friend, Dawn Douglass, has been pitching a business for comic artists and those editorial cartoonists that I used to read on the editorial page of the newspaper. She wants to help newspapers (and the cartoonists who are rapidly getting laid off because newspapers are firing staffs) find a new revenue stream. She came up with the concept of the cartoons on this post, too.

I sat through a pitch she gave to a Sand Hill VC (got turned down) and saw first hand how tough it is to raise capital and start a business. It’s hype to say that it’s easy, even in today’s world where a lot IS getting funded. Last Friday I had lunch with Paul Matteucci, who is a partner at USVP. He told me they looked at about 300 businesses over the past year and funded less than 10.

Anyway, Dawn thinks she can make a business out of charging people for using cartoons. I think that might work in some limited situations (I’d be happy to pay $10 a month to be able to use cartoons like the one below on my blog) but I’m a weirdo, as Jason Calacanis told Loic Lemeur in a podcast about his new search engine.

Truth is, advertising is still the best choice for a new business like this. But how to do it? Google’s AdSense usually around only $.50 to $2.50 CPM (payment per thousand page views). Getting 1,000 people to visit your site is actually pretty tough as any Z list blogger will tell you and that’ll only get you $.50 in advertising. So, the numbers of people you have to get to visit your site to build a business is daunting. Cartoonists, she tells me, aren’t willing to do it for free. They want to get paid up front. That’s going to prove difficult.

I keep pointing her to Hugh Macleod who DOES give his cartoons away for free. He got so popular that now companies are willing to pay for him to draw cartoons for them. To me that’s the way to build a business, it seems. Give away something for free to get people to come and buy something else from you. But, we can talk about that another time.

She reminds me a lot of Zooomr’s founder. Idealistic and doesn’t exactly speak the language that the VC’s in the valley speak (they like to see Web 2.0 business plans that have a good chance to get to 10 million users in three years, with a good monetization strategy). I like that idealism of helping people move their work online and get paid for it (Zooomr is going to let people sell photos too). The VC’s, though, are skeptical. One I talked with yesterday about Zooomr said that Corbis and Getty hadn’t made much money selling photos, so he doesn’t think that a new model will be viable. I disagreed, pointing out that there were tons of wedding photographers who could never sell their wares on those bigger sites. But, anyway, demonstrates just how tough it is for some entrepreneurs to get funded.

Would you be willing to pay for cartoons? Especially to put on your blog, Facebook, MySpace, etc? If so, how much?

Comments

  1. Sheesh, Robert – there’s TONS of free webcomics out there. Some of them use merchandising and advertising to make money, but only a small handful can actually make a living off of it. Penny Arcade and PvP are a couple of the ones I know of.

    I’ve got a hefty listing of webcomics over on my site (nerdflood.com/webcomics).

    And no, I wouldn’t pay for them myself. I’ve been reading them for free for almost 10 years. =D

  2. Sheesh, Robert – there’s TONS of free webcomics out there. Some of them use merchandising and advertising to make money, but only a small handful can actually make a living off of it. Penny Arcade and PvP are a couple of the ones I know of.

    I’ve got a hefty listing of webcomics over on my site (nerdflood.com/webcomics).

    And no, I wouldn’t pay for them myself. I’ve been reading them for free for almost 10 years. =D

  3. [...] Source:Scobleizer Another friend, Dawn Douglass, has been pitching a business for comic artists and those editorial cartoonists that I used to read on the editorial page of the newspaper. She wants to help newspapers (and the cartoonists who are rapidly getting laid off because newspapers are firing staffs) find a new revenue stream. She came up […] Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  4. We used to use a cartoonist to draw cartoons for our e-Learning applications. We sat down and worked out some themes and he drew the cartoons (using a mouse, Mac and Adobe Illustrator) — and provided them to us in AI format with no restrictions on use.

    We didn’t have enough volume for him to turn it into a full time gig though so he was forced to take a full time job and stop the freelance work he was doing for us.

    Unless it is some sort of speciality situation like that though I can’t see how outside of paper publishing there is a way to make money doing cartoons.

  5. We used to use a cartoonist to draw cartoons for our e-Learning applications. We sat down and worked out some themes and he drew the cartoons (using a mouse, Mac and Adobe Illustrator) — and provided them to us in AI format with no restrictions on use.

    We didn’t have enough volume for him to turn it into a full time gig though so he was forced to take a full time job and stop the freelance work he was doing for us.

    Unless it is some sort of speciality situation like that though I can’t see how outside of paper publishing there is a way to make money doing cartoons.

  6. Let’s not forget that some people draw web cartoons / web comics – just for fun and any commercialization considerations do not apply.

    And anyway the only sustainable business from online comics itself and not from blogging-effects is Dilbert.

  7. Let’s not forget that some people draw web cartoons / web comics – just for fun and any commercialization considerations do not apply.

    And anyway the only sustainable business from online comics itself and not from blogging-effects is Dilbert.

  8. I would pay to include comics on my blog.

    I have a blog on my business website. It’s a niche market for hippie parents, many of whom have a great sense of humour. I’d love to get some comics included, but the hard part is finding comic artists who will appeal to my target audience.

    Thanks for the idea, I’m going comic-hunting tonight.

  9. I would pay to include comics on my blog.

    I have a blog on my business website. It’s a niche market for hippie parents, many of whom have a great sense of humour. I’d love to get some comics included, but the hard part is finding comic artists who will appeal to my target audience.

    Thanks for the idea, I’m going comic-hunting tonight.

  10. I think that if comic artists could upload their work on something along the lines of iStockPhoto, so that you could purchase a lo-res version for the web or hi-res for print, it might be viable. With multiple internet properties, from simple blogs to community portals, I could utilize low-cost comics to enhance the value of my sites and the artist could enjoy syndicate-like exposure for their work. So, Robert, I’ll build it if you’ll market it. ;-)

  11. I think that if comic artists could upload their work on something along the lines of iStockPhoto, so that you could purchase a lo-res version for the web or hi-res for print, it might be viable. With multiple internet properties, from simple blogs to community portals, I could utilize low-cost comics to enhance the value of my sites and the artist could enjoy syndicate-like exposure for their work. So, Robert, I’ll build it if you’ll market it. ;-)

  12. companies that host blogs (wordpress, blogger etc)would be a potential market. They can make cartoons available to their bloggers for free or for a premium.

    But even this cannot really work unless there is a way to customize the text/image based on the user’s need – so it has to be a set of cartoons and an application that can customize things little bit.

  13. companies that host blogs (wordpress, blogger etc)would be a potential market. They can make cartoons available to their bloggers for free or for a premium.

    But even this cannot really work unless there is a way to customize the text/image based on the user’s need – so it has to be a set of cartoons and an application that can customize things little bit.

  14. As your first commenter mentioned, you should look at things like Penny Arcade and PvP Online. Seriously. penny-arcade.com. Tycho probably has something useful to say about it.

  15. As your first commenter mentioned, you should look at things like Penny Arcade and PvP Online. Seriously. penny-arcade.com. Tycho probably has something useful to say about it.

  16. Another source for the…joys…of making a living as a webcomic artist would be Randy Milholland, of Something*Positive, http://somethingpositive.net/

    He has a rather unique view and history on the whole thing, but he’s also not terribly caught up in a lot of the BS around it, and tends to give straight answers. People may not LIKE them, but that’s their damage.

    it’s also a damned fine webcomic with some of the best writing around. Some of the stories will make your heart hurt.

  17. Another source for the…joys…of making a living as a webcomic artist would be Randy Milholland, of Something*Positive, http://somethingpositive.net/

    He has a rather unique view and history on the whole thing, but he’s also not terribly caught up in a lot of the BS around it, and tends to give straight answers. People may not LIKE them, but that’s their damage.

    it’s also a damned fine webcomic with some of the best writing around. Some of the stories will make your heart hurt.

  18. As in most areas these days, going niche is probably the thing to do. On our blog, we’ve been running a weekly SEO cartoon for over 2 years now. And yes, they are done by a pro as a mix of his and our ideas, and yes, we pay him handsomely, but then of course he has lots of other clients in other areas as well. (Not SEO, however – thankfully.)

  19. As in most areas these days, going niche is probably the thing to do. On our blog, we’ve been running a weekly SEO cartoon for over 2 years now. And yes, they are done by a pro as a mix of his and our ideas, and yes, we pay him handsomely, but then of course he has lots of other clients in other areas as well. (Not SEO, however – thankfully.)

  20. To me, this seems like a much better way of using micropayments to fund comics: paying for a right to re-post, rather than making a donation to the artist. You draw your comics, and set a tiny price on the right to reproduce, say $0.25. You’re likely to make much more money from 100 fans that consistently want to post your comics than you are by asking them to donate a small amount for coming to your site and only viewing.

    It’s a better business model for two reasons:
    1) You’re generating multiple revenue streams. Reproduction microfees, merchandise sales, and affiliates/advertising.
    2) Your older comics have just as much of a chance of generating revenue as your newer comics do.

    Maybe BitPass quit too soon?
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/19/bitpass-deadpool/

    Would I pay to read a comic? Probably not. Would I pay to be able to show a comic on my blog? Absolutely. Scott Adams(Dilbert) could make a killing from this. But smaller webcomics could add a lot to their income too. Right now I have several webcomic strips printed off and taped to my wall. Every single one of them I’d be willing to pay $0.25 for to show to my friends online.

    Best,
    Jay Neely, Social Strategist
    http://socialstrategist.com

  21. To me, this seems like a much better way of using micropayments to fund comics: paying for a right to re-post, rather than making a donation to the artist. You draw your comics, and set a tiny price on the right to reproduce, say $0.25. You’re likely to make much more money from 100 fans that consistently want to post your comics than you are by asking them to donate a small amount for coming to your site and only viewing.

    It’s a better business model for two reasons:
    1) You’re generating multiple revenue streams. Reproduction microfees, merchandise sales, and affiliates/advertising.
    2) Your older comics have just as much of a chance of generating revenue as your newer comics do.

    Maybe BitPass quit too soon?
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/19/bitpass-deadpool/

    Would I pay to read a comic? Probably not. Would I pay to be able to show a comic on my blog? Absolutely. Scott Adams(Dilbert) could make a killing from this. But smaller webcomics could add a lot to their income too. Right now I have several webcomic strips printed off and taped to my wall. Every single one of them I’d be willing to pay $0.25 for to show to my friends online.

    Best,
    Jay Neely, Social Strategist
    http://socialstrategist.com

  22. Thanks, Robert. And thanks for all the suggestions, Guys.

    The first thing I need to do is find out why Live Writer won’t let me post my cartoons on my own blog without them looking like crap. Hmmmm….

    I believe my 2.0 website, which is almost complete, could certainly get 10 million users in 3 years. The problem is that there is a Catch 22. To get that great number of users, we need topnotch cartoonists to participate. But with an advertising model only, we would need millions of users before there was enough revenue to sustain them. And most cartoonists won’t support a pure advertising model, anyway.

    People want everything for free on the web. Let the advertisers pay for it. But there’s not an infinite number of advertisers, and when you’re in bed with the advertising industry, then they have a say in what you talk about. Ask any working newspaper or magazine cartoonist how many cartoons they have had rejected because of editors’ fear of offending advertisers.

    It seems to me that reasonable people should be willing, even eager, to financially support independent media, the embodiment of free speech. That means independent of undue advertiser influence, as well as government influence.

    Professional cartoonists get hundreds of dollars for one cartoon. All these editorial cartoonists who are getting laid off have families and mortgages. They don’t have time to put months or years into starting over from scratch. So they are simply moving to something else.

    So what? So it hurts our democracy to not have cartoonists who are hitting at things that need to be struck down.

    Robert, Hugh is a marketer first. He’s not a typical cartoonist. Cartoonists are normally artists first, with artistic sensibilites when it comes to things like selling out to advertisers. Bill Watterson wouldn’t even allow Calvin and Hobbes’ t-shirts and other merchandise, because he thought it was too commercial. He missed out on millions of dollars, but his own sense of artistic integrity wouldn’t allow it.

    Do we want more comics as good as Calvin and Hobbes, or not? We’re not going to get it as newspapers continue to die if the Web won’t support a business model that will support good cartoonists.

    Do you know that it took Bill Amend 8 to 10 hours every day, 7 days a week, to create one Foxtrot? Well, six days a week, because Sundays take longer. No wonder he retired his dailies at such a young age. And Bill Watterson and Berkeley Breathed and Gary Larson… making good cartoons is a brutal job. Cartoonists deserve to be fairly paid for their good work, just like anybody else.

    On our website, anybody can read all the comics they want to for free. What you have to pay for if you want to grab your own limited edition copy of your favorites, to put on your blog or MySpace or Facebook via our widgets — to display your personality, showoff your sense of humor, attract readers, spark conversations, increase comments…

    The price is dictated by demand and would never be more than pennies. The initial copies would be free. Because you own the copy, you could trade it or sell it, even at a greater price than you purchased it. People who choose early and wisely could reasonably get all the comics they wanted without ever having to make an actual payment.

    Yes, I know people can just steal them if they want to. But those copies wouldn’t have the artist notes attached, nor the comment maps, nor could they be displayed in our widgets.

    A VC will say: no people won’t pay, it has to be free and when you get enough members, then advertising will kick in. If that’s the model, if that’s the ONLY model, then cartooning — the only visual art form that was created in the U.S. and could only have been created here because of the freedom we now take for granted — is going to die as an art form, especially editorial cartooning, which is all but dead already. I for one think that would not only be very sad, but a dangerous turn for our society, because no written words can get the attention nor spark conversations, thought and insight like good cartoons can.

    I don’t see why it’s so hard to expect a very small fraction, just 1% to 2% of the total number of readers, would be willing to pay pennies for copies to post on social media.

  23. Thanks, Robert. And thanks for all the suggestions, Guys.

    The first thing I need to do is find out why Live Writer won’t let me post my cartoons on my own blog without them looking like crap. Hmmmm….

    I believe my 2.0 website, which is almost complete, could certainly get 10 million users in 3 years. The problem is that there is a Catch 22. To get that great number of users, we need topnotch cartoonists to participate. But with an advertising model only, we would need millions of users before there was enough revenue to sustain them. And most cartoonists won’t support a pure advertising model, anyway.

    People want everything for free on the web. Let the advertisers pay for it. But there’s not an infinite number of advertisers, and when you’re in bed with the advertising industry, then they have a say in what you talk about. Ask any working newspaper or magazine cartoonist how many cartoons they have had rejected because of editors’ fear of offending advertisers.

    It seems to me that reasonable people should be willing, even eager, to financially support independent media, the embodiment of free speech. That means independent of undue advertiser influence, as well as government influence.

    Professional cartoonists get hundreds of dollars for one cartoon. All these editorial cartoonists who are getting laid off have families and mortgages. They don’t have time to put months or years into starting over from scratch. So they are simply moving to something else.

    So what? So it hurts our democracy to not have cartoonists who are hitting at things that need to be struck down.

    Robert, Hugh is a marketer first. He’s not a typical cartoonist. Cartoonists are normally artists first, with artistic sensibilites when it comes to things like selling out to advertisers. Bill Watterson wouldn’t even allow Calvin and Hobbes’ t-shirts and other merchandise, because he thought it was too commercial. He missed out on millions of dollars, but his own sense of artistic integrity wouldn’t allow it.

    Do we want more comics as good as Calvin and Hobbes, or not? We’re not going to get it as newspapers continue to die if the Web won’t support a business model that will support good cartoonists.

    Do you know that it took Bill Amend 8 to 10 hours every day, 7 days a week, to create one Foxtrot? Well, six days a week, because Sundays take longer. No wonder he retired his dailies at such a young age. And Bill Watterson and Berkeley Breathed and Gary Larson… making good cartoons is a brutal job. Cartoonists deserve to be fairly paid for their good work, just like anybody else.

    On our website, anybody can read all the comics they want to for free. What you have to pay for if you want to grab your own limited edition copy of your favorites, to put on your blog or MySpace or Facebook via our widgets — to display your personality, showoff your sense of humor, attract readers, spark conversations, increase comments…

    The price is dictated by demand and would never be more than pennies. The initial copies would be free. Because you own the copy, you could trade it or sell it, even at a greater price than you purchased it. People who choose early and wisely could reasonably get all the comics they wanted without ever having to make an actual payment.

    Yes, I know people can just steal them if they want to. But those copies wouldn’t have the artist notes attached, nor the comment maps, nor could they be displayed in our widgets.

    A VC will say: no people won’t pay, it has to be free and when you get enough members, then advertising will kick in. If that’s the model, if that’s the ONLY model, then cartooning — the only visual art form that was created in the U.S. and could only have been created here because of the freedom we now take for granted — is going to die as an art form, especially editorial cartooning, which is all but dead already. I for one think that would not only be very sad, but a dangerous turn for our society, because no written words can get the attention nor spark conversations, thought and insight like good cartoons can.

    I don’t see why it’s so hard to expect a very small fraction, just 1% to 2% of the total number of readers, would be willing to pay pennies for copies to post on social media.

  24. actually they got their own ads agency called projectwonderful.com, very cheap ads based on auction — mostly for cartoonist. I don’t know if it works though

  25. actually they got their own ads agency called projectwonderful.com, very cheap ads based on auction — mostly for cartoonist. I don’t know if it works though

  26. As I was reading this, I thought of a “ad-sense-like” search function, that if someone does a search on a page, you could potentially show thumbnails of comics that relate to that term. eg. Someone is searching a blog or whatever about the term “global warming”, and in the comic-sense box, would show a few thumbnails of artist-submitted comics that have been tagged appropriately. Maybe the text inside the comic is also searchable? Then, if the user clicks on the comic to view it, and ends up buying a comic, there is a revenue stream paid back to the original site referrer.

    Sorry if it doesn’t make sense, the idea just came to me, so I typed it as fast as I could without vetting it.

    Leddo

  27. As I was reading this, I thought of a “ad-sense-like” search function, that if someone does a search on a page, you could potentially show thumbnails of comics that relate to that term. eg. Someone is searching a blog or whatever about the term “global warming”, and in the comic-sense box, would show a few thumbnails of artist-submitted comics that have been tagged appropriately. Maybe the text inside the comic is also searchable? Then, if the user clicks on the comic to view it, and ends up buying a comic, there is a revenue stream paid back to the original site referrer.

    Sorry if it doesn’t make sense, the idea just came to me, so I typed it as fast as I could without vetting it.

    Leddo

  28. Robert,

    I think the VC’s comments on Zooomr are interesting. I’m interested in Zooomr and Smugmug’s experiments with photographer-dictated pricing allowing non-pro photographers to get into stock without going as low as istockphoto and its brethren.

    I’m a fan of Dan Heller’s blog (http://danheller.blogspot.com/), where he has been putting forth some great analysis and predictions about the future of the photography business–predicting the commoditization of photos. I’d be interested in what your thoughts are on this…and if you could get him on the show or a photowalk, that would be sweet.

  29. Robert,

    I think the VC’s comments on Zooomr are interesting. I’m interested in Zooomr and Smugmug’s experiments with photographer-dictated pricing allowing non-pro photographers to get into stock without going as low as istockphoto and its brethren.

    I’m a fan of Dan Heller’s blog (http://danheller.blogspot.com/), where he has been putting forth some great analysis and predictions about the future of the photography business–predicting the commoditization of photos. I’d be interested in what your thoughts are on this…and if you could get him on the show or a photowalk, that would be sweet.

  30. I don’t mind cartoons on blog. Some of them are even more funnier than real pictures. Also, are a lot more appealing over real pictures.

  31. I don’t mind cartoons on blog. Some of them are even more funnier than real pictures. Also, are a lot more appealing over real pictures.

  32. With all due respect, this is ridiculous.

    Many webcomics, like the immensely popular Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, encourage people to post their comics to their MySpace or Facebook pages. That in turn draws traffic to their site, which means more exposure, more readership, more ad revenue, and more merchandise sales.

    The key to comics isn’t to monetize each individual comic strip, it’s to monetize the comic as a whole. Each strip in effect is advertising for the comic. That’s the model webcomics figured out a long time ago, and it’s working.

    I also reject the entire notion that comics are dying and in dire need of saving. I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. The old conventional method of publishing is dying, and has been for a long time, but people adapted, and adapted well a long time ago. Scott Kurtz, of PvP fame, a long time ago established an offer to let any newspaper run his comic for free, so long as they displayed the address back to his site. This, of course, ticked off the estalished publication comics, as discussed by Penny Arcade here

    I think it’s great to find new and innovative ways to help artists and specifically comics make a living from what they love, but I think this is greatly counter-productive. If you want to see someone who’s actually doing good, check out Project Wonderful, the time based auction advertising system devised by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics.

    Finally, Robert, I’d like to point out that Dawn is not the only one who’s made a comic inspired by you, though I readily concede that her comics are much more high brow. ;)

  33. With all due respect, this is ridiculous.

    Many webcomics, like the immensely popular Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, encourage people to post their comics to their MySpace or Facebook pages. That in turn draws traffic to their site, which means more exposure, more readership, more ad revenue, and more merchandise sales.

    The key to comics isn’t to monetize each individual comic strip, it’s to monetize the comic as a whole. Each strip in effect is advertising for the comic. That’s the model webcomics figured out a long time ago, and it’s working.

    I also reject the entire notion that comics are dying and in dire need of saving. I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. The old conventional method of publishing is dying, and has been for a long time, but people adapted, and adapted well a long time ago. Scott Kurtz, of PvP fame, a long time ago established an offer to let any newspaper run his comic for free, so long as they displayed the address back to his site. This, of course, ticked off the estalished publication comics, as discussed by Penny Arcade here

    I think it’s great to find new and innovative ways to help artists and specifically comics make a living from what they love, but I think this is greatly counter-productive. If you want to see someone who’s actually doing good, check out Project Wonderful, the time based auction advertising system devised by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics.

    Finally, Robert, I’d like to point out that Dawn is not the only one who’s made a comic inspired by you, though I readily concede that her comics are much more high brow. ;)

  34. reasonable people should be willing, even eager, to financially support independent media

    Rolling my eyes, going blind, from all the bubble economics and artistic arrogance. Independent media has to swim in the same waters, has to have the same quality-level and fight for the same ratings as everyone else. What you are asking for is pure charity. Go hit up some rich Bleeding Heart, that wants to create a Foundation of sorts, and cry your ‘starving-cartoonist’ heart out there. Go and help make the world safe for your saving-grace ‘artistic-communal socialized democracy’.

    Advertising is the supposed cure-all for start-ups bad at math — which includes Microsoft, paying $6 billion, to spyware-like target people with more Advertising. And advertising, like any drug, will need more and more to get the same effect, eventually it kills the host. The waters are rising so high, expectations will never be met, so new forms of fraud slash click-frauding and Enron-like economics are going to dot the Advertising landscape as never before. So many house of cards out there, digesting the Google advertising gospel, crash city.

    Gonna be fun to watch, shorting trigger-fingers ready on fire…

  35. reasonable people should be willing, even eager, to financially support independent media

    Rolling my eyes, going blind, from all the bubble economics and artistic arrogance. Independent media has to swim in the same waters, has to have the same quality-level and fight for the same ratings as everyone else. What you are asking for is pure charity. Go hit up some rich Bleeding Heart, that wants to create a Foundation of sorts, and cry your ‘starving-cartoonist’ heart out there. Go and help make the world safe for your saving-grace ‘artistic-communal socialized democracy’.

    Advertising is the supposed cure-all for start-ups bad at math — which includes Microsoft, paying $6 billion, to spyware-like target people with more Advertising. And advertising, like any drug, will need more and more to get the same effect, eventually it kills the host. The waters are rising so high, expectations will never be met, so new forms of fraud slash click-frauding and Enron-like economics are going to dot the Advertising landscape as never before. So many house of cards out there, digesting the Google advertising gospel, crash city.

    Gonna be fun to watch, shorting trigger-fingers ready on fire…

  36. Which one is charity, Christopher: having your hand out to be given free stuff or having your hand out to be paid for work? I agree with you about advertising not being omnipotent, like many seem to think it is.

    @Nima – There is no “working” web comic industry. Even topnotch cartoonists who are “web syndicated” by major companies typically make less that $100 a month. Yes, there is a very small handful of people making a living via web cartoons, but that’s the rare exception, and is pretty much limited to one type of comic and one demographic.

    @Leddo – Interesting! Maybe someday. Thanks for the thoughts.

  37. Which one is charity, Christopher: having your hand out to be given free stuff or having your hand out to be paid for work? I agree with you about advertising not being omnipotent, like many seem to think it is.

    @Nima – There is no “working” web comic industry. Even topnotch cartoonists who are “web syndicated” by major companies typically make less that $100 a month. Yes, there is a very small handful of people making a living via web cartoons, but that’s the rare exception, and is pretty much limited to one type of comic and one demographic.

    @Leddo – Interesting! Maybe someday. Thanks for the thoughts.

  38. The most successful webcartoonists of the bunch make their living off of merchandise and advertising on their site. The comics are always free. Charging for comics only makes sense if you are offering something extra in a book format that is not available on the web.

    Full disclosure: I am a webcartoonist. I don’t make a living off my site (not even close) – but I do bring enough revenue to offset groceries, purchase hardware / software etc. by virtue of the services I offer through my website.

  39. The most successful webcartoonists of the bunch make their living off of merchandise and advertising on their site. The comics are always free. Charging for comics only makes sense if you are offering something extra in a book format that is not available on the web.

    Full disclosure: I am a webcartoonist. I don’t make a living off my site (not even close) – but I do bring enough revenue to offset groceries, purchase hardware / software etc. by virtue of the services I offer through my website.

  40. I’d pay something on the order of $25/yr (a Flickr subscription) to $10/month (a cheap hosting fee price) for a range of cartoons. The artist still hold the copyright, just let me use their work for incidental posts. Good thought, Robert.

  41. I’d pay something on the order of $25/yr (a Flickr subscription) to $10/month (a cheap hosting fee price) for a range of cartoons. The artist still hold the copyright, just let me use their work for incidental posts. Good thought, Robert.

  42. Hugh, this isn’t micropayments, which is a system whereby you can’t read the work until you pay a small amount for it. As I said, all our work can be read for free. Like Jay said above, this isn’t about reading a bunch of comics, it’s about collecting favorite comics for specific use.

    Your cartoons are literally your business cards, just as Famous Amos’s cookies were his, so of course you give them away for free. I’ve worked with cartoonists for 12 years, and I can tell you with all certainly that for most cartoonists “I just want to draw.” The cartoons themselves are the product. Many don’t have the time to do anything else. What else could Bill Amend do when he’s spending 8-10 hours a day drawing?

    Thinking this shouldn’t be so, that everybody should be like you and use their cartoons as business cards to their REAL product or service, really is unfair. Different artists create cartoons at different rates in different amounts (your gag panels are conducive to be used over and over and over again as you brilliantly do, but people who have comic strips can’t do that) and they have different skills and interests. Your talent and your love is being a hawker. What are artists who don’t have that skill or desire or extra time to devote supposed to do?

  43. Hugh, this isn’t micropayments, which is a system whereby you can’t read the work until you pay a small amount for it. As I said, all our work can be read for free. Like Jay said above, this isn’t about reading a bunch of comics, it’s about collecting favorite comics for specific use.

    Your cartoons are literally your business cards, just as Famous Amos’s cookies were his, so of course you give them away for free. I’ve worked with cartoonists for 12 years, and I can tell you with all certainly that for most cartoonists “I just want to draw.” The cartoons themselves are the product. Many don’t have the time to do anything else. What else could Bill Amend do when he’s spending 8-10 hours a day drawing?

    Thinking this shouldn’t be so, that everybody should be like you and use their cartoons as business cards to their REAL product or service, really is unfair. Different artists create cartoons at different rates in different amounts (your gag panels are conducive to be used over and over and over again as you brilliantly do, but people who have comic strips can’t do that) and they have different skills and interests. Your talent and your love is being a hawker. What are artists who don’t have that skill or desire or extra time to devote supposed to do?

  44. I think some people are missing the point here:
    1) The cartoonist is still free to show his cartoons Free Of Charge…
    2) People pay to dispaly the cartoonists work on their site / blog… Now unless the cartoonist is already distributing his/her work under creative commons or some other such license people DO NOT normally have the right to use his/her work in any way (credited or not) as cartoons ARE copyright material. This would be a huge advantage and I for one would certainly pay for it (sharp eyed observers may have noticed me stealing from one comic – I do not make a habit of this and I really should rejig the post so there is a link to the original image and the image is not displayed…) I see lots of strips online that would be relevant and / or pertinent to my posts. If there was some centralised way I could have a subscription to post that would be wonderful.
    3) Dome comics (Dilbert) already allow reuse on a charged basis http://www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/info/faq_and_contacts.html#32 and obviously make good money from doing so.

    Dawn – I personally think you should start by getting as many free online comic strip authors as you can to buy in to this service (They will only be gaining – not losing anything). Feature their strips on your site (and link them obviously) in a “daily strip aggregator” making yourself the first subscriber to your own service.

    This will attract users (and possibly other comic authors) allowiwng you to start generating revenue from advertising. Grow organically from there (or seek further VC when you have proven your concept).

    The only problem with doing this is the initial outlay of subscribing to enough artists to make your comic aggregator really attractive to comic readers (which should be less than the capital you would originally have been seeking)

  45. I think some people are missing the point here:
    1) The cartoonist is still free to show his cartoons Free Of Charge…
    2) People pay to dispaly the cartoonists work on their site / blog… Now unless the cartoonist is already distributing his/her work under creative commons or some other such license people DO NOT normally have the right to use his/her work in any way (credited or not) as cartoons ARE copyright material. This would be a huge advantage and I for one would certainly pay for it (sharp eyed observers may have noticed me stealing from one comic – I do not make a habit of this and I really should rejig the post so there is a link to the original image and the image is not displayed…) I see lots of strips online that would be relevant and / or pertinent to my posts. If there was some centralised way I could have a subscription to post that would be wonderful.
    3) Dome comics (Dilbert) already allow reuse on a charged basis http://www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/info/faq_and_contacts.html#32 and obviously make good money from doing so.

    Dawn – I personally think you should start by getting as many free online comic strip authors as you can to buy in to this service (They will only be gaining – not losing anything). Feature their strips on your site (and link them obviously) in a “daily strip aggregator” making yourself the first subscriber to your own service.

    This will attract users (and possibly other comic authors) allowiwng you to start generating revenue from advertising. Grow organically from there (or seek further VC when you have proven your concept).

    The only problem with doing this is the initial outlay of subscribing to enough artists to make your comic aggregator really attractive to comic readers (which should be less than the capital you would originally have been seeking)

  46. “‘I just want to draw.’ The cartoons themselves are the product. Many don’t have the time to do anything else.”

    All three are self-imposed limitations. Which VC’s are generally unsympathetic towards…

  47. “‘I just want to draw.’ The cartoons themselves are the product. Many don’t have the time to do anything else.”

    All three are self-imposed limitations. Which VC’s are generally unsympathetic towards…

  48. More power to ‘em for trying out something new. But the model that seems to be amongst the better ones working today (for now, at any rate) is to offer up free web comics, to entice readers to buy the print collections.

    Then that’s done more with sequential comics (panel to panel storytelling), rather than the single panel format of editorial cartoons. The aforementioned “stock photo” style of licensing out cartoons sounds like a good idea.

    I really don’t think very highly of the editorial cartoon myself. They work best as illustrations to accompany a text piece. All to often editorial cartoons are merely a single panel of snark. Without any supporting arguement.

    That’s the problem with the single panel format. It expresses a sentiment well enough, but nothing deeper. Contrast that with Doonesbury and Day by Day, editorial comic strips that are frequently snarky, yet make an argument to back it up, (not always, but that’s more about the creator’s choice than the limits of the format)

    My general dislike of the editorial cartoon is also aided by the fact that too many of the working editorial cartoonists are crappy artists, who think that scribbling is a “style”.

  49. More power to ‘em for trying out something new. But the model that seems to be amongst the better ones working today (for now, at any rate) is to offer up free web comics, to entice readers to buy the print collections.

    Then that’s done more with sequential comics (panel to panel storytelling), rather than the single panel format of editorial cartoons. The aforementioned “stock photo” style of licensing out cartoons sounds like a good idea.

    I really don’t think very highly of the editorial cartoon myself. They work best as illustrations to accompany a text piece. All to often editorial cartoons are merely a single panel of snark. Without any supporting arguement.

    That’s the problem with the single panel format. It expresses a sentiment well enough, but nothing deeper. Contrast that with Doonesbury and Day by Day, editorial comic strips that are frequently snarky, yet make an argument to back it up, (not always, but that’s more about the creator’s choice than the limits of the format)

    My general dislike of the editorial cartoon is also aided by the fact that too many of the working editorial cartoonists are crappy artists, who think that scribbling is a “style”.

  50. Actually, editorial cartoons have a long and illustrious history in England- Hogarth, Gillray, Cruikshank, Tenniel, Low and Giles spring immediately to mind.

    The good news is, the standard of UK editorial cartoons today is generally very high [Steve Bell is probably the most famous one]. The bad news is, the overall market can only support a tiny handful of them.

  51. Actually, editorial cartoons have a long and illustrious history in England- Hogarth, Gillray, Cruikshank, Tenniel, Low and Giles spring immediately to mind.

    The good news is, the standard of UK editorial cartoons today is generally very high [Steve Bell is probably the most famous one]. The bad news is, the overall market can only support a tiny handful of them.

  52. I do recognize the history of the format. And it does serve well to communicate how history was perceived in it’s time (as I said, it communicates sentiment well). So editorial cartoons are a great “time capsule” for future historians.

    But as a way of communicating ideas to the intended audience in the present time, it’s far less useful. Most of the time the cartoons do little to inform or persuade, due to the limits of the format. The jokes work if you agree with the opinions being expressed, and rarely if you don’t. Again, the single panel format puts limits on the humor, as strips can be more elaborate in setting up punchlines, as well as arguments.

    It doesn’t help that cartoons are lightning rods for criticism. A cartoon that misses its mark with its humor especially with serious issues, can attract much more angry responses than regular editorial pieces do.

  53. I do recognize the history of the format. And it does serve well to communicate how history was perceived in it’s time (as I said, it communicates sentiment well). So editorial cartoons are a great “time capsule” for future historians.

    But as a way of communicating ideas to the intended audience in the present time, it’s far less useful. Most of the time the cartoons do little to inform or persuade, due to the limits of the format. The jokes work if you agree with the opinions being expressed, and rarely if you don’t. Again, the single panel format puts limits on the humor, as strips can be more elaborate in setting up punchlines, as well as arguments.

    It doesn’t help that cartoons are lightning rods for criticism. A cartoon that misses its mark with its humor especially with serious issues, can attract much more angry responses than regular editorial pieces do.

  54. Is there a place where you can easily select one or more cartoons, get some exclusivity for like one week or one month, and pay maybe $ 10 – 20 a month.
    Double it and get some personalization?
    And by exclusivity I mean it doesn’t show up anywhere else on the web.

  55. Is there a place where you can easily select one or more cartoons, get some exclusivity for like one week or one month, and pay maybe $ 10 – 20 a month.
    Double it and get some personalization?
    And by exclusivity I mean it doesn’t show up anywhere else on the web.

  56. I can’t wait to talk about this at Platform, the international animation festival coming to Portland, June 25-30. The animator community is all freaked out about giving their work away for free. They get consumed in copyright issues. Hugh MacLeod is a good example of how it pays to get your work out there. I wonder, though, if there is a market for selling animation as much as there is for cartoons. Podcast Hotel will be at Platform, teaching folks about social media. I’ll point to this example and will be looking for others to illustrate what animators can do to keep their work fresh in the eyes of their communities!

  57. I can’t wait to talk about this at Platform, the international animation festival coming to Portland, June 25-30. The animator community is all freaked out about giving their work away for free. They get consumed in copyright issues. Hugh MacLeod is a good example of how it pays to get your work out there. I wonder, though, if there is a market for selling animation as much as there is for cartoons. Podcast Hotel will be at Platform, teaching folks about social media. I’ll point to this example and will be looking for others to illustrate what animators can do to keep their work fresh in the eyes of their communities!

  58. DS, as soon as it’s on the web, it can’t be exclusive because it’s too easy to copy.

    But being FIRST with a cartoon is something we could probably do and are thinking about. Like maybe you could subscribe to an RSS for the categories you’re interested in and if you grab it first you get a link to your post about it for a limited time. So everybody who sees the cartoon while it’s on our website can click to you if they want to.

    I think this is especially appropriate for editorial cartoons. Because like Shawn was saying, they were never meant to stand alone. Bloggers’ text complement them and vice versa.

    @Salubri — well said. Thanks.

  59. DS, as soon as it’s on the web, it can’t be exclusive because it’s too easy to copy.

    But being FIRST with a cartoon is something we could probably do and are thinking about. Like maybe you could subscribe to an RSS for the categories you’re interested in and if you grab it first you get a link to your post about it for a limited time. So everybody who sees the cartoon while it’s on our website can click to you if they want to.

    I think this is especially appropriate for editorial cartoons. Because like Shawn was saying, they were never meant to stand alone. Bloggers’ text complement them and vice versa.

    @Salubri — well said. Thanks.

  60. Alex, I had this programmed to accept animations. The list: comic strips, gag panels, editorial cartoons, news cartoons, comic book pages, caricatures and animations.

    Frankly, I’ve been leaning towards taking the animation part out of it, partly because I don’t like the interface they used, but also because it will spike banduse and I’m not sure animations are quite in keeping with what we’re trying to do. I keep going back and forth about that.

    I’d love to talk to you about it. Is this Portland OREGON? That’s where I am. Please write to me:
    dawn_douglass AT yahoo DOT com

  61. Alex, I had this programmed to accept animations. The list: comic strips, gag panels, editorial cartoons, news cartoons, comic book pages, caricatures and animations.

    Frankly, I’ve been leaning towards taking the animation part out of it, partly because I don’t like the interface they used, but also because it will spike banduse and I’m not sure animations are quite in keeping with what we’re trying to do. I keep going back and forth about that.

    I’d love to talk to you about it. Is this Portland OREGON? That’s where I am. Please write to me:
    dawn_douglass AT yahoo DOT com

  62. [...] Since many students in the Arts & Technology program at UTD have a fine art background, we’ve talked in class about what illustrators, cartoonists, and other graphically inclined people can do to make money on the web doing the art they want to do. The Scobleizer had an interesting post about Comics, is there any way to make a business here? [...]

  63. hi. your last blog asked about paying for comics? so im here to offer you a deal…i want a comic book made for my boyfriend, because hes crazy for comics, and his birthday is coming up soon, so if you were to make a comic book for me. that involved the two of us, or even just him i would appreciate it. and i will pay if you want. hard copy of the book is best, but a soft copy will be fine, if thats all you can do. email me back if possible.

  64. hi. your last blog asked about paying for comics? so im here to offer you a deal…i want a comic book made for my boyfriend, because hes crazy for comics, and his birthday is coming up soon, so if you were to make a comic book for me. that involved the two of us, or even just him i would appreciate it. and i will pay if you want. hard copy of the book is best, but a soft copy will be fine, if thats all you can do. email me back if possible.

  65. I just dropped in on this conversation rather belatedly, but thought it was worth mentioning that a site already exists that provides cartoons (humorous single panel cartoons, political cartoons and vintage cartoons), all of which can be licensed and downloaded instantly for display on blogs, social networking pages etc. It’s called CartoonStock ( http://www.CartoonStock.com ) and has been around for nearly ten years now. This idea isn’t particularly new!

    We license any of our cartoons from around 14 US Dollars for these “social networking” uses… and people are willing to pay. Certainly more would pay if the fee was less, but as has already been observed here, cartoonists aren’t willing to contribute their work for pitiful or no fees in the hope they’ll make some money later and in the meantime devaluing their artform.

    Ed Beardwell
    CartoonStock Ltd

  66. I just dropped in on this conversation rather belatedly, but thought it was worth mentioning that a site already exists that provides cartoons (humorous single panel cartoons, political cartoons and vintage cartoons), all of which can be licensed and downloaded instantly for display on blogs, social networking pages etc. It’s called CartoonStock ( http://www.CartoonStock.com ) and has been around for nearly ten years now. This idea isn’t particularly new!

    We license any of our cartoons from around 14 US Dollars for these “social networking” uses… and people are willing to pay. Certainly more would pay if the fee was less, but as has already been observed here, cartoonists aren’t willing to contribute their work for pitiful or no fees in the hope they’ll make some money later and in the meantime devaluing their artform.

    Ed Beardwell
    CartoonStock Ltd

  67. Hello, my previous posting here seems to have been censored out. I didn’t think there was anything too contentious there – just a little information to help inform this debate. Please could someone explain why I’ve been censored (private email is fine).

    Ed Beardwell
    CartoonStock Ltd

  68. Hello, my previous posting here seems to have been censored out. I didn’t think there was anything too contentious there – just a little information to help inform this debate. Please could someone explain why I’ve been censored (private email is fine).

    Ed Beardwell
    CartoonStock Ltd

  69. Dear sir,

    I’m Aung Min Min, cartoonist from Myanmar. I’ve been drawing cartoon since 1969. Comic, journals cartoon & magazine cartoon, caricature and also 2D animation for 8 yrs.
    I do request you feed me back your advice. If I have a chance, I want to participate my cartoon your market. The attached is the sample of my cartoon. I shall send
    again soon.

    Best regards,
    Aung Min Min

  70. Dear sir,

    I’m Aung Min Min, cartoonist from Myanmar. I’ve been drawing cartoon since 1969. Comic, journals cartoon & magazine cartoon, caricature and also 2D animation for 8 yrs.
    I do request you feed me back your advice. If I have a chance, I want to participate my cartoon your market. The attached is the sample of my cartoon. I shall send
    again soon.

    Best regards,
    Aung Min Min