I know more than a few cartoonists read his blog and we exchange emails. So what I am going to propose here is not me trying to undermine the comic strip business. It’s just…an idea. Really a question. Maybe it’s dumb…
Why shouldn’t newspapers be collecting fees from syndicates for continuing to expose comic strip in their pages? The strip is really an entertainment brand and the newspapers are paying to expose this brand to a given population on a daily basis.
Considering that newspapers are having a hard time making money, advertising is shrinking (I guess the comic strips being in a paper doesn’t stop advertisers from finding other venues to spend in). So why should a newspaper PAY to continue to expose a brand, like say, Garfield? A strip like Garfield is a media empire, and it makes millions. Papers pay to expose that brand to readers on a daily basis. Garfield is an ad for the Garfield Brand and I think papers should charge for that space, just as they would any other advertiser. In the old days newspapers would have biding wars for a comic strip because it drew readers. That is not true anymore and papers need to change their thinking.
I recently read that Garfield (can’t be killed with stakes, silver bullets or garlic. Cats really do have 9 lives) is headed back on-air on cartoon network to inflict pain on minors and adults who watch cartoons. It got me to thinking…Garfield runs in like 200 bazillion papers in this country…well, there aren’t 200 bazillion papers LEFT in this country, as they are going out of business and going bankrupt. But it still runs in lots. Basically the strip is a daily ad for the Garfield Entertainment Brand. Right? Every day Garfield gets infront of, some number of eyes (quickly dwindling numbers of eyes) and collects money from the newspaper because of it.
But the days of people actually buying a paper for a comic strip are done. I would think any poll you do would show very few people (2%, .5% ?) buy a paper BECAUSE of a particular comic strip. In this crazy, 24-7 multimedia age, newspapers are enjoying an aging and declining readership and thus ad sales are falling. They need new revenue sources.
Meanwhile strips use the exposure of the newspaper to build a media empire. Peanuts did it, Popeye did it 80 years ago and countless other strips jumped from the comics pages to other media. But newspapers can no longer afford to be a free media building platform, while enjoying none of the ancillary revenue. If Garfield wasn’t running daily in newspapers, would the brand be as valuable? Would they get the chance to make fine films and TV and, god knows, probably video games? Yet, the newspapers pay for the privilege to run the comic strip. The papers should fight for a revenue share or at least a fee that correspondences to an ad. Or, they won’t run the strips. What’s going to happen? Will millions of people drop the newspaper? Heck, I’m not sure millions of people even GET newspapers anymore. But that strip is functioning as an ad. And if a newspaper actually values its readers, I would think they would charge for access to them.
So, it’s just an idea for a new age of dying newspapers and evolving media. BTW, I would consider paying a few bucks a year to NOT have Garfield in my paper…