Thursday, November 01, 2007

An interesting question about comics

Here's a question I got from a reader:

Hey, I just want to say that I think your blog is informative. After discovering the free daily trend about 2 years ago, I've been following it on and off since. So, I thought I ask you. What are the chances of syndicating material to these free papers? Alt-weeklies have some syndicated features, like the "This Modern World" comic strip. Would it be possible to have comics running exclusively in these free papers?

My response:

Thank you for the kind words.

I am not an expert on syndication. You might consider going to and posing that question. The members of that site include editors and publishers of free dailies. They would be in the best position to know.

My opinion, for what little it is worth, is that free dailies are very independent and often quite different from one another. While one might be longing for a certain comic strip, another would not be interested in any comics. It's hard to generalize.

I am sure the major syndicates (United Media, Universal, Creators, King Features) have tried to sell comics and features to all of them. About a year ago the Washington Examiner cut the number of comics they run in half (See item). Some of the newer "commuter" free dailies, such as BostonNOW, don't have any comics. Many of the "community" dailies, like the Palo Alto Daily News or Vail Daily, run the A-list of syndicated comics.

On the other hand, I know of cases where free dailies have been unable to buy the most popular comics because the major paid papers in their markets have obtained exclusiviity contracts with the syndicates. So you might have some success offering a product to free dailies that is unavailable to paid dailies.

As you probably know, the economics of syndication do not favor comic-strip artists. A paper of about 10,000 circulation typically pays less than $60 a month for a strip that runs six times a week. Most of the money a paper pays goes into the syndicate's pocket, not the artist. Even if you were to sign up every free daily in North America (55 to 60 papers), you would still need a day job.

But the number of free dailies is increasing every month, so I am optimistic that will change.

That's just my opinion. Ask the group.

Clyde Davis