Finding the Typical Webcomic Reader

 

findingfreaders

They’re out there. Passionate, dedicated, willing to support indie creators, and yet so very elusive: The Typical Webcomic Reader. As we have discussed on this site and on our podcasts, although we can easily find fellow creators quite easily on social media, finding the READERS… you know, the ones who keep up with every update and pay for books or merch… is the trick of the trade.  We need to figure out where they are hiding, what type of comic appeals to them, how to approach them and how to keep them coming back for more! The best way would be to stumble on someone who is NOT a creator, yet has a handful of webcomics they swear by every day with their morning coffee. Then, we could ask questions to get inside the mind of the this coveted demographic.

Oh wait! I found one!

rainaFunny story. Turns out that a friend of my husband whom I met recently at a township festival where I was exhibiting, reads webcomics. AND she purchases their books. AND she has a lot to say about the subject. She is, indeed, the elusive Typical Webcomic Reader, and her name is Raina. Lets pick her brain, shall we?

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Raina, we comic creators want to reach more readers– not necessarily fellow creators who also read some comics, but the passionate fans who would grow our readership and maybe even make a purchase here or there! People like YOU! Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Lorraine but everyone calls me Raina 🙂  I am 35 yrs old and a proud single mother of a beautiful 8 yr old little girl. I have been a receptionist for the past 10 yrs.

How were comics introduced to you, or how did you view comics early in life? As an adult, how has that changed and how do they factor into your every day life?

I believe my first  comics were the Archie digests. I loved them.. I used to beg my mom to let me get them when we were in the supermarket check out line. As an adult, I haven’t read an Archie comic in FOREVER….I was into Get Fuzzy, Calvin & Hobbes and Opus & Bill during my twenties. Now In my thirties, my tastes have changed again. I very rarely read any comics in the paper anymore… they just don’t catch my interest for some reason.. maybe they are to safe because it is more open to the public.
Ah, so as you aged, your interests in comics did as well, and the “newspaper-safe” material wasn’t as desired. Or maybe, the quality of the newspaper comics declined. Which do you think it is? If more comic strips with the quality level of “Calvin & Hobbes” were in papers, do you think you would still read the “funnies?
Yes I believe they did lose my interest because they seems “safe” and the material just seemed to be almost like a rerun. I do think that there should be 2 sets of comics in the paper.. during the week, it should be more adult friendly and then keep the “funnies” for the Sunday paper… because honestly.. how many kids look at the paper during the week? They only look at the funny pages on the weekend. I would definitely read the comic in the paper more if they were more towards me not my daughter  🙂
That’s kinda sad. I think many parents follow this routine.. pass off the comics to the kids. Not because adults shouldn’t read comics, but because what the newspaper offers is only appealing to kids anymore (if that!). Your idea of offering the family-friendly content only on Sundays is an intriguing one, but it may be too little too late. Newspapers are dying, and syndicates are trying to shift their focus online with websites like gocomics.com, which also are open to contracting more “all-ages indie” creators. Would you pay a small amount on a site like that, to pick and choose your favorite comics to be emailed to you each day? (or, the real question is, did you even know it exists?)

I honestly have never heard of gocomics.com til you mentioned it. I would not be opposed to paying a fee to have them emailed to me as long as they offered a WIDE variety of comics.

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Seems to me gocomics needs to market itself better! Some additional questions on the subject– do you still subscribe to a printed newspaper? If you wanted to read the newspaper funnies, how do you think you would do it– old-fashioned paper, printed collections/books, gocomics.com on computer or iPad, or another way?
We get the Delco Times at my house everyday and I don’t look at the comics in it because I am not into what they have printed… I used to like Get fuzzy but then I just lost interest . Only time I look at the funny pages is when I hand them to my daughter.
 Let’s get into the dirty details. Which webcomics (comics published online) do you read on a pretty steady basis? What about them attracted you to first start reading, and what KEEPS you coming back for more each week/day? 
I am ADDICTED to Questionable Content and Girls with Slingshots. I loved the characters, the funny situations they get into, the interaction between the characters and of course…. a perverted mini robot is always the icing on the cake! With GWS, I could relate more to this comic because the main character Hazel reminded me of myself.
girls_slingshots_ffDefinitely favorites among webcomic readers, for sure. Would you say the more “adult” content is a major draw? Are all-ages comics less intriguing to you now, even if they are well-written and drawn? (what I’m getting at is: Once your comic tastes grow up, can you ever go back?)
I think you can go back if the content is funny and well drawn. Also there are ways to make things funny towards all ages that wont make adults feel like they are kids and yet still funny enough for kids to read. There is an equal medium,.. its just finding that perfect mix for everyone.
I think Pixar is the perfect example. You and I have even discussed in the past rating my comic “P for Pixar” to better explain all-ages shouldn’t mean “just for kids”. Probably not very smart to actually use that tagline, as it may raise questions about affiliation with Pixar and copyright issues, but the idea is headed in the right direction. Any other suggestions for how to get interested readers, like yourself, past the “all-ages” stigma?

See , Like I have said in our past conversation.. I LOVE the idea of being able to mark it P for Pixar because everyone know that Pixar is for everyone and has humor for everyone… maybe you should contact Pixar and suggest the idea?  🙂  I understand the frustration that comic artist must go through and after our conversation, I have racked my brain trying to think of a way to be able to get the comic out there without that stigma but alas, my mind is a blank. Maybe something like, Not just for Kids anymore or  like PG16 or something. Wish I could help out on this subject because I know there are A LOT of comics that get passed over by Adults and are missing out on some quality work.

qc011Have you, or would you, consider purchasing books, ebooks, T-shirts, commissions or other merch from a webcomic creator? Obviously, we know you are not made of money, so you have to choose carefully where you spend your money. What qualities does a webcomic or its creator have, that make you WANT to support them? 

I have bought 2 books from Questionable Content and 4 books from Girls with Slingshots…… I bought them because I like to be able to reread my fav strips without having to turn my laptop on or worry if I have a good WiFi signal to get online. I like that there is extra stuff in the books that is not available online. Makes it worth it to get it.. kind of like buying a DVD for the extra materials and behind the scene things.
“Behind the Scenes DVD content”, That’s a great way of putting it! It certainly seems many people still enjoy having a book they can hold, even with access to iPads, Kindles and other digital devices. Is that your preference for most books, or just comics?

I love the background stuff for the comics when you get them in book form….. as for regular books.. it would depend on the book. If it were the Harry Potter series, I would LOVE to see the background info (ie, character backgrounds, inspirations, etc) but on say a romance novel… yeah .. not so much.

FireComicMany creators are looking ahead to the digital age, and creating ebooks for people to download, for an easier way to read their comics than the usual archive-clicking format on websites. Do you think you would give a $1-2 ebook a try, to sample a new comic?

Oh definitely. I have a Nook so I am not sure how that would work since it is still black & white but I think it would be awesome on the Kindle Fire.. or even to download it to the computer.

So, you have your favorites all set. Can you remember HOW you found them? We creators do all we can to get our comic exposure, but often fall short in terms of actual results.. we try every form of social media, paying for advertising on other (more popular) webcomic sites, promoting at comic cons or other fairs/festivals, or all-out spamming our friends and begging them to share our comics with others. So, tell us… which method would pique your curiosity enough to actually start reading another webcomic?

An ex of mine got me into Questionable Content. He sent me a link to comic 1291….. It was funny, awkward, sexual and somewhat a mirror of life. So I figured I would check it out… after reading a few strips.. I was hooked. From there I discovered Girls with slingshots because Danielle did a guest comic for Questionable content. I went to her site and just like with QC, I fell in love with the characters.
advertise-hereAhhhh… guest comics! I have to say, the biggest days in terms of website stats for me personally, are the days when a more popular creators posted my guest comic and linked to my website. I think the reasoning, as an aspiring creator, is you are appealing to already-devoted fans of a particular comic. Plus, the potential readers are already in “webcomic-reading” mode. This makes me wonder if the same person would check out that new comic, if they just saw an ad, or a facebook link that was shared by a mutual friend. Do you click ads or shares or tend to ignore them for the most part?
Honestly, I don’t pay any attention to the ads (I know that sounds horrible) . I would be more inclined to check out a new artist / comic by seeing them doing a guest strip on a comic I already read / follow. If i like either the drawing or the spin they put on it, I am more willing to check their comic out to see if it catches my attention… I will try any comic once  🙂

Pure honesty is what we want and NEED to hear, so no worries! Many of us spend a great deal on advertising, both in money and time designing ads, but many of us say the higher statistics numbers go away once we stop paying. That means the new visitors who dropped by because of an ad, don’t stick around. Plus, there are plenty of readers like yourself who just ignore the ads all together. Heck, so do I. Making solid connections outside of social media & banner advertising is what we need to strive for, to hook readers like you! Guest comics seems to be a good suggestion. Do you have any more (brutally!) honest advice? What should we NOT do as creators, what turns you off or makes you not even WANT to check out our comics?

I am tired of Big chested female characters!!!!! Make them real people; not every woman is stacked…. some have small bust and big hips, no bust and no ass…. I say make it real. That’s what keeps me coming back but then again I am not the core audience either. I say keep the gags coming, keep the drawing crisp, keep the characters interesting….  if you are going to do an ad.. try to (legally) imitate a popular tv show to grab our attention… I think that might help bring in some audience. They will see you are tuned into whats going on now and will show off the art… they will click and then continue from there.. but thats just my opinion  🙂

Thanks so much for your time, input, and point of view Raina! And THANKS for being a webcomic reader!

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So, there you have it.

Raina hath spoken. Even though she claims to not be the “core audience”, she’s a paying customer who would be thrilled to meet her favorite creators, and any of us would love to find more like her. What do I take away from this discussion?

  1. Webcomic readers and those who still enjoy newspaper comics are a different species.
  2. Adults who love reading any type of comics will probably pass down all-ages comics to their own kids. So, even though a Webcomic reader may not personally enjoy all-ages/kid-friendly content, they may still support a creator by sharing their comic with their kids.
  3. Extensions of syndicated comics like gocomics.com or apps may be just another side to the business that is dying. It’s more about the content than the distribution method.
  4. Most people have access to digital media and would be willing to spend a couple bucks to try out a new comic if it falls in line with other comics they read. Time to get those ebooks made!
  5. Time spent on guest comics or pop-culture art that the masses can relate to, may be more worthwhile than $50 thrown into Project Wonderful or Google Ads. Advertising may get you more immediate numbers, but in terms of sustained readership, you have to reach out with more than an ad begging the viewer to click on it… especially when most will ignore the ads anyway!

What did you take from this article? Did you find anything surprising, or did anything make you reconsider your approach to promoting or even creating your own comic?

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Dawn Griffin creator of Zorphbert and FredDawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the syndication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.

 

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Posted in Business, Featured News, Helpful Hints, Interviews and tagged , , , , , , .

25 Comments

  1. GREAT article Dawn! Thanks to Lorraine for willing to be interviewed and her thoughtful, intelligent opinions. You could easily make this a series. I would love to hear more devoted readers thoughts. I would (selfishly) love the hear from a devoted longform reader! Thanks again!

  2. Some really insightful information! I wonder what sort of social media sites she uses to keep up to date with her favorite comics. I know Facebook seems determined to put as many barriers as possible between creators and fans these days.

    • I use Facebook and Twitter to keep up with updates on my favorite webcomics 🙂 I had a blast doing the interview with Dawn! Hope I was able to help bring an insight from the readers point of view.

      Keep on Drawing and I will keep on reading!!!!

    • a good question to ask if I decide to do a series of these articles! Thanks Raina for answering.
      Just think… Finding the LONGFORM webcomic reader… the ALL-AGES webcomic reader.. the MATURE-CONTENT webcomic reader…. could be a fun series!

      • Thar would definitely be a great series. All of us different webcomickers usually try to have a unique viewpoint, but we all have similarities. I’m honestly especially interested in what makes someone a fan of a longform comic, as our own scifi comic is longform, but I’ve always been impressed by people who can do a new gag every day. Ever thought of interviewing both a webcomic reader and a webcomic creator at the same time to get a mutual viewpoint? Could be fascinating!

  3. It’s interesting to hear that it’s actually guest comics that drive the click thrus in this case. I’ve gotta say, the one thing I’ve never really done is “the guest comic.” Sure I’ve done a lot of sketches for people, but never a full comic. I guess the question now becomes, finding what other comic would have an audience with similar taste as my comic. Thanks for taking the time to do this Dawn and Raina, it was pretty helpful.

    • doing guest comics is hard, when you have your own schedule to adhere to. But that’s one of the reasons I cut back on my comics-per-week. 2 instead of 3 (tho only posting 1) will leave open a day to mmmmmaybe do a guest comic! Or call local libraries/book stores. or do a workshop. etc.

  4. Excellent article, Dawn! It’s is essential for us creators to actually hear from an “average reader”. It’s wonderful to have so many of our peers supporting our efforts, but it’s especially rewarding when we hear from someone who is not in our field.

    These fantastic people are reading our comics merely because they want to, and not because they’re our friends, coworkers, internet pals, or family. They’re not vested in our best interests or ego.

    They can leave whenever they choose or stay for us long as they wish. These readers are the ones who may never comment, yet know your entire archive implicitly.

    I always become surprised and elated to receive an email or a comment out-of-the-blue from a reader whom I have never corresponded with previously. I have to remember that folks our watching my creative movements even when I’m totally unaware.

    Raina, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for your honest input. Even if you never become a reader of my own comic, I am pleased to know that you are indeed a fan of comic strips in general. Keep reading and enjoying yourself! 🙂

    • well put George. I figured, it’s time to stop THEORIZING about the readers’ preferences and habits, and actually ask them the questions!
      I agree, the readers “in the shadows” are wonderful to hear from. Sometimes even moreso than the usual commenters. Not everyone like to publically comment, I get that, so when someone emails me or tweets, it makes my day! For instance, someone I don’t even know purchased my Z&F Super Pack deal recently, there’s nothing like shipping books off to a total stranger who wants your work. Does that sound weird? LOL! Same goes for the cold sells at cons.

      And Raina, if you are reading, I can vouch for George’s comic, which has been around as long as Z&F I believe. It’s like a demented Calvin and his dysfunctional family. Family Guy meets Dennis the Menace.

    • I am always looking for something new and interesting to read…. I just started reading Dawn’s comic and am loving it so far.

      George.. if you can post a link or get me the website… I would gladly give it a chance. If Dwn is right is saying it is a like a demented Calvin and his dysfunctional family… that sounds right up my alley!

      • you can just click his name by his avatar. (or anyone elses’ here)
        http://addanaccity.com/

        A good way to find new comic you’d like is inkoutbreak.com. You sign up for free, add the comics you already enjoy, and it’s like TIVO.. it suggests similar comics based on what you like. PLUS… it’s helpful to the creators. Not only do they get exposure, but inkoutbreak works as a reader, so you actually go to their site (records a “hit” which many creators rely on for advertising $). There’s a little bar at the top that lets you flip through the different comic sites. Also has bookmarking features, so you can come back to different points in the archive to catch up.

      • Hello Raina,

        By all means, I would be delighted if you would check out my comic series, “Addanac City”.

        My url is http://addanaccity.com

        As Dawn described earlier, Addanac City is about a somewhat-sociopathic seven-year-old, his eccentric parents, and the rest of the weirdos who reside in a town that you should be glad you don’t live in.

        Make yourself comfortable. 🙂

  5. I am a new comic creator, and I just started using inkoutbreak to find readers. I am always looking what my readers would wnat to read. This is a great article to see the other side of the wall.

    Hopefully this helps me when I try and expand

  6. Great interview, Dawn! I’m curious if Raina ever comments on any of the comics she reads regularly. I think I have a solid audience but only a handful of “commenters”, I’m curious if the “typical reader does not comment and what compels a reader to comment. Maybe some readers are just the commenting type and some are not.

    • I have never commented on any of the comics I read but I have sent a message or two on twitter to Danielle (Girls with Slingshots) that I got an answer to.

      • Thanks! I think that a lot of creators put a lot of importance into getting comments, it’s interesting to hear that someone can be a regular reader to a webcomic and not ever comment on a page.

  7. This is the kind of feedback I would label as invaluable! To get the perspective of the person who’s interest we are trying to capture, really speaks volumes into what comic readers look for online.

    What really caught my attention was when Raina mentioned how guest strips would grab her attention. I too, have found some great creators through them doing guestage on other comic sites, which led me right to them. Yet, as a comic creator myself, I seemed to have overlooked that and cannot believe it never clicked until it was just pointed out. [doh!]

    I’ve always suspected that online comics are more likely to grab the attention of the “animation domination” [think Fox Sunday]crowd. While I’ve always liked comic strips, I was always more drawn to drawing because of my love for Hanna Barbara cartoons! Flintstones, Jetsons and Scooby Doo! Maybe I am assuming to much, but I sense that Raina fits into this category?

    Making an e-book over a print book, sign me up! If this is the future of how we distribute and sell our work, then my only question would be, what do we bring to our conventions?!? [grin]

  8. Hello I am so grateful I found your site, I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a marvelous post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the awesome work.

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