Apps Are Where It’s At Today

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As I chug along with my daily comic strip each day, I wonder “What is the best method of gaining readers?”  Is the daily website the best choice anymore? Now with smart phones and tablets taking over the market, that seems to be the way to go.

Just recently when I was telling a friend of a friend about my comic, the first word out of his mouth was, “Is there an app for it?” I had to tell him, “No, not yet.” But I am ready to get an app out there. It’s not hard to do, there are companies that do it for you basically by you plugging in your URL. After that, you will have to market your app and your feature, but hopefully you are doing that now anyway. If I had an app, I could have had it download it right on the spot and there it would be, in his face daily!

One reason an app is important is that apps are where it’s at today (say that three times fast). With a daily comic panel or strip, if you’re not linked in with others on websites, you may not be read. I know there were some who tried creating an app where everyone would be featured and it would be a one stop place for webcomics, but that didn’t materialize, although I do see that happening in the future.

For the time being, having your own app is probably a clever idea because that’s where people go for content umpteen times a day. People use apps on their smart phones and tablets more than they visit websites, they prefer it. So that is where your feature needs to be. While apps may get lost in the app store, it’s probably best to market yourself and your app instead of hoping people find it in the app store. So rather than send people to your website, you would send them to the app store.

They say the PC is on its way out, I mean it may take a few years, but the growth is in small devices with apps now. GoComics  just introduced their new app and it is now number one in the comics category. So the good old fashioned comic strip is alive and well. It just needs to be accessible.

I think perhaps in the digital age, all ways are best. What I mean is, the comic feature should maybe be spread all over — it can appear at its home on the originating daily website, but then can appear on various other comic sites that list webcomics, it can be on Facebook and Tweeted out and I found that Instragram is a great way to share comic content daily.

The future is with your own app. I can see it now, a screen on someone’s iPhone with just comic apps where they would go from comic to comic and hopefully eventually they can make their own comics page using just one app. There is a big opportunity out there for someone to create this — an app that would collate all the other apps and make a person’s own personal comics page. But I’m not sure how that would work monetarily, as everyone would have to get a cut of something.

With your own app you could sell it on the spot or make money the old fashioned way through ads and peripheral items like books and merchandise, which probably is the best way.

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Tom Falco, creator of the webcomic www.Tomversation.com has been doing cartoons and illustrations for many years. His comics have appeared in newspapers, magazines, books and online. Tom is also a journalist whose work appears in various publications including the Miami Herald, Huffington Post, Examiner and now the Webcomic Alliance.

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Posted in Featured News, Guest Posts, Helpful Hints, Tech.

14 Comments

  1. People do seem to love their apps. Despite the fact that phones are more and more capable of showing full websites, there is this weird crack lure of an app.

    You mentioned some off the shelf setup to create your own app. Could you give some examples? Would it be that you would pay for a service via another developer and they would publish the app for you? Or are you refering to an aggragate, like the inked app that still hasen’t seen the light of day?

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  3. I just wonder if too many apps will go the way of too many things in your RSS reader. You have to really really want it to download it.

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  5. There actually are apps either out now or on their way shortly.

    Comic-Rocket.com has their Android app out to support their site, where you can subscribe to various webcomics, and it will let you know when they update and save your place of where you left off reading. They plan on an Apple iOS version to be out soon.

    Likewise, inkOUTBREAK.com has stated their apps for both Android and iOS should be out shortly. The site is very similar to what Comic-Rocket is doing. The best part is, both sites lead readers to the actual sites for the comics, meaning the creators get the normal hits and ad impressions they’d get if just going directly.

    Both of these sites bring a good amount of traffic to our strip, and I can certainly see an increase since the first app came out. Discovery of your comic verses the rest is still up to you finding and directing your audience. That doesn’t really change. But being part of an app that people might think to open more often than just to check your strip (based on whatever your publishing schedule may be) means they’re less likely to forget or ignore the app over time.

  6. Apps are all the rage and growing fast, but the latest stats show people’s use of them are still in the single digits compared to those with more conventional technology. I’ve been finding the native app vs the web app debate quite an eye opener as to what way the wind might blow when investing time and money in either of them. Native apps have the ability to be downloaded to your device and viewed offline [but they take up storage space], whereas web based apps are browser reliant using html 5, I believe [still on the learning curve here]. Native apps, however, are quietly leading us, should we embrace them, to a different kind of viewing environment, of having to buy every piece of information you want to view and could very well end the web the way we use it now, at least, thats the impression I walk away with.

    I recently added a mobile app for the web that is compatible with both ios and android to my site. Rather than submitting it to the apple or android stores, you can download it directly from ones own web site. However, it is a web based app that opens the website in your mobile devices browser [i.e. safari]. You can also have this app connect to your twitter or rss feed, so as not to be a static app, but the people I’ve shown it to, didn’t want those features, just the website link-ability. There’s no need at this juncture for me to offer something more while this new technology goes through its metamorphosis! You have to gauge your success level with your work to determine how much you want to invest your time in a more advanced app. Frankly, I’ve done all I am going to do with the app for the time being.

    You also have to be careful about the windows 8 apps for ones start page, I had made one, but if you don’t use I.E. 9/10 as your default browser on your pc/tablet, then the app icon will not display as anything other than an IE hyperlink. You’ll need to look outside Microsoft coding on making this app for windows 8, their method is limiting to their browsers only. I haven’t yet found a third party app development tool for windows 8, but I’m sure it’s out there.

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  8. Native apps for most webcomics have been pretty crap for a long time. Too many of them do nothing more than repackage an RSS feed in the most basic way possible. As any interactive designer will tell you: “It’s the user interface, stupid.”

    Blatant but relevant self-promotion: the new version of my webcomic’s app (designed by me, programmed by Daniel Farrelly) is, I think, an example of where things need to go. It’s not perfect — we have some features planned for the next couple of updates, including iPad support — but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction.

    http://www.appstore.com/multiplex

    • Ah, just for the Apple hardware. Any thoughts of doing it for Android? I ask as I look at my Razor M.

      I considered doing an APP, but essentially I was told comic apps were nothing more than just a glorified book and that the iTunes Store wouldn’t take it. But I see yours there and it looks good.

      What besides the comics, books and the blog do you offer, or is that enough for an APP?

      • Yeah, I’m hoping to do Android, too (I have a Galaxy S2, myself). But my programmer for the iPhone app only does iOS, so I need someone else. One Android dev has expressed interest, but he hasn’t started yet (and can’t for a while yet), so I don’t want to say “we’re working on it” just yet — but hopefully soon!

        I’ve read about those kinds of App Store rejections, and from what I’ve read, what Apple was concerned about is that if it’s JUST one finite, complete book, then it should really be in the iBookstore or some other bookstore instead. And I think that makes sense; it’s not really an app if it’s just a bunch of static pictures or words stored on your phone; it IS just a packaged (glorified) eBook.

        I remember one developer said he basically just slapped some social buttons in his, resubmitted, and it was then approved, though it’s possible that wouldn’t fly anymore.

        I do think with a webcomic and blog it would be enough, because it’s loading dynamic content twice a week. eBooks don’t add a new page twice a week, you know?

        Limited audio (narration) would be appropriate for children’s books and comics, I suppose.

        Or some kind of eBook storefront, if you want to sell multiple books in one app. There are plenty of those.

      • Oh: forgot to answer part of your question: I don’t even have the in-app sales of eBooks in my app yet, just the comics, cast pages, and blog posts — with sharing functions, of course.

        I’m pretty sure just the fact that it’s updated twice a week distinguishes it from just being an eBook.

        • That makes sense. I didn’t realize it could update as new comics posted. That’s very cool. Thanks for the feedback!

          Oh, one final thing, do you think it is helping you grow your comic audience, thus grow your potential for making sales?

          • It’s too early to tell, really, but that’s a good question. I know a few people discovered the strip from the old app, and I expect a handful of people will do the same with the new version, as well, but it just went up on the App Store on Friday.

            Mostly I think of it as a way for my audience to STAY in touch with the comic, rather than to expand the audience.

            I think once I add in-app purchasing of eBooks (especially after we get the iPad version up), it will help my eBook sales, though.

  9. I realize now the solution is to be part of a larger app. Like Comic Rocket or Tapastic where you are part of a larger comic app. It attracts readers and it isn’t all on your shoulders as you are part of a larger group, everyone shares the wealth this way and you don’t even have to own or maintain the app yourself.

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