Friday, November 11, 2011

My thoughts on Marvel's Digital Initiative

I just read an interview on with Peter Phillips, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Marvel's Digital Media Group, David Gabriel, Senior Vice President of Sales, and Arune Singh, Director of Communications, Publishing & Digital Media about their new digital initiative. Here are some excerpts and my thoughts.
"Recently, Marvel canceled of a couple of series before they were published. Would you ever consider going digital first, or doing exclusive digital issues followed with a trade, as Archie is doing with its Jinx property?
Gabriel: I wouldn't say never, but with the things that have been going on here in the past couple of weeks, we are not looking at any of those books that have been cancelled for various reasons [going to digital publication]. In the near future, no."
-Why the hell not? This sounds like a fantastic idea. Marvel could publish good comics without having to worry about selling enough paper copies because it doesn't have to print them! Fantastic series like S.W.O.R.D. wouldn't have to be cancelled and many creators could continue working on their favorite characters.
"One concern, especially by comic store owners, is that as digital distribution grows, print will suffer. How do you plan to encourage customers of your digital comics to visit brick-and-mortar retailers?
Gabriel: We are working on some couponing programs that would be a digital coupon that gets sent to digital customers. So the Marvel app digital customers would get a coupon for a dollar amount that they could print out and redeem at their local comics store. We will be talking to retailers over next few weeks, 15 to 20 retailers, about what is the best way to do it, the most fair way, how to help the customers find the closest store in their area and, if there is not a store in their area, how to drive them to an internet shop that would accept the coupon. I think we will be the first publisher to offer something like this in support of the direct market retailers. We both can exist side by side very healthily, and we are just starting to find ways to do that."
-coupons? Coupons are gonna save the brick & mortar stores? Everyone can calm down and quit worrying about their business going under because the customers have coupons! This is a sad, sad effort on their part…
"Will your graphic novels stay available digitally when they go out of print on paper?
Gabriel: Sure, unless we don't want them to."
-What the heck is that supposed to mean? 
"What will be the price of the digital comics?
Phillips: It's funny we are asked this question; we have a year and a half of established pricing.
So, same as print, then. Any plans to mark them down after some period of time?
Arune Singh: Marvel does 99 cent sales every week [on comiXology], so there is a lot of fluctuation of [prices] for the consumer's benefit.
Gabriel: We will make a book completely free if we are trying to promote something else. There are a lot of opportunities for different pricing strategies. Again, we are looking at the model of a comic shop: A store owner wouldn't have a comic on his shelf that was $2.99 for four weeks and then mark it down to 99 cents. They would have it at $2.99 for as long as they could, and when the trade comes out, most retailers put those into back issue bins and generally the price goes up a bit. I'm not saying we are doing that, we are not copying everything they do, but we may not reduce the price."
-this is the most infuriating part for me. Why on earth do they cost the same? I love how they pull it around to what the comic shops are doing to let you know that they have an excuse to RAISE the price if they really wanted to. So, you see, they are really doing you a favor by having them cost the same as a printed book that you can physically hold onto and keep and pass down(literally) to your children or friends. How many shops have you been in that didn't have a $.99(or lower) bin? There are very few comics that actually get marked up and even fewer that sell at a marked up price.
I hate to read interviews like this because they always make me mad. I can't think of a time when they made me excited about anything.