For a webcomic to be successful, it has to connect to a core audience. The core audience is the comic's natural readership, a defined group, the people who buy merchandise and recommend the comic to their friends. Core audiences are broad descriptions, of course (any single person in the group won't exactly fit the description), but they're useful in understanding a comic and its readers. For instance, Penny Arcade appeals to folks who enjoy video games (among other things). Hark! A Vagrant readers are educated, and have an interest in history and irreverent sense of humor. Understanding this helps determine what kind of content and merchandise may be well received by those comics' audiences.
I haven't yet completely defined Split Lip's core audience. When we launched four years ago, I thought we'd initally find large readership among horror enthusiasts. As a result, I tried building interest via horror websites. Turns out, this was wrong. Split Lip found some fans at the websites focused heavily on horror movies, but those readers seem to be more interested in movies than comics (or perhaps just more than Split Lip, but that's another question).
I have no doubt that there are horror movie fans who will, or do, enjoy Split Lip, but they don't seem to be the core group. I'm now turning my attention to more comics audiences to see if comics fans will enjoy the darker stories that Split Lip offers. Time will tell whether that's where my core readers lie.
I'd love to hear from other webcomic creators on this question. How have you figured out who your core audience is? What have you concluded?
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