Modern Tales today announced tentative plans to launch a corporate comics service in late 2004/early 2005. “We’re still in the research phase for this,” said Modern Tales publisher Joey Manley. “But I’m fairly certain it’s going to fly.”
The basic concept: license new daily webcomic strips to corporations for exclusive presentation on their own websites, with an “enter your email address to get this comic in your inbox every day” input box underneath. In addition to the strip, the company is able to put a little marketing message at the bottom of the email every day, as well.
“The strips would be of the same flavor as, say, Dilbert. Except better. Much better,” said Manley. “I should stress that these are not entertainment companies. They are boring “old school” businesses — possibly with a technology edge, but maybe not. The kind of insurance companies that sell insurance to other large companies, for example, could be a target market. Information Technology companies generally will be the biggest target market. A good, solid technology-oriented B2B company (Oracle, say, or IBM) can count on tens of thousands of dollars in orders from any one individual customer in a given year. Sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in orders from one customer in one year. For this reason, they are very keen to attract customers, any customers — even one qualified customer — and are also keen to keep in touch with any potential customer who stops by their site at least once.
An excuse to send an email to that customer, or potential customer, every
single day — an email that the customer will be excited to open and read —
is something that some of these companies will pay top dollar for.”
Webcomics of a certain stripe are phenomenally popular, especially among office workers in the technology field. The most popular webcomics have hundreds of thousands of daily visitors, and some have even been estimated to have regular non-daily readership in the millions. According to Manley, webcomics is one of the very few, if not the only, web-native entertainment medium which has provided a living for its artists. “A small handful of cartoonists make their living from comics on the web right now. I don’t believe you can really say that about musicians, or poets, or novelists. But a handful, though it’s an accomplishment, isn’t enough. This plan is designed to increase that number significantly.”
The comics field is strong on entraprenurialism and do-it-yourself business models. When asked why Modern Tales would need to be involved in these dealings with corporations, Manley said, “While it’s conceivable that an individual cartoonist could make these kinds of deals him/herself, I know of very few (actually, I know of none) who have. It may be that these deals just aren’t really out there. Or it may be that an umbrella “syndicate” like Modern Tales, with lots of shiny wares on display and an aggressive sales/marketing person, could open doors that would normally be closed. I’m guessing the latter.”
Under the proposed deal, cartoonists would retain intellectual property rights (copyright and trademark) to their works, only offering a limited-time Internet-only license to Modern Tales, and to the corporations buying the strips.
Modern Tales is still in the research phase of this project. “We are not yet taking actual submissions of strips,” said Manley. “However, cartoonists who are interested in helping hash out the details of the business model are encouraged to get in touch. The appropriate email address is joey (at) moderntales.com. Please put the phrase ‘corporate comics’ in the subject line, and do not include any attachments — I do not open any emails which have attachments.”
This project will not begin in earnest, Manley added, until after the much-delayed launch of WebcomicsNation.com.