Modern Tales moves into the banner ad business

Modern Tales, the webcomics service that many associate with a solitary business focus on paid subscriptions, is now selling banner ads across its entire network of websites, for the first time in the three-year history of the business.

Joey Manley, publisher of Modern Tales, had this to say: “Modern Tales is not about a business model; it’s about developing a solid business around great comics. It always has been. We will continue to build our business in any direction which we feel may be profitable. Online advertising spending is at its highest point since the dotcom crash. There’s no reason we can’t earn some extra side-income from that part of the web.”

Subscribers to MT’s subscription-based websites will not see ads on sites for which they have current, active accounts (though the ads are unavoidable on MT’s free sites, such as and the soon-to-launch Currently, more than 100,000 individuals visit one or more of Modern Tales’ websites at least once in any given month — only 4,000 of those individuals are paying subscribers to any of the sites.

On the “media kit” page, Manley unveiled what he called the “dirt-cheap introductory offer” for large skyscraper banners, with the following waffle:

“Here’s the thing […] because we’ve never sold ads on any of our sites, by choice, we do not have the kind of metric data that many other advertising-supported websites are able to offer รขโ‚ฌโ€ you know, things like click-through rates, return on investment, etc., etc. We simply don’t have the accumulated history from which to derive that data. Accordingly, we’ve decided to launch our banner ad business with introductory rates so inexpensive that any comics creator, comics publisher, or website owner can afford to take a chance. Our starting point is $2, and the most money we are willing to accept from any individual advertiser is $20 at a time. […] As time goes on, and we collect more data, we are very likely to raise our prices to match those of our other friends in the world of advertising-supported websites. This dirt-cheap introductory offer is precisely to allow us to begin to collect the kind of metric data we need.”

Manley says he expects that subscriptions will continue to provide the bulk of Modern Tales’ revenues for the foreseeable future. “It’s like when Keenspot launched their subscription service — that didn’t mean they were giving up on advertising. We’re making the same kind of move, only in the opposite direction.”

Modern Tales’ leading competitor/peer in the webcomics industry, Keenspot, and many other advertising-supported websites, often use third-party banner ad networks to fill their inventory slots. Manley said that he has talked to a number of such networks in the past few months, while contemplating this move, but felt that the level of interference Modern Tales was likely to receive from those networks and/or their advertisers, specifically relating to Modern Tales’ sometimes-risque (but never obscene) content, rendered those kinds of deals unacceptable. “They invariably took one look at Fancy Froglin, or The Desert Peach, and declared that they could only sell ads on our sites if we made everything G-rated. We haven’t gotten this far just to have some weasel sitting in a cubicle somewhere tell us what we can and can’t say. We’ve built our business with one-to-one relationships with every customer. Our banner ad business will be no different. Everybody buying an ad will be getting personal attention from us, and will be buying into our site specifically, with a specific reason to reach our particular audience, rather than buying some massive ‘global campaign’ from some third-party ad network that delivers eyeballs but not attention.”

Modern Tales’ banner ad rates can be found here:


Joey Manley

Joey Manley (b.1965โ€“d.2013) was the author of the novel The Death of Donna-May Dean (1992), entrepreneur, and founder of Modern Tales and WebcomicsNation.


  1. Comanche says:
    Ad revenue on the web is so low these days, comic artists have already added (or completely switched to) many other support models.

    Joey Says:
    Online advertising spending is at its highest point since the dotcom crash. There’s no reason we can’t earn some extra side-income from that part of the web.

    Who to believe?… Who to believe?

  2. To believe in a guy that came from nowhere and wrote a program that damages cartoonists without doing his homework on the consequences of his product or in a guy that has experience in surviving the dotcom boom and it’s consequent crash and has sucessfully managed to build his internet company out of nowhere and made it the lead site for subscription comics?

    Boy it’s a though one to choose.

  3. ZING!

    I think this lil test may just be a great way for the new guys like me to get our name out there fast and cheap. I feel it’d be worth my cash.

    Of course I’ll be advertising on Comixpedia too ๐Ÿ˜€


  4. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a $2 rate for 100 impressions is insanely expensive. It breaks down to a $20 CPM which is about four to five times more than the industry average. Assuming industry average CTRs, you’re looking at less than one person going to your site on a $2 ad buy. Then account for the industry conversion rates and yer screwed.

  5. It’s barely worth my actual time setting up the campaign, for $2 — I wouldn’t be able to go any cheaper than that, I’m afraid. That’s why you can’t even buy $2 worth of banners anywhere else, pretty much.

    From a CPM perspective, the deal works out best at the $10 and higher levels.


  6. Then it’s not the price that’s the issue, but rather your level of inventory. It’s not worth it for any decent sized outfit to buy from you because you can’t push through that much traffic, even at your proposed 15,000 impression cap. You may get some people who are initially attracted to the “low” CPHundred price point not realizing they’ll only get a few people coming to their site- they may as well be paying for a CPA or CPC campaign.

    In fact, if you were to price out your cheapest $10 CPM campaign ($150 for 15,000 impressions) and project how many clicks you’d get (you claim .08 to 4%… which is interesting given that in your press release you state you have no statistical data such as clickthru rates.. anyway, let’s just use the REAL industry average and say .5%)… so 15,000 x .05% = 75 clicks… and then converting that to a CPC campaign, ($150/75 clicks) you’d be paying a hefty $2 per click. Youch.

  7. Trebor: you didn’t read what was written.

    15,000 impressions cost $20, not $150. There’s a sliding scale on the pricing, depending on volume of purchase, just as there is on most advertising products, with the $2/100 impressions at the bottom of the scale (low entry barrier but high CPM), and a $20/15,000 impressions at the top of the scale (still-low entry barrier but moderate CPM). Really, for someone with so much expertise in the ad banner business, I’d have expected you to pay a bit more attention! You’re $130 off on your calculations, which kind of throws the whole thesis off.

    Our first paid campaign (5000 impressions) went through last night. It only took a few hours for the impressions to spend themselves. We obviously have more pageviews than I thought (we’ve never really had reason to measure pageviews in the past). I’m thinking of moving to a pay-per-click model, rather than a pageview model, for this reason. I’m probably gonna throw our first paid advertiser some more banners, since this was an experimental thing.

    We’ll be experimenting with various pay models until we find the perfect way to do this.

    But, as I said, this is purely a side business for us — any money we make from it will probably go to our own advertising/marketing efforts. If we could make $50-$200/month, I’ll be thrilled (that’s our outgoing advertising budget, currently).



  8. My miscalculation was from misreading your line:

    “From a CPM perspective, the deal works out best at the $10 and higher levels.”

    My apologies.

    Out of curiosity, are you trying to run this as a business or a hobby?

  9. Modern Tales is a business with six-figure gross income annually — from reader subscriptions (we have around 4000 paying subscribers to 8 subscription sites, four big sites with lots of subscriptions, and four small sites with relatively few subscriptions). We are generally considered one of the “big two” when it comes to webcomics networks. If you poke around you’ll find lots of info about us. Or just google us up.

    The advertising is an incremental and relatively minor revenue stream, just a way to make a little money off of the traffic we accidentally derive from non-paying readers (who are more numerous — around 80,000 – 100,000/month, depending on which logfile analyzer I use — and more “sticky,” in terms of returning back to the site on a daily basis, than we ever expected).

    I am specifically and deliberately not selling any significant amount of our inventory to paid clients. We can use those slots ourselves with house ads to good effect, whenever we launch a new product (like our upcoming line of printed graphic novels, for example). We also give all ~100 of our cartoonists a lot of free banner slots, as well, as a part of our sort-of “benefits package.”


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