In 2006, webcomics portal Modern Tales will change its business model drastically, offering 80% of the site’s featured webcomic series to readers for free. In addition, the site will publish three or four times more series than there are now.
“We launched Modern Tales in 2002, during a time when bandwidth prices were at their highest, and online advertising was in the toilet,” said Joey Manley, owner/publisher of Modern Tales, as well as numerous other webcomics-related sites. “In that context, the business model we selected — where only paying subscribers could read the archives of our comics — made a whole lot of sense. We kept our bandwidth prices low by locking away most of our actual material, and we depended on readers, not advertisers, for 100% of our revenue. We succeeded beyond our wildest expectations with that model, and Modern Tales is a success, still, to this day, with a six-figure gross revenue number, and general acknowledgement in the community as one of the leading webcomics sites — sort of Pepsi to Keenspot’s Coke. But that kind of success carries with it an obligation to maintain our position at the top of the heap, or, if possible, improve upon it. 2002 is long gone, and the business outlook for 2006 is quite different — bandwidth is cheap as dirt, and advertising is skyrocketing again. As fond as I am of the subscription model, for all kinds of reasons, it would be foolish indeed to stick to that model, and that model alone, in the current environment.”
Manley was quick to point out that the current subscription-based element of Modern Tales will not go away. “We will continue to have a set of subscription-based strips, comparable in number and kind to the subscription-based strips we would have had all along, even without making this change. Essentially, Modern Tales as you know it will continue to exist. But beside that ‘classic’ version of Modern Tales, and occupying the same website, will be a much larger new incarnation of Modern Tales — which will be all free, all the time, and adveritising-supported.”
“This is the part of the business that our new editor, Eric Burns, will be charged with building,” said Manley. “We’ve never really aimed for the mass market. We’ve always had a niche mentality. No more. The goal is to make this new, free incarnation of Modern Tales as large as — maybe larger than — Keenspot, in terms of raw popularity. Maybe even larger than the real webcomics success stories, like Penny-Arcade or Sluggy Freelance (in other words, the kinds of successes that make Modern Tales, in its current incarnation, and Keenspot, both, look like tiny pikers). With Eric at the helm, and our new compensation model for artists in place — the fairest and most flexible model ever developed for a webcomics portal, with no “percentages” or hold-ups waiting for checks — we fully expect to transcend the current glass ceiling on webcomics as a form, and invade the real mainstream.”
Yesterday, popular webcomics blogger Eric Burns announced on his blog, websnark.com, that he had accepted the position of Editor for the new Modern Tales.