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The Summer Slump

I've had at least a few thousand readers for at least three years now. In that time, I've noticed that there are distinct patterns of website traffic every year that roughly correspond to the time high school and college students are in school. That is to say, September through Mid December and Mid January through May tend to be high growth periods. Summer tends to bring stagnation, slow growth, or even traffic loss. The winter holidays bring a brief but steep traffic drop.

This is a fairly well documented phenomenon for webmasters at large. Google "The Summer Slump" and you'll find plenty of discussions about the way summer affects website traffic. Most of what I've read suggests that typical websites that do not provide summer-specific content can expect to drop 15-50 percent in traffic and sales. The small silver lining is that this is true virtually across the board. So at least companies purchasin ads are willing to pony up higher rates, since their sales and traffic flow are slowing as well.

As an Internet group that generates a lot of its revenue of ad sales and t-shirts (i.e. non-essentials), it strikes me that we should be even more concerned than most webmasters.

Yet, for some reason, I've had trouble finding even a scrap of information of this phenomenon as it pertains to webcomics.

A quick check of Project Wonderful shows that other creators are probably experiencing a slow down much like mine, and I was hoping some of you out there could chime in with your experiences with the summer slump, and what (if anything) can be done to combat it.

Summer slowdown

tynic's picture

As almamater noted, the summer slump is not just confined to readers - often creators too will go away on holiday or will simply relax their schedule and take a breather. Somewhere in the back of my head is the notion that this might actually be useful in some way - perhaps it's a good time for experimenting with art or layout? Or (with longer-form serial webcomics) for running short sequences or gag comics that don't require a lot of dedicated time to catch up on (since people are less likely to be reading every day)?

I would also observe that there exists a corollary phenomenom, where a bunch of new readers, generally college students, will show up at the beginning of the academic year, having been turned on to webcomics by the advent of a wider peer group. Don't know what to call that one - the freshman spike?

Byrobot Dot Net

Summer Programming

almamater's picture

I'm pretty much treating the summer as a "vacation" and running bonus content instead of the regular strip. Largely, this is because my comic is set at a school, and summer seemed like the most logical time to take a break and get ahead, but it also made sense not to run comics when many readers won't have fast connections.

Hopefully, people will return after the summer, and, since there won't be plot or character development, readers will be able to jump back in without feeling like they've missed out. Plus, I can focus my energy for the periods when I can reach the largest audience. I don't know how it'll pan out, since my comic started last September, but I hope that my approach will work.

Of course, this wouldn't be a very good approach for creators who are concerned about generating revenue or making a living off of their comics, but it might work out for people who don't expect to make money from their work.