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Newspaper Comic Strip Pinch

According to a recent Newsweek article, newspapers are trying to put the squeeze on the funny pages once again. Due to media company consolidation, the companies that publish the newspapers now have enough clout to place demands on the cartoon syndicates, or force them to suffer over $100,000.00 in losses resulting from cancelled business.

The comics pages are becoming smaller (something Berke Breathed railed against in his immortal Bloom County way back in the eighties), and cartoonists will be getting paid less per strip. This is not an environment for economic or artistic growth in this market. Maybe we'll start to see even more strips being published on the Internet soon.

Re: Newspaper Comic Strip Pinch

it's so sad that it has to come down to a few people in a board room who know nothing of what is good---in a perfect world. we as cartoonists should come together and protest this slashing of the comic page. If that were to happen in the world we live in, the comic page would be cut altogether in favor of canned copy and stock photography. Imagine if the deMedici family thought "well, marble and canvas prices are getting out of hand--- we have to cut costs." how many masterpieces would never have been created? how many pieces of civilization would have never existed? It's not just a question of economics, but also one of culture.

we have to save ourselves.

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Bobsquirrel! You're a genius! Why don't we all mount some kind of effort as webcartoonists and webcomics readers in order to help bring more attention to the stupidity of this situation?

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Thanks to bobsquirrel's prompting, I'm initiating a letter-writing campaign from my site. It's the only action that comes to mind at the moment. There are thousands upon thousands of comics fans online, and maybe this time we can make a difference.

Here's what I posted on my site:

SAVE THE COMICS!

We are mad as hell, and we aren't going to take it anymore!

From Newsweek (via Comixpedia):

In current negotiations, NEWSWEEK has learned, the San Jose, Calif.-based Knight Ridder, which owns 31 daily papers around the country, is demanding a 20 percent reduction in the rates its papers pay for comics, while threatening the cancellation of more than $100,000 worth of business if the syndicates don't comply.

The bottom line: less pages for comics, less room for comics, less size for comics, LESS COMICS! The pinheads that run one of the worst industries in the US is at it again -- they can't figure out how to make people buy their rotten rags, so they're going to take it out -- once again -- on one of the few features that might make buying their product attractive.

Here's a suggestion: let's not take this crap anymore! If you are a cartoonist or a comics reader, contact Knight Ridder through this form, and tell them that comics are one of the few feature that makes buying and subscribing to their newspapers worthwhile! If not for comics, they might as well fold up shop and blow away -- we can get our news faster through radio and the internet, thank you.

If you're thinking "well, newspaper comics aren't all that great, I prefer webcomics" -- the reason for the decline in print comics are the past actions of newspapers that have led to this very stagnation. If newspapers used comics properly, there would be an entire section of comics... not just a page or two... and many of your favorite webcomics would be available on the newstand as well as the internet.

Now is the time to mobilize in behalf of print comics! Thank you for your consideration.

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My own letter to them:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5411755/site/newsweek

Comics were created to generate circulation for newspapers. Comics continue to be one of the #1 reasons for people to take the extra effort to buy or subscribe to a paper. For most of us, we want the latest color Dilbert on Sunday, and the in-depth news coverage is just a bonus.

I say this as a news junkie. But I can get my news from the internet and radio much faster, thankyouverymuch. Your only premium -- your ONLY premium is the features, yet you continue to insult your audience by putting the squeeze to them. Why should I buy a newspaper if I know ahead of time that there's only half a page of small-print comics, hidden who knows where?

You have absolutely no conception of your business, and you deserve to fail if you keep up these self-destructive practices. I have asked my friends on the internet to take note of your actions, as well, and have asked them to also let their views be known to you.

Re: Newspaper Comic Strip Pinch

CalamityJon's picture

Not that this isn't a horribly slimy move on the part of the conglomerates, but maybe it's just another sign that it's time for the Syndicates to change how they do business in the first place.

Bill Watterson made an appeal once for the Syndicates to drop this piecemeal contracting of individual strips and move towards a syndicate-produced insert provided to subscribing newspapers. This would give the Syndicate the control over space, layout and size, and give them a HELLUVA lot more control over content and branding.

Plus, the move to syndicate on the web has been slow, but it's got to be stronger than publishing solely via the newspaper.

The Syndicates have basically been under the media's heels since the 60s, when the power of the comics page went the way of the dinosaur. Used to be the Syndicate went hand-in-hand with the publisher, and was even the 500-pound gorilla of the printed page for a time there. That time is over, and kicking against big, dumb corporate influence is just going to waste time and resources the Syndicates could put to better use...

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CalamityJon's picture

Considering that the same media conglomerates which monopolize the newspaper industry ALSO monopolize broadcast news on the radio and television, I'm not sure you're putting the fear of God in them by holding radio news over their heads. It's money to them either way.

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Uncle Ghastly's picture

Wait a minute... wait a minute...

... news comes in... papers?

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Not that this isn't a horribly slimy move on the part of the conglomerates, but maybe it's just another sign that it's time for the Syndicates to change how they do business in the first place.

Again I feel the need to point out that this is all fault of the american syndication model. Why do Syndicates even exist anymore? They really drag the industry down by underpaying artists and raping their works. If you cut out the intermediaries like we do in my country, newspapers pay less, artists earn more, the money goes to those who do the real work and everybody's happy!

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God knows I've got my differences with Ghastly, but when he is right, he is right, and this time he is very right.

Newspapers would not be treating one of their cash cows this way if they were not in massive decline themselves.

They are not the future of comics.

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And, just to complete that vicious cycle, if newspapers had any idea what their real cash cows were, they wouldn't be in decline.

The megacorps that run newspapers now obviously don't know or don't care about what value papers can offer in the era of 24 hour news. They're systematically killing features, such as comics, that could have differentiated newspapers and kept them alive. It's all incredibly frustrating.

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I'm only familiar with one of their papers - the Columbia State, and its comics section is deplorable. I can read my news just as easily, if not more so, online. But nothing beats the convenience of all the strips on two pages daily, like my hometown paper (Atlanta Journal Constitution). It's true - comics should be something selling papers in this day and age.

Though I agree - the newspaper isn't going to be the future of comics by any means.

What about the syndicates?

The syndicates seem to forget that they also possess a lot of power. If one major distributor of newspapers, like Knight Ridder, were suddenly to find itself in a position where no comics were being printed in any of their newspapers, what do you think would happen to their readership? If the comic kingpins want to protect their worth, then maybe they need to play hardball and actually threaten to pull out if the pay isn't what they want. The main possible downside is that the newspapers might turn to "non-union" comics to fill the gap, but for the businessman who makes sure to read Dilbert every morning, that might still be more than enough reason to buy a different periodical with the same headlines.

Re: What about the syndicates?

Unfortunately, the syndicates aren't going to jeapordize their more "important" features -- poltical columns, Dear Abby, Dave Barry, etc -- just to protect comics.

As somebody says in another post here, the comics themselves aren't cash cows. They should be used as draws for circulation. But the only way that's going to get into their heads is if one paper becomes a success by doing it first.

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Dammit, that was me.

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The sooner comics finally leave print, the sooner we can start becoming tha sole provider.

-William

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Don't kid yourself, T; the comics haven't been a cash cow for newspapers in ages.