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Viral webcomics?

Is it possible for webcomics to go viral, like many viral ads on the Internet?

kinda I suppose

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

One could argue that David Rees' Get Your War On was pretty viral - it took off in a huge way b/c it tapped into something larger than webcomics at the time he did it.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Rapid Spread/Exponential Growth Is Viral

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

People mean a really rapid distribution throughout the internets when they talk about "viral-whatever" Things like that JibJab animation or even to go way back the first Southpark video (before the TV series). Below the radar screen of corporate publicity and corporate press coverage but b/c of the internets widely distributed and accompanied by a growing positive buzz, which eventually tips it into the radar screen of said corporate press/publicity maching.

That's viral. Most webcomics aren't really "viral" so much as moving linearly along. Again I'd say GYWO was pretty viral as far as webcomics go but I'd be hard pressed to come up with one that went from not existing to such rapid publicity so fast. Maybe but certainly on a smaller scale you could point to PBF but even there the growth I think has been more linear then exponential.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

IF that's your goal

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Well if your goal is a massive, widespread audience without investment in a corporate publicity machine then yeah that's one way to go. The downside to viral-ness though (well probably there are lots of downsides but...) is it also tends to be one-hit wonder-ish b/c it seems to rely heavily on novelty.

But no one saying that's better or worse than other approaches to webcomics. I mean we could debate that, but that would take this thread into a different topic.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

EricMillikin's picture

All webcomics are viral, aren't they? Just some more contagious than others?

Also, I got a bad case of cooties from reading girlamatic one time.

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Fetus-X is the greatest comic in the world.

Or perhaps just do it once to bring in millions of people to the den of sophistication that is their webcomic.

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Re: IF that's your goal

Uncle Ghastly's picture

TWG wrote:
Then again, we're talking about an environment where acting intelligently is seen as a threat and being dumb is a virtue. I might as well be arguing against weed at a reggae concert.
Pass the dutchie on the left hand side. Didn't Tim Hortons used to sell some sort of pastry called a "Dutchie" around the time that song was popular?

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Whatever happened to that squirrel that went "Weeeeeeeee!"

You could argue that alot of webcomics go viral. Viral just means that people pick things up and pass them on in email or the likes. Alot of our stuff gets passed around emails and forums, popping in some of the most unlikely of places. Our Christmas cartoon from last year was relatively popular in this respect.

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A Weirdism That Works

Aleph's picture

It fits, really. The virus is the simplest, dumbest 'living' thing ever. It survives and spreads through that sheer simplicity. It doesn't 'mutate' because it's horribly clever, it mutates because it picks up everything it sees, what works goes on and what doesn't work gets swatted down by the environment. It is a perfect metaphor for the internet 'gestalt', which picks up every piece of crap that comes along and does its best to infect everyone with it looking for the one person in whatever number who is dumb enough to keep it rolling. There is a reason why, despite everybody and their brother knowing there's no secret oil reserve money being smuggled out of Kenya that only you can be trusted with, we are all still getting the mails

Viral marketing isn't, in itself, so terribly successful, you just only hear of the things that luck into becoming viral. Plenty of attempts to be viral, esp. during the viral /contests/, go absolutely nowhere. It's just a matter of finding the right susceptible people and getting them to pass the little infection along.

Aleph's picture

I view it as worse than useless. I think it sets people up with the idea in mind that they should stop at the ad because the thing being advertised will never deliver. These ads do end up in collections of wacky material, and they just don't lead back to the product being advertised. They create a surface-browsing consumer that barely musters interest for anything beyond the quick and cheap attraction.

Thing is, people get used to this quick, cheap attraction, and then gloss over anything that doesn't use the same tactics. So actually meaningful presentation gets glossed over looking for the next 'meme'. If it doesn't 'grab' them they barely even look at it, then they go to the thing that can 'grab' them and stop right there.

Thankfully there are still some people who have an attention span. The web seems to be splitting up between the 'I have 9000 friends on my blog and I give each one 6.4 seconds of attention a day' crowd and the people who periodically remember they have legs. I think ignoring the 'meme'-dependant readers and searching for the more reality-grounded ones is the smarter way in the longterm. As easy as it might be to get the meme crowd to crowd around you, they flock off just as easily when the next infection is passed around. Keeping them is exhausting work, and they don't usually have much to offer when they ARE around. As with a virus, you'd have to mutate and mutate just to keep them from building an immunity to your efforts, and what's left in the end would be an unrecognizable, unsatisfying mess.

There was this neat Korean cartoon about a rabbit and a cat romance. I think it spread quickly partly because of the song used for the BGM which was full of energy, but it wasn't some sloppy mess thrown together, and the follow up showed much better animation and direction though the concept wasn't as fun. But I saw it on as many message boards and the like as the various stupid videos that come up, and I think it was watched over a million times without anything to build it up. There was also a bizarre "watermelon love" video that had really wonderful art direction, though I don't have any numbers for how far that spread and I imagine it wasn't nearly as far as the numa numa video or something like that.

But I mean, think of it as creating something that could have that sort of appeal, without making it stupid. Not necessarilly copying what someone else has done. This isn't a real option for many webcomic people and I'm not going to try it anytime soon, so I guess I'm just treating it as a thought exercise, but certain types of comics lend themselves to being spread around on message boards and the like. Kind of like why of all the things going on in the world, that Mohammed story is making a run of the internet... while the story of an artist being arrested for his cartooning that was posted on here months ago didn't. Exploiting that appeal to novelty or pop culture is possible, and can be done while maintaining whatever creative integrity you have if you're skilled enough.

This doesn't change the fact that simpler and somewhat stupid/retarded things will still be going around in abundance. They're easier to make/find and take less to get into. While their appeal may be seen as superficial, that superficial appeal is the foundation of plenty of sites that collect these wacky videos and the like which many many people visit very regularly.

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Are you sure reading is all you were doing?

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A Weirdism That Works

The William G's picture

I guess webcomics just need to buckle down and become more "Dar...Innernet makes me funs." if they want to catch that same sort of wave then.


The William G's picture

And those would be...?

And besides, if you follow them, you lose the element of novelty that makes them work.


Quote: Okay Rezo, but how

Quote:
Okay Rezo, but how do you capture the Korean wave with a series of still pictures? For quick absorbtion of information, movibg pictures got us beat.
haha, I agree. When I was making my post, I was thinking "probably a webcomic artist would need to make a cartoon." I don't think it's worth pursuing, just as a matter of probability of creating something that catches, let alone how people respond to it afterwards. I wouldn't call it worthless though. It could be said that it simply takes a large group of people to maintain sites based on that kind of quick content. But if you create something, and it gets passed around as a crazy interweb meme, all that means is that plenty of people will have a look at it. That is hardly a bad thing. Yes there are people that look at flashes of animals making noises, but they're far too pervasive to be limited to only people that enjoy those things, and it can hardly be said that they only enjoy that sort of thing. They have their favorite movies and TV shows and perhaps even webcomics. They're by and large normal people. Or to put it another way. The follow up to the rabbit/cat video I mentioned had just as much attention as the first one. People remembered it. They looked out for it. The third one is in production, and it may very well get just as much attention. Despite them being made months apart from each other. This is the opposite of what should be expected, right? Rather than the shallow tastes that define these sort of things, it hearkens to the comments in aother topic about content so great that people will wait for it no matter how long it takes to create (not that I think the cartoons are super great! Just simple cute things, really). Granted, most people won't go to their site after watching the video, but that's much in the same way most people decide to stop checking out a webcomic after seeing the title page, or first page of the comic. If someone can create something around their style that has enough appeal to reach plenty of people quickly, I think they will benefit from it. Talk about memes in general aside, the affect their work would have on people should be roughly the same as what their comic does. I just remembered that people were still making jokes about ninjas being "totally awesome" years after that made its rounds on the interweb and the site creator made a book which a few people on one site I go to picked up an discussed at length. I thought they were crazy.

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"TWG" wrote: I guess

Uncle Ghastly's picture

TWG wrote:
I guess webcomics just need to buckle down and become more "Dar...Innernet makes me funs." if they want to catch that same sort of wave then.
ZOMFG! LOL! Lookit me! I'm so INTERNET! Seriously though. Anytime old guys like me try to come off hip and net-savy (forgetting for the moment the fact I was flipping the bird to 110 baud users with my 300 baud modem using VT52 terminal emulator I wrote myself back before most of the current generation of interneters knew which brand of diaper they prefered to poop in) it always, ALWAYS just comes off as sad. Let's not forget what happened with McDonald's "I'd Hit It" campaign. Of course in the sense of Viral Marketing it was a big hit because it sure as hell got everyone talking about McDonalds, even though they were talking about how clueless their advertisers were to internet slang. Which maybe was the point of the whole thing.

"rezo" wrote: If someone

Fabricari's picture

rezo wrote:
If someone can create something around their style that has enough appeal to reach plenty of people quickly, I think they will benefit from it. Talk about memes in general aside, the affect their work would have on people should be roughly the same as what their comic does. I just remembered that people were still making jokes about ninjas being "totally awesome" years after that made its rounds on the interweb and the site creator made a book which a few people on one site I go to picked up an discussed at length. I thought they were crazy.
Bah, who would resort to MEMEs and trends to advertise their webcomics. I swear to god, the next person who makes an iTunes parody ad... Oh wait. Nevermind. Wallpaper anyone? 800 x 600 1024 x 768 1280 x 960 1280 x 1024 1600 x 1200

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Halley's picture

Yeah... according to UrbanDictionary definition of Viral...

Short for 'viral marketing'. An online marketing strategy that encourages people to pass on a marketing message. Amusing and low-budget, a good Internet viral campaign (e.g. "Jerry Tate: Office Linebacker") will get surfers forwarding the ad to all of their friends to others, giving the company great word of mouth.

Yeah... I'd say that most all webcomics are Viral... In fact I'd say they are the definitive viral media... that's how webcomics get out there... and that what webcomics are.

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Re: IF that's your goal

The William G's picture

xerexes wrote:
it also tends to be one-hit wonder-ish b/c it seems to rely heavily on novelty.
That's exactly my point. These memes (And thats what they basically are) tend towards the insultingly stupid. I mean, we all giggled at the terrorist blowing himself up in his volkswagon (or whatever it was) ad, or the numa numa kid, but it's not something to base any sort of longevity on. You'd be portraying yourself and your audience as idiots. Then again, we're talking about an environment where acting intelligently is seen as a threat and being dumb is a virtue. I might as well be arguing against weed at a reggae concert.


The William G's picture

Okay Rezo, but how do you capture the Korean wave with a series of still pictures? For quick absorbtion of information, movibg pictures got us beat.

And while the memes themselves may last in some respect, what they're promoting does not register well. I remember the dancing transformer ad well, but I wouldnt be able to tell you what the car brand was if you had me at gun-point.

Successful advertising requires the product be out there immediately. To be pushed into the consumer's awareness.

I just saw one today where some Sweedish kid or something tries to get a handjob out of his girlfriend. She doesnt know what to do and he tells her, "You hold it and shake it like you were trying to get ketchup out of the bottle"

She says, "okay", and then she starts smacking his cock.

All I remember is the cock-smacking. Whatever it was they're promoting never registered. That's the weakness of wanting to try this form of advertising for a webcomic, assuming it's even possible to do it. And when the few curious who do click on your link come looking for the exact same "wacky" material and find just find "My Xbox is big!", they wont stick around for the long term.

And long term readers are what we need in order to see a benefit from your hard work, right? Them Google ads are useless if fewer people seem them every week.

So, taking all of the above into consideration, I deem viral / meme marketing as long term useless.