As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing this week during down time from the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.Â It’s only been very recently, say within the last 2 years or so, that the AAEC has started to extend its reach to alternative cartoonists, not just ingrained single panel staffers.Â One of the main reasons? Like webcartoonists, they are dealing with major issues in terms of making their craft a profitable business.Â Webcartoonists generally have to deal with a climate where the audience wants much of their content for free, and the readership has to be incredible to merit ad revenue that makes a cartoonist a living.Â Print cartoonists, on the other hand, face downsizing and an ever-dwindling interest in the print medium in general.
One of the main issues addressed at a panel on Thursday was the increased demand from newspapers to have their staffers- cartoonists, columnists, and so on, become bloggers overnight. Newspapers are beginning to feel the heat of the digital age, and in a conference room where well over half the attendees we over 40, the interest in joining the digital age when they just want to put ink to paper is low.
And yet web traffic versus print readership doesn’t even merit the same scale- the Kurtzes and Holkins’ excepted, a decent webcomic of respectable profit to the artist makes in the thousands to tens of thousands of visits daily- in the United States alone, the top 25 newspapers have circulations of at least 400,000-Â when a strip of mine was reprinted in the L.A. Times eary this year, my cartoon for one glorious day had a higher readership than Penny Arcade. So it seems almost insane that publications are making demands to cut staff and marginalize their cartoonists for the egregious offense of merely bringing in ten times the eyeballs as the average B-list blogger. Â
Webcomics are inherently doing what newspapers are now trying to destroy- making one’s own publication with you, the publisher, as its own staff cartoonist.Â Newspapers need to realize the value a cartoonist has (and is) as a commodity of a single publication instead of turning them into a massive freelance, a la carte, and bulk-order funny panel catalog.Â I’m sure there might be some more fluid perspectives from webcartoonists who are solely restricted to (and profitable on) the web, and I’m anxious to hear from them.