Cartoon Inertia

A few days back, Mike Lynch linked to a wonderful interview with King Features’ Brendan Burford over at Comics Reporter.

I also recently read a really interesting little interview with NBC’s Integrated Media President, Beth Comstock, in Fast Company.

What struck me was the very different approach NBC has to the internet as opposed to a syndicate.


We certainly recognize that it’s something that needs to be attacked, something that needs to be done, but our attitude and our philosophy all the way back to us wanting to hold back on giving away free comics is to just slow down, wait for things to develop, make the move when it makes sense and it’s right. I think there’s so much figuring out to still be done. How is this a business? If it is a business, and we try to apply it, are we going to kick ourselves for having gone out too soon with that business. Are we going to be disappointed in that business for not having greater returns and if that is the case, how long do you stick with it before you change course? So it’s an ongoing research project to figure out where we want to make our mark and how we want to make our mark. All of that said, I think you can expect some things from King Features in the next year or two. Big things, where digital space is concerned.


This space is frenetic and chaotic, and we’re constantly trying to get out of our own way. With success, you get a bit more confident. But we still have to be more focused and more disciplined.

And I’m fearful. I’m constantly scanning the landscape. What’s the next new thing? Who’s going to get there first? This business is hypersensitive like that. You have to pick a path, keep to it, and feel good about it. Second-guessers will end up with more than ulcers.

On the few shows I watch regularly, you can’t help but notice NBC striving to take advantage of the online community.

Miss “Heroes?” Catch up online for free. While you’re there, read the corresponding online graphic novel, or chat about theories on the board. Listen to cast commentary, etc…

Like “The Office?” Don’t miss the deleted scenes. Or play the quote game. Or post your HR nightmares to Toby.

On the other hand, check out King Features online. The comics are there, sure, but they’re a month old.

Wanna get them in your email? Gotta sign up for Daily Ink. At $15 for a year, it’s an OK price. I tried it for a while and the service and product is all good, but still…

RSS feeds? Forums? Behind the scenes? Nada.

OK, let me slow down for a sec and point out something:

I do not have the answer.

Hell, I don’t even know what questions to start asking.

While I’m enjoying some success online, my business model is radically different from that of a syndicate.

A lot of my sales come from magazines, company newsletters, presentations, and the like. People use my gag cartoons to fill a little space, illustrate a point, get a quick laugh; you’re in, you’re out, everyone’s happy.

Comic strips work best when you’re invested in the characters and stories. Not a great fit for those types of usages.

To be fair, NBC doesn’t have the answer either.

You get the sense that they’re sorta flailing around trying anything and everything online to see what might work. But they’re trying.

You gotta wonder what exactly the syndicates are waiting for.

Often you hear that they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for in a submission, but they know when they see it. Functioning editorially that way is one thing, but similarly basing your future business plans? That would keep me up at night.

I’m really hoping someone out there smarter than I will come up with the answer, or at least try something new, soon.

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1 thought on “Cartoon Inertia”

  1. Mark I agree with you. I don't know why the syndicate's online sites aren't more of a gathering place for creators and fans alike? Forums and blogs are huge marketing tools and part of today's landscape. What's the holdup?

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