Like most print media, comic book publishers are hurriedly searching for an online business model as advertising declines and the costs of printing and distribution rise. Some are charging for content online, others are giving away digital preview issues, and at least one publisher, two-year-old Dare Comics, is trying to go fully ad-supported.
But launching an ad-supported anything in the current market is a challenge. So to drum up business — and a little publicity — Dare founder Adam Handy is holding a one-time auction on eBay for a full-page display ad that will run in every digital issue of every title his company publishes for as long as it survives.
“We were trying to think of an innovative way to bring the title to the attention of media buyers, something that would offer a genuine incentive for the major brands to get into business with us,” Handy said.
The ad will occupy a single 6.5 x 10 inch full page of a PDF file, which is how Dare publishes its comics online. It can be altered up to 12 times a year, in coordination with the release of new issues.
So far, the auction (see page on eBay) has attracted a single bid from an anonymous advertiser for the reserve price of £10,001, but Hamdy said he has spoken to several other brands — video game publishers, film studios, “the kind of people you’d expect to advertise in a comic book,” he said — who plan to throw their hat in the ring.
At what price the perpetual ad will cease to be profitable remains to be seen. In the three months since Dare has been publishing exclusively online, it has attracted close to 60,000 readers and is averaging about 1,000 new readers a day, according to Hamdy. In addition to its launch title, The Hunter, Dare is planning a 22-issue series called Starmaker: Leviathian, that should be published shortly, and several other titles.
“You can’t do this with paper,” Hamdy noted. “With paper there is always the incremental cost of printing an additional page, but online there is no incremental cost, and we plan to do this only once.”
Hamdy added that comic books as a medium are ideally suited to the ad-supported model online.
“Comics traditionally were a pulp form of entertainment, as low as possible in cost and as big as possible in audience,” he said. “I want to go back to the spirit of that and make comics as widely accessible as possible. If you can develop a model that is supported by advertising, that’s a great way to go.”
Not that Hamdy isn’t hedging his bets. A footnote on the auction page for the “perpetual ad” states that it is not responsible for events such as “the collapse of the Internet, [or] the Sun exploding… Dare Comics will make the advertisement as perpetual as humanly possible.”
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