Marvel Comics, and the comic book industry in general, has a problem. The next generation of potential comic book readers, the kids and pre-teens, aren’t reading their books, because they’re too busy doing stuff online! The average age of consumers willing to actually pick up a paper comic book has been increasingly skewing older, as the younger generation comes to know heroes like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four from other mediums, like film or games.
So what’s Marvel’s answer to how to expose new readers to its classic comic characters and their print books? They’re putting them online. As mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article, Marvel Entertainment is putting large numbers of issues from its comic vault online. The company is sharing not only newly released titles, like Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, but also the classic first issue runs of Spider-Man, The Avengers, Uncanny X-Men and others. It’s charging a subscription to access the comics, ranging from $4.99 a month for a year’s subscription, to $9.99 on a month to month basis.
Marvel is clearly willing to experiment with reaching out to viewers, and advertisers, in new ways to keep its readership fresh. Last month it signed a deal with advertising rep company Gorilla Nation to start experiment with sponsorship opportunities (although I checked and Gorilla Nation admitted it hadn’t had a hand in this promotional event).
As media changes it’s interesting to see how some companies are trying to use the new to reach back to the old. And it should also be interesting to see what results this online sharing of classic content garners Marvel in the long run.
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