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Webcomics Represent the "Triumph of the Nerds"

Before the Internet

The ease of Internet publishing has given new opportunities to cartoonists. They no longer need the backing of an established publishing or syndication company--just some computer skills. The Economist looked at the developing of the industry and some of its leading figures, including Zach Weinersmith, Kate Beaton, Randall Munroe and Matthew Inman:

One thing they have in common is how they make their money. The typical audience for one of the leading web comics is between 1m and 10m unique browser visits per month, comparable to a medium-sized newspaper website (the website of the Daily Mail, the best-read newspaper on the web, gets around 48m per month). But unlike on newspaper websites, where advertising is the main source of revenue, the audience on web comics are not just readers—they are also customers. Most artists sell T-shirts, books, mouse mats, posters and other paraphernalia. The most successful at monetising content is said to be Mr Inman: his site, “The Oatmeal” made $500,000 in 2011 from its audience of around 7m unique visitors per month.

Amplified by social media—Mr Inman has some 700,000 Facebook followers—this audience can be powerful. One extremely long and exceptionally geeky comic last summer on “The Oatmeal”, extolling the virtues of the inventor Nikola Tesla and attacking his better-known rival, Thomas Edison, somehow snowballed into a campaign to save one of Tesla’s labs on the outskirts of New York. By leveraging his immense traffic to attract donations and to sell T-shirts and other gear, Mr Inman raised $1m in nine days—enough, with matching funding from New York State, to buy the building.

Link -via Glenn Reynolds | Image: SMBC Comics

My favorite webcomic is Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. What's yours?


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