Friday, February 10, 2012
Surviving in the 21st Century
This week's issues of both The Dandy and The Beano add 8 extra pages and come with cover mounted toys. They also have increased cover prices, adding a pound to the regular prices of each comic. Readers may have slowly become accustomed to this as a part of modern marketing technique (the cover mounts are no longer called "free gifts") but what's caused the most consternation this time is that The Dandy is skipping a week, and the next issue won't be published until February 22nd.
Naturally this has brought about concern from some readers, fearful that it may see The Dandy return to the fortnightly frequency it had during its Xtreme run of 2007 to 2010. However, fans can rest assured that this isn't the case. The weekly frequency, and usual price, will resume next issue.
It's gradually becoming an accepted norm in comics now that special-promotion issues are published in relation to school holidays. The theory being that you do a special issue (with more pages and cover mounted or bagged toys) that's on sale for a week or two longer, presumably with the potential of selling more copies. This may be a new development for The Dandy, but Toxic and some other titles have been doing it for a few years now and apparently it works. It was inevitable that other comics would follow suit.
The downside of this of course is that it means slightly less issues per year, and less income for the artists (unless we're lucky enough to compensate for it on other comics). There's also a risk that if there's too much of a gap between issues you'll lose reader loyalty, which is the reason IPC, DC Thomson, etc never did monthly comics years ago. (A month seems a lonnng time to wait when you're a child.) However it's hard to argue against a marketing technique that, these days, seems to pay off, and if it increases the sales of a title in the long term then it's better for all concerned.
Readers and creators who have followed comics for several years will understandably be dismayed by this, but publishing comics today is far tougher than it was in the 20th Century. We'd all prefer to see British comics return to the way they were in our youth, both in presentation and marketing, but the realities of publishing and retail aren't sympathetic to that. Much as I hate the term, the "business model" has changed. Time moves on, and the best that comics can do is to adapt, adjust their budget, and find ways of staying viable whilst getting on with the main task of entertaining the readers.
Strangely enough, American publishers operate with a completely opposite marketing technique. Several titles from Marvel Comics have increased their frequency in order to boost finances. Amazing Spider-Man is regularly published twice a month now (as is the UK edition Astonishing Spider-Man) and some other US titles also double up some months. Of course the readership of Marvel Comics is older than that of The Dandy and they're more invested in a soap-style "fix" so the more "episodes" the merrier. (Although some Marvel readers have expressed concern over the affordability of the increased frequency.)
Like anything, comics have to adapt to survive, and if the occasional boom issues/skip weeks work then we all benefit in the long run. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, so when The Dandy returns in two weeks time, give it a big hug.
The Dandy No.3571, with 44 pages and cover mounted Dart Shooter, is on sale now priced £2.99.
Subscribe and avoid price boosts by getting 15 issues for only £15: http://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/Group-Dandy.aspx