Monday, March 30, 2009

Post drops, shrinks comics

The Post introduced its new 2 comics pages today. The strips are about 1/4 smaller. They justified themselves in several places recently. First the ombudsman, and then the managing editors:

"Why Monday's Post Will Look a Lot Different,"
By Andrew Alexander
Washington Post Sunday, March 29, 2009; A11

Another [way to cut costs] is to trim the physical size of the paper. The savings can be substantial.

A single page of newsprint in the daily Post, with its 650,000 circulation, costs roughly $2,500. A single page on Sundays, with its 870,000 circulation, costs about $3,500.

Shaving two pages from each daily and Sunday paper can save close to $2 million a year. ...

Reducing the number of comics and games was a simple matter of gauging reader preferences. The Post uses an outside firm to regularly question more than 3,000 adults in the Washington area and also conducts its own surveys. To evaluate the comics and games, adults were asked which ones they read, and adults with children were asked which ones their kids read.

Those scoring at the bottom with both adults and kids got the ax.

So, by that logic, if you cut printing the paper out completely at 100 pages (guesstimate for an average day) X $2,500 = $250,000/page/day. Multiple that by the 650,000 copies you print and you can save $162 billion dollars a day! They may have solved the economic crisis!

Ask The Post: Liz Spayd and Raju Narisetti, Washington Post Managing Editors
Monday, March 30, 2009; 12:00 PM

The Washington Post's managing editors, Raju Narisetti and Liz Spayd were online Monday, March 30 at 12 p.m. ET to discuss the recent changes and enhancements in both the newspaper and Web site. They will also answer your questions about the current state of the news industry.

Anonymous: "For all the choices we are making, we have used reader surveys to make sure we keep the features that are most popular."

Does that include comics? Because I never saw one, and I'm a faithful reader.

How was the decision made to drop six current, ongoing strips while keeping Peanuts reruns and tired old "zombie" strips that might as well be reruns, such as Family Circus, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Mark Trail, and Dennis the Menace. those strips should have been put our of their (and our) miserry years ago.

Sacred cows, anyone?

Raju Narisetti and Liz Spayd: We do regular readership surveys both on the phone and in-person and the comics that moved online were the least popular with our readers.


Silver Spring, Md.: Why don't you put Gene Weingarten in charge of the Comics section?

Raju Narisetti and Liz Spayd: We are putting it on our list of things to ask Gene!!


Matt D. said...

They're just holding on until the eventual--when they go exclusively online. All the major dailies will, probably sooner than most folks think.

Mister Ron said...

I posted this on the Post's Comic-Riffs blog a couple of days ago:

The fact is, the bean counters have it all wrong. Counting the few who cancel their subscription in protest is not the way to figure the impact of comics. Try the other way -- ENLARGE the comics -- bring in new blood, with new, exciting features (there is a ton of local talent at the various art schools and universities in the area) and run them prominently, and watch circulation go UP!

In the early circulation wars between Hearst and Pulitzer in the 1890s and 1900s, comics were an important way of bringing in readers, and other newspapers had to follow suit to keep up.

In fact, while a larger percentage of people may be functionally literate than back then, today's young people don't bother with newspapers at all -- but they still are attracted to a growing number of Graphic Novels, Manga, and independent comic books. Check out the crowds that swell the Small Press Expo in Bethesda every year. These people are not attracted to the tiny little comics, many of them featuring characters that have been around for fifty years or more. How many dead artists' names are attached to strips run in the Post?

I remember back when the typographers' strike forced the Post to run a short edition for a few days, and the comics were all crammed on a page so small they couldn't be read. Looks like that's the wave of the future, as newspapers spiral into self-inflicted suicide.

Make the comics page EXCITING and watch circulation build as new customers buy the Post. Make it boring, just to hang on to the readers you have, and watch them drop off.

-=-Ron Evry-=-
DC Chapter Chairman
National Cartoonists Society