Hallelujah! The Comics Journal is making a super smart move for a periodical publication. They announced this week that they’re moving to a semi-annual publishing schedule for the magazine and unlocking the doors on their web site, upping the volume of content and frequency of updates. Kudos to them. This is exciting news. And if you’re a fan of TCJ or comics in general, you may want to pick up the November issue (#300) that promises to offer the first glimpse at what the new TCJ will look like.
This makes total sense both for both the business and the reader. The online subscription model doesn’t work terribly well. WSJ is one of the few success stories, but they also have a dedicated specialized audience. Even the NYT decided to open its archives a few years back when they realized they could make more money on open, free content. A TCJ.com with more content updated more frequently will increase their audience size and allow them to monetize the site better.
Print costs are on the rise, so producing the TCJ continues to cost Fantagraphics more. Circulation numbers are down for the vast majority of newspapers and magazines as people’s reading habits move online and to mobile. Aside from the books themselves, comics culture is almost entirely online. Reducing the frequency of TCJ but increasing the volume size (and likely price) ultimately nets them more money if they can hold the line on circulation. I anticipate they will increase their numbers. They could probably now market the Journal in bookstores if the book size is formatted properly and open up to a whole new segment of the consumer market.
I’ve been having difficulty getting my hands on a copy of TCJ. My local comic shop will only bring it in on special request, and I don’t necessarily want to buy every issue. But I am totally on board for picking up a nice, big, lush, beautiful book that comes out twice a year. Heck, I may even subscribe.
The Beat offers some context on the TCJ move in light of the sale of Newsarama and the changing face of comic news distribution. Some good discussion on the blog there as well:
At the same time, the rules are changing so fast and quick. Newsarama’s sale comes at a time when its position as the must-do news source has almost completely eroded. Everyone seems to use their own outlets for breaking news, and there are so many other choices. It’s notable that when Monday’s news of a new Stephen King comic at Vertigo came out, it was announced at Vertigo’s own blog and the first, presumably embargoed, interviews were at the NYT, the Daily Beast and AOL’s comics blog, Comics Alliance. Comics news is now big enough that it doesn’t even get broken on comics news sites any more — with a variety of “mainstream” news outlets covering comics on a regular basis, news can reach a (one hopes) even wider audience.