A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Monday, August 01, 2005

We've never tried forming a comics syndication company

In connection with the previous article on companies being possible sources of revenue for comics, we will now examine in this article the feasibility of newspaper companies as a specific source of income.

Comics had their start in newspapers. In 19th century America particularly, the comics were considered circulation boosters with their own separate supplement. Their popularity increased during the early years of the 20th century. William Randolph Hearst, tycoon publisher of the New York Journal and patron of the comics, recognized this and sought to obtain more revenue from the comics specifically from those featured in his paper. The solution? He caused the formation of King Features Syndicate, the foremost comics syndicate in the world. Other competing syndicates soon followed.

But just what are these feature syndicates? Syndicates are like comics companies who either own their comics features or act as agents of cartoonists within their stable who own the copyright to their work. Unlike comics companies however, syndicates do not publish, distribute and sell their comics directly to individual customers. Rather, they charge a subscription fee to different national and local newspapers for the publication of their comics features in their pages.

In order to close more transactions, the fee is initially not high. Once accepted, the comics features are printed in the millions of copies in different newspapers around the country on a daily basis. The exposure creates wide public recognition and most importantly, merchandising value for the comics work. When this occurs, additional revenue is generated from subsequent licensing and merchandising activities.

Through licensing, the image of the comics character is transposed to other media (i.e., movies, animation, computer games, amusement rides, lunch boxes, comic books, and a host of others merchandise). For every appearance of the comic character's image in all these formats, a corresponding licensing fee is charged which usually amount in the millions especially when international transactions are involved. Prime examples of this would be Jim Davis' "Garfield", Charles Schulz' "Peanuts", and King Features Syndicates' "Popeye".

Comics however, are not the only material being syndicated. Opinion columns, crossword games, horoscopes, and even editorial cartoons, benefit from syndication.

It is obvious then that the operation of a comics syndicate is more cost effective than those of a comics publishing company. Syndicates do not incur production, printing, and distribution costs yet it benefits from wide public exposure through the newspaper and earns consequent revenue from licensing and merchandising. The big question now is, why hasn't this business model for comics been applied here in the Philippines? In Metro Manila we currently have six (6) broadsheet newspapers and almost twenty (20) tabloids. In the outlying provinces and municipalities, numerous provincial and local papers abound. These are ripe clientele for a local feature or comics syndicate. Why isn't there one? Your guess is as good as mine.


Blogger tobie said...

Seems to me, medyo old school pa rin ang tinging ng industry sa comics. No one is that willing to invest yet.

Personally, I think the accomplishments of Dean Alfar and his Kestrel Studios Siglo releases, as well as the success of indie work by people such as Carlo Vergara show there can be money to be born from it.

5:38 PM


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