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

Friday, January 06, 2006

What it takes to be No. 1

Do you remember the so-called "Premiere Comic Book of the Philippines" that came out sometime in mid-2000 and then suddenly disappeared without a trace? Actually, the publisher prefers to call it the "Premiere Anime'-inspired Comic Magazine of the Philippines", but that wasn't the tag line that appeared in its posters.

Now before continuing any further, I know what you're thinking.

No, I'm not going to put it down or tear it up to pieces like I usually do against those empty and dunder-headed Pinoy comics imitations of Japanese anime' currently running around. I have such a healthy respect for what these original guys accomplished in the Pinoy comics publishing field that I'm not going to start by hectoring their achievements to the ground. They started what I think was meant to be an innocent "fun" experiment that wasn't supposed to last long, but has now unintentionally morphed into some sort of Frankenstein's monster; that is, of siring numerous brainless imitators and wannabes.

Specifically, my beef is with these empty-headed successors; Pinoy comics imitations of Japanese anime' currently yearning to be the next "Premiere Comic Book of the Philippines".

These globalized successors haughtily claim that Japanese anime' (and even manga) are the new wave of Pinoy comics to which all must conform as if all of us have no choice in the matter. These anime' media zombies claim that since the "Premiere Comic Book of the Philippines" is the only Pinoy comic that has achieved bestseller status, it constitutes a vindication and affirmation that Japanese anime' and Pinoy manga is here to stay.

With that, it is with profuse and advanced apologies that I would like to begin this ramble by stating that the following diatribe is not addressed in any way against the creative discretion chosen by the original staff of the "Philippines' Premiere Comic Book". No, my focus will solely center on the business side of things; of examing the economic and business considerations that made it precisely the Philippines' so-called "Premiere Comic Book", and whether or not from a sales and business point of view, such a tagline is indeed deserved.

With that out of the way, I now begin treading on thin ice by first describing the subject in question.

As previously mentioned, the first Pinoy Manga is in color and the drawings are Japanese anime' inspired. Language used is Filipino/Tagalog though the stories are not that original, mostly derivative, and are lighthearted. Size of publication is digest size using slick paper. And though allegedly priced reasonably (and initially) at Php 75, it appeared infrequently for approximately 4 years beginning mid-2000, reaching 14 to 15 issues until sometime in 2004, it totally vanished or "crashed" from the shelves.

Internet search disclose that the creative team involved purportedly decided to pursue their own individual interests and cease publication. However, after recently conferring with a reliable source involved with the publication itself this blogger found out some interesting facts. Foremost of these is that it never sold below 15,000 copies nor above 30,000 copies.

Now you may think that's pretty high but if you consider the fact that in Metro Manila alone we have a population of about 2.5 million households or approximately 12 million individuals, a minimum of 15,000 to a maximum of 30,000 copies is pretty low, wouldn't you agree? (Source: Basket Behavior: Understanding Buying Patterns Especially During Hard Times by Ramil Digal Gulle, Business Day, 15 August to 04 September, 2005 issue, p. 22).

Even for a target audience, the above number is still small for advertising purposes. Why spend thousands (or millions) for print ad on the First Pinoy Manga if its selling only from 15 to 30 thousand? Better that it be placed on television, on AXN, Animax, or a nationwide broadsheet newspaper in order to get results.

Another factor going against it is that the First Pinoy Manga appears infrequently if not unpredictably. Advertisers generally want to advertise in publications that appear regularly so their ads could be seen frequently. I suspect that any ad that appeared in its issues were "x-deals" or ads placed without monetary payment but in kind.

Still another point is that our 15.3 million households in the Philippines are mostly lower-income earning families that could not afford a Php 75 price tag. Specifically, our households (as of 2004) are distributed by way of income class as follows:




E-35% (Source: Forever Living in Exciting Times: A Look at Economic Trends and Filipino Consumer Buying Patterns by Gladys De Veyro, Business Day, 15 August to 04 September, 2005 issue, P. 12).

Average household spending in rural areas is Php 3,150 a month while in urban areas, its Php 3,592 (Source: Basket Behavior, Ibid.) These amounts are mostly allocated to basic necessities such as food, electricity, transportation, education, communication, and personal care products. There is almost no allocation for luxury items such as fiction books or printed comic books of any kind. So again, if I were the advertiser, its better that I advertise in an anime' television show where my target audience wouldn't have to buy anything to see my ad. All they have to do is click on the TV, watch the anime' program and voila, see my ad. Who needs the printed Pinoy Manga?

I could go on, but I think the above is more than enough to support the view that total sales of 15,000 to 30,000 copies of a Pinoy Manga is not popular (or profitable) enough to make it the Premiere Comic Magazine in the Philippines.

With the slick paper and fancy coloring used, I suspect that the printing and production cost here is pretty high. So, assuming that at Php 75, 30,000 copies are sold out, you have a total gross profit of Php 2,250,000.00. That's small because from there you still have to deduct the 30-40% distributor's share and production cost per copy that keeps rising every year because of inflation. I won't even bother computing as the results are pretty obvious.

No wonder the first Pinoy Manga closed shop. Business-wise, it wasn't managed well and it sure as hell wasn't that profitable. But hey, the westernized elite fans had fun and the magazine distributors earned a lot of money at their expense, didn't they?


Anonymous don valdez said...

good day.

your articles here are really interesting and useful, as i am conducting my own study of business of local comics. the sources you used in your articles would be what i would be needing for my own. my study is for school stuff but i have taken interest beyond it as well. i could use your site as a reliable source, but unfortunately, it only uses the author aklas isip, i can't cite your articles under that name in my academic paper. i was wondering if you could tell your real name or have your contact or at least tell me where you get your sources (i tried to google those nonweb sources you had, but they weren't online, i guess). i really appreciate your articles because it is helping me a lot. you could email me at xnathaniel@yahoo.com.

i ah hoping you'll warmly reply to this request. thank you very much.

-don valdez

11:48 PM

Blogger Ceta said...

My wonder in the company's decision for going with the print ads rather than the television format is the cost. My thought is that the cost of the development and distribution of the print ads was far lower than the cost than that of hiring a company to put together a commercial for television and then paying the AXN or Animax (or both) to put the commercial on the air, making it a far more pleasing option to go with. If that was the case, then that oversight hurt them quite a bit in the long run. As for advertising in the newspapers, it's hard to say why they would overlook a valuable resource like that. If it's anything like where I live, they probably felt that their target demographic -- the teenagers -- would be less likely to see it.

In addition there's also the cost of the development of the comic. Two or three artists working on the pages, the company staff, and then the cost of the printers and shipping of the finished products can become quite costly. With that, the budget allowed for advertisement could have been capped in the first place, keeping the company from pulling off the proper amount of advertisement to allow the word of the comic to get as far as they would have liked. Of course, with how the situation is in a majority of Filipino homes, it's hard to say whether or not the few extra dollars to get the proper amount of advertising would have even worked in the first place.

I think the company had the right idea in trying to bank off of something that is growing in popularity (from a business standpoint, I mean), but it's like you said: it wasn't managed well. Had they taken the time to research things better -- before getting started and after the release of the first comic -- and put more effort into finding/developing an adaptable business plan that could work well even with a low budget, they could have done better.

Though they failed, at least the next comic publishing team that decides to take charge and get into the print medium will have something to go off of when setting up their business structure. All I know is that, it's sad that the industry didn't do better. If the industry had boomed (or at least gotten better sales than it did), it could have attracted more comic artists, possibly a good portion with traditional Filipino comic art styles, into getting their stuff out on the market.

11:43 AM

Blogger Budjette said...

Hi! Happy New Year!

So... what would you suggest?
What should a new comic book publisher do to become #1?

8:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

good job kicking a publication when it's down.

very classy.

2:47 AM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Hello Don.

Sorry for this inexcusably late posting of your comment as I just recently tinkered with the functions of this blogsite and got to see comments for the first time.

Anyway, as to citing me in your paper, there are ways of citing "anonymous" sources on the web. I've read something about it at one time. Research on it. There's a way. Oh, and you can't google most of the news article sources I noted because I took them directly from the printed material. Most of these news articles were culed from news magazines and newspapers. Suggest you visit the public library or the library of newspaper publications. They usually have these as reference back issues.

And I'm glad you're taking the time to do a more scholarly and professional job than me at looking at the prospects of a local comics industry. If you're done with the paper, please e-mail me? Thanks again for the visit.

6:08 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Hello Ma'am Ceta,

Pardon me po if ever I have the wrong assumption of designating you as such above.

Profuse apologies for not publishing this earlier as it is only now that I began exploring the functions of this bogsite and just discovered that this was how you actually "publish" and check on comments on the screen. TO your comments then. I'm assuming that you're talking of Culture Crash? If so, here goes:

I don't quite understand please the backgrounder of your first paragraph. But if you're referring to the dilemma of whether or not to advertise in either print or broadcast, my comment is this: in today's era of media demassification where audience share is widely dispersed in a lot of old and new media, the ideal course of action would be to advertise in all of them: t.v., radio, newspapers, billboards, etc. But considering that most businesses are on a budget, then you'd have to put your ad on the media that you think your target audience usually goes to. If we're talking Culture Crash here, and assuming that they're target audience is the teenager crowd who likes anime' and are mostly in urban areas, then putting their ad in NETOPIA or other internet cafe's would be a good idea. I don't know if its cost-effective, unfortuantely. The broadsheet newspapers which are usually read by a target AB income class demographic, the big three broadsheets being Bulletin, Inquirer and Phil. Star, have a daily circulation of about 250,000 copies a day. Yes, that low. And its decreasing every year. You know what's selling more? The cheap P6 tabloids with a DE income demographic selling at 300,000 to 500,000 a day. The big three leading tabloids are BULGAR, followed by TONITE and Pilipino Star Ngayon.

Ma'am Ceta, salamat po sa inyong ibang comments. They are very infomrative and I don't think its appropriate to comment any further on that. I assume you are connected with Culture Crash? If so, I hope Charles Tan gets to read this.

Maraming salamat po uli.

Aklas Isip

6:23 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Hello Sir Budjette,

So what should a new comic publisher do to become no. 1? :)

Gee, If I knew that, I wouldn't be doing this blog, thinking, theorizing, and talking to myself all the time now wouldn't I? :)

Aklas Isip


I read your comics story in PSICOM's Fantasya No. 1, and it was quite good.

6:26 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Hello Anonymous,

Me, kicking a publication when its down "classy"? You should read Charles Tan's comments. Now THAT'S classy. :)

Aklas Isip

6:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, great article.

Though I disagree with your assessment that the majority of pinoys would rather spend their money on needs rather then entertainment or luxury goods.

Just looks at the proliferation of mobile phones these days. Even those who have very low income has at least one! I think the Filipino can afford something if he wants it badly but unfortunately pinoy manga is not one of them.

10:49 AM


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