All You Can Eat: What Are You Serving?

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage


Last week I discussed what "all you can eat" pricing of comics at e-comics companies could mean for comics.  For those of you joining us late, it's basically the Netflix Streaming model of comics - for a fee, read all you want online.  It's economics buffet.

The model may sound bad when you're used to a per-unit sales market.  But the advantages of the all-you-can-eat model are actually kind of obvious:

  • It's predictable.   It's far easier to estimate who is paying what when.
  • It's easy to expand.  Just load a ton of content into your system and let it go.  No fuss, no mess, just some rights.
  • It's easy to use the "mass of content approach" to keep people since they'll stay for something.
  • Less transactions, issues, and programming pain.

So, a viable model.  My rough take was that if this is indeed the model it's going to make comics production a mix of "put out lots of stuff", businesslike production, and expanded monetization.  So far, so . . . dull and economic.

Only what does that mean for indies and small companies and brave entrepreneurs?  Frankly, it may not be so hot.  Here's some possibilities and thoughts.

Big Deals Over Small Stuff: An all-you-can eat model usually means the company providing the media streaming/connectivity makes big deals for big products and large amounts of it.  Already that may leave plenty of people out and you may simply not get access.

Part Of The Gang: It's also possible smart folks and companies will band together to create large groups of smaller/indie properties and market it all at once.  Not bad, leaves room for the middleman, but unsure, a chance to get ripped off.

"You Support Us:" Another option e-comics publishers using this model could do is let you upload content for free or a small fee.  That way your comic gets seen, and they don't have to negotiate with large groups or big companies.  The only flaw of course is you make nothing - or have to pay.

"Pay Per Hit Percent:"  Now if companies want to support indies and small press, they can actually divide up income by who brings it in due to page hits, etc.  That'd be nice.  That's possible.  We'll see.

No Breakout: If your series, somehow becomes part of an all-you-can-eat comics system, even if you're the greatest thing ever, there's no immediate direct increases in profits UNLESS the "Pay Per Hit Percent" model is applied to you.  Maybe on your site ads, maybe future deals, maybe merch, but not right away.

Potential Showdown: Now my theory on "All-you-can-eat" only holds up if that becomes THE model on pricing.  What happens if one services does this model, one doesn't?  Then it gets interesting - but frankly I think an all-you-can-eat model is going to attract more attention.

Something I Didn't Think Of: Well that's obvious.  I didn't think of it - and there's a chance I haven't.  Hell, I figured eComics wouldn't get implemented as fast as they have.

There's my thoughts, teen gang.  So what do you think an "all-you-can-eat" pricing model will mean for small/indie/individual publishers of comics?

- Steven Savage

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