Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Myth of Webcomic Decline

Twice yesterday I ran into recent posts casually referring to declining interest in webcomics. They spoke of being out of things to say, of lessened excitement and reeked of malaise. These two, from the "if-I-think-it,-it-must-be-right" method of scholarship, are not among those I turn to for reliable information, and their failure to cite any kind of data rendered them of little value anyway.

Still, people will read them. Some of those people are the future audience for comics that are just getting started. I think it's irresponsible to mouth opinions, so I wondered what statistics I should produce to set them straight. The explosive growth of new comics and comics-related groups? The investment in new comic site infrastructure? Corporate acquisitions of comic-related sites? Displacement of gaming-related comics by more general themes among the top tiers? In the end, the claim is too silly to put a lot of time into, so I'll just share the one year changes in readership of some popular, assorted titles. The analytics are from

To make easier to read, red means a decline, and green means a rise in readers.

xkcd +99%
Penny Arcade +3%
Order of the Stick +17%
Girl Genius +40%
Something Positive +33%

Wapsi Square -6%
VG Cats +1%
con+alt+del +12%

Dinosaur Comics - 1%
Looking for Group +39%
Megatokyo -46%
Goblins +1%
Shortpacked -3%
Apple geeks - 16%
Misfile +4%
Questionable Content +53%

Cyanide and happiness - 20% (coming off a year earlier high spot)
Achewood +22%
A Softer World +67%
Erfworld +17
Diesel Sweeties + 53%

Two considerations make the list greener. Cyanide and Happiness shows a loss, but they came off a steep spike at the end of last year. Without that, they would have been roughly even.

Megatokyo, the only huge drop, stands out for its weak art, and was arguably due for a correction.

Comics analytics are notoriously shaky, because we've just begun to penetrate our potential market. But even if these numbers are off by half, they still show a trend with a lot to like.

Oh, yeah. The top hit when I Googled "declining interest in webcomics" brought me to a link where a guy attributes his declining interest in Yahtzee to reading too many webcomics.