Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Webcomic Readership Trends: Grim, or Misleading?

It's interesting to see what webcomics are gaining daily unique visitors and what ones are losing. This data is from Google Trends.

Feeds may reduce the count for some titles. I don't know where Google gets their data, and it may vary from other analytics systems. Some comics take breaks which may affect their numbers: this is why Dresden Codak has been omitted.

I've tried to add some new titles since my last report, but data is not available for all comics. Also, a disproportionate number of older comics seem to have declined lately, making it harder to locate strong performers. Feel free to identify some and share them below.

Our own comics are too small for Google Trends. Most webcomics are. The recent decision to move our titles away from the "webcomics scene" toward a more independent path stills feels right. I've found that I get more respect from established cartoonists outside webcomics than from within, though there are many fine people in webcomics. By respect, I don't mean patting my head, I mean they engage in serious, professional discussions without going to pieces.

One wonders if the recent recession has played a roll in what is a rather gloomy summary. Have hand held devices usurped surfers from comics, which are bandwidth intensive?

I try to avoid including comics with multiple sites, since I am not sure how this will affect results. If you see any, let me know.

What do you think is causing the slide? Do you blame the data, or do you see other explanations?

If one of these comics is yours, does your own analytics data agree? If not, what analytics system do you use, and how do you account for the difference?

On the Rise:

Amazing Super Powers

Holding Steady:

Cyanide and Happiness
A Softer World
Book of Biff
Gunnerkrigg Court
Octopus Pie
No Need for Bushido
Savage Chickens


Dinosaur Comics
Looking for Group
PhD Comics
Adventures of Dr. McNinja
Irregular Webcomic

Lost at least 50% of daily unique visitors in last two years:

Girl Genius

Comics that did even worse:

Penny Arcade
Diesel Sweeties
Something Positive
Evil, Inc.
Domic Deegan: Oracle for Hire
Sluggy Freelance
Three Panel Soul
8-Bit Theater

For the record, there are comics here I like and comics that don't interest me. I'm not here to hurt anyone's feelings; I just want to understand what this data is telling us, if anything. All these titles have reasons to be proud of their accomplishments.

Comics people seem to hate anything that reeks of bad news. My own experiences tell me that pretending it will go away is not effective. I'm very interested in what the experts have to say.

I also wonder, given that many of these comics appear on the outdated Wikipedia list of "self-sufficient webcomics," how medium-sized comics that have undergone 70% drops in audience are surviving, if indeed they have.

I'd like to end on an optimistic note: I did think of one possibility that would not conflict with this data, but would offer a possible explanation for it: Perhaps webcomics readers are visiting their favorite comics less often, but reading many pages per visit.

Perhaps a volunteer would like to step forward and comment on whether their own data supports that interpretation. My data for my comics is supportive, but again, my comics are still very small compared to most of these.


Thinking about commenting? Go ahead. I got a note from someone saying I am known for not printing dissenting comments.

Not so. I generally follow a loose version of the Daily Cartoonist's approach: Real names, please; don't bury me with a comment every single day that requires a long response, go easy on the hate mail. I bend the rules often and print stuff that is intended to irritate, just so people can see what else arrives.

I have saved most unprinted comments: most are from about 4-5 people who simply went overboard, some are simply insults, some are so-so letters mixed with insults that arrived on days when I didn't have time for them, and some are nonsensical or spam.

I know full well that most of you can write a fine letter and contribute to our collective knowledge without resorting to rudeness. Many of the comments here have been excellent. If you feel I have missed a well-crafted comment, forward me a copy to my email just in case something went wrong.

Let's also not forget that I have offered this forum in the past for anyone who wants to compose a full-length counterpoint or wants me to attempt to argue their side to see how well I do. No one has ever taken me up on the offer. Kris Straub came the closest, writing a long and thoughtful piece as a series of comments, and while we are not in agreement on various issues, at least he stood up for what he believes. I respect him more for making his case, in public, without fear. Not to mention, some of his comics lately have been pretty funny.

Though I find the accusation of censorship unfounded (not to mention, it is my blog), I will take extra care not to muzzle people who are trying to make a point, and to practice my best manners. Fair enough?