A post from my long-gone Marvel blog where I answer some reader questions relating to the pricing of comic books.
Everybody seems to like this whole thread about format and content and distribution and pricing, so let’s play with it for one more day.
>Regarding you talking about the increased ads from a few months ago, why doesn’t Marvel do this all of the time, but drop the cover price, say a dollar? I know the main thing I was annoyed with was that I was paying as much for the advertising as I was for the story pages. If the price were lower, I wouldn’t care how many ads were in the comic.
Posted by ltfrankc on 2007-05-07 17:44:25>
Again, cost of production and source of revenue. At the moment, our primary source of revenue isn’t advertising–and, in fact, it doesn’t materially factor into our P & L calculations when we’re figuring out whether or not to do a particular book. It’s nice enough money, but it’s money that’s spread out all across the line, which is a little bit different than revenue that’s being directly applied against the cost and circulation of a single magazine. And the plain fact of the matter is that, not having carried more than a print signature’s worth of paid advertising across the line for the better part of forty-five years (a signature is one of the large sheets of paper that winds up folded down and trimmed in the final comic. At print size, it amounts to 8 pages) we don’t necessarily have a ready-made source of advertisers to fill twenty or thirty or fifty pages, or whatever you’d propose for this larger package. You’d need to change the course of revenue of the operation significantly to accomplish this, and while that’s not impossible, it’s not something you can achieve overnight.
What running those additional ads (which tend to cycle in around the X-Mas holidays, as that’s when there are the most advertisers who’d like to book space in our books) does do is to help maintain the cover prices at the levels we have them now. The cost of everything is constantly going up–right now, a huge new factor is the price of fuel, which impacts in getting trees to paper mills, paper to printers and printed books to distributors and retailers. But the revenue we realized from the additional advertising that month wouldn’t have allowed us to reduce cover prices line-wide, even for those months. They might, however, allow us to do things like adding additional pages to CIVIL WAR #7 without raising the cover price.
The good news in all of this is that advertising firms are starting to become aware of the fact that the readership for comics these days is much different from what’s traditionally been the belief. This is why you’ve started to see ads for automobiles in comics the last year or so–an important source of ad revenue if the ad producers in question can draw a correlation between advertising in comics and the sell-through of a particular model of car. Any successes among this type of product-placement can only lead to more potential advertisers wanting to be featured in our pages.
> mcross76 above mentions glossy magazines that you might find in a grocery store checkout or on a magazine rack, which are about twice the price of a comic book. I’ve always wondered why you don’t ever see comic books on the shelf alongside Cosmo and TV Guide. Is it just hard to convince stores to stock them?
Posted by davextreme on 2007-05-07 16:26:06>
The rack space that I think you’re talking about–the wire racks in most supermarkets positioned right at the register aisles–is prime real estate, and you pay through the nose to get positioned there. So if you’ve got a magazine that isn’t a guaranteed seller in those environs at a certain velocity, it simply isn’t financially feasible to place comics there. There’s a story told–and it may be apocryphal–that years ago, Archie Comics negotiated a perpetual deal for itself for its digest books in these slots, somehow acquiring favorable terms either by crafty bargaining or simply by an oversight in terms of the term of the deal (sources vary on this question.) But theoretically, that’s why you can find Archie digests in certain register aisles to this day, while other publishers’ wares are banished to elsewhere in the store, or out of it completely.
But again, this is an area where strides are being made, especially in terms of the acceptability of certain packages in these venues. We’ve had good success getting our material into outlets such as Target, both as collections specially packaged foe those venues, and also in limited pick-ups of selected Trade paperbacks.