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The Failure of Licensed Comic Book Publishers Redux!

One of my most popular posts here on MatNastos.net, and one that got a few comic book publishers annoyed with me, was my original The Failure of Licensed Comic Publishers article. It went in to some detail on how absolutely horrible various comic book publishers were at marketing their licensed products online.

The funniest thing that came out of that article was one publisher’s rep demanding I reveal to them how I came by their Google rankings. That made me smile.

The reason this is such an outrage is because the Internet is the largest sales/marketing channel that currently exists AND because the whole purpose of paying lots of money for the rights to a licensed property is to take advantage of that property’s built in audience. When you fail to market to that audience, then you are just throwing money away. It’s also the sign of really lazy (or really crappy) marketing teams, I’ll let you, my loyal readers, decide which it is.

what I thought I’d do today, nearly 4 months after that initial article, was go back and take a look to see if there has been any improvement on any of the licensed publisher’s websites. For sake of consistency, I checked out the same terms and publishers (IDW Publishing, Boom Studios and Ape Entertainment) that I had researched before.

Let’s see what I found out.

IDW's GI Joe comic, along with its other licensed comics, ranks poorly in internet searches.

IDW Publishing: IDW has become one of my favorite whipping boys recently because of their size (the only new premiere publisher at Diamond since the system was created and the #4 publisher in the industry — or #5, depending on when you check/who you ask). They put out tons of comics every week and have a business very much reliant on licensed comic book properties. One would think that reliance would cause them to be more sensitive to the need of properly marketing those properties. In this case, one would be wrong.

As before, the properties and search terms True Blood, Transformers, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters (also checked “Ghostbuster Comic”), GI Joe, Dungeons & Dragons/D&D all fail to rank in the top 6 pages of Google search results. I have no clue if they’ve had any moved down in the abyss beyond page six, but no one is searching beyond page six.

With Star Trek, they still rank in the same “middle of page 5” position and have seen no movement at all. Same for 30 Days of Night with a poor ranking on page 2 for the comic/property they originated. Steve Niles, you need to raise some hell at IDW!

I went ahead and added a couple of additional search results, just to appease my own curiosity. These terms weren’t part of my initial, October 2010, research, so I can’t comment on whether they’ve made any progress on these them or not.

“True Blood Comic” has IDW showing up on page 4. With their current Internet lack of presence, I’m surprised they showed up with even this poor result.

“Transformers Comic” is interesting in that a link to the IDW comics on iTunes does show up, but that isn’t an IDW-controlled, maintained or updated site. With only 292,000 search results coming up for that term, it is a very weak situation for IDW not to be showing up at all for this term.

Overall, no improvement or movement for IDW. The only spot I could see any change at all in their website was on the “Dungeons & Dragons” product page I had discussed in another article, 7 Quick Tips for Creating Comic Book Content with SEO that Scores in Search Engines. Back in November, IDW still using default system page IDs, in this case the link was http://idwpublishing.com/catalog/series/1451. They have since renamed that page to http://www.idwpublishing.com/d&d. Since that change over, they now rank on page 1 for the terms “D&D Comic” and “Dungeons & Dragons Comic.”

Seeing the staff of IDW Publishing on my website multiple times each week, along with having gone down to San Diego to meet with their marketing and web leads a few months ago, makes me fairly certain they took at least that much of my advice. It’s good to see them no longer being out-ranked by pirate sites offering torrents of the old DC D&D comics. Good work, guys…now,if you could just get the rest of your marketing efforts in line!!

Boom Studios doesn't do much better with its licensed properties and their marketing efforts.

Boom Stuios: Boom is a smaller publisher, but one who puts out a lot of quality books. The base for their business seems to be split between licensed comics and in Mark Waid written material. Either of which is fine by me.

Last time, I search for Farscape, Muppets/Muppet Show, Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, Disney Cars/Pixar Cars, Incredibles/Disney Incredibles/Pixar Incredibles, Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, Finding Nemo and 28 days Later. This time around, they are all still completely absent from Google search results.

Darkwing Duck is still on page 5.

The only improvement I actually saw was for “Walt Disney Comics.” Before, Boom ranked at the bottom of page two and had a link going to a blog posting about the comic. Now, however, they rank in the middle of Page 2 and it goes to a store/catalog listing. Yay!

Ape Entertainment is one of the smaller licensed publishers, but their properties are also absent from internet search results.

Ape Entertainment: I want to be upfront here and say that I’ve been a fan of Ape Entertainment, and its publisher Brent Erwin, for 10 years or so. We’ve exchanged a lot of emails since that time and I consider myself on friendly terms with him. With that being said, their Google results make me very sad and, if I was Brent’s parent, I would ground him until he fixed things.

Black Dynamite, Shrek, Penguins of Madagascar, Megamind, Richie Rich and Strawberry Shortcake all are nowhere to be found on Google.

On the brightside, though, they do now rank on Page 3 for “Shrek Comic,” which would be good except for the fact that Dark Horse’s 2003 Shrek series ranks higher on page 3. But, to be fair, that’s a 2 page jump in 4 months. Not good, but not bad! Brent, you get a cookie!

Just for fun, I went ahead and checked on newcomers, Viper Comics, and their licensed books, Inspector Gadget and Johnny Test. Neither one ranked in the first 6 pages of Google, but that wasn’t a big surprise. I don’t think Viper has even launched those books yet, so I’ll give them a bit of leeway. Although, I will say that with a summer launch, now is the time to begin to get your Internet presence established — BEFORE the books are available for pre-order.

Overall, there has been very little to no improvement by any of the licensed publishers in terms of their Internet marketing efforts. For having some of the most popular properties and characters around, none of these companies are doing very well in trying to actively market their comics outside of the direct market. They are continuing to completely waste their money on licenses and are failing to support that product for their retailers.

I’ll check back in another four months to see if anyone at the licensed comic publishers has woken up or not.

-Mat Nastos, Super Genius

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

1 Response

  1. Jim MacQ says:

    On a whim, I just googled Viper’s best comic ever, “The Middleman”; searching just for “middleman” Viper doesn’t show up in the first 5 pages, but if I search for “middleman comic” they show up at the top of page 2. Unfortunately, two torrent sizes show up on page 1.

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