06 June 2006

POLL: Niche Comics Sites?

Thinking "aloud" here...

NEWSarama and CBR have gobbled up two of the better group blogs out there recently, while peripheral niche sites like the Ninth Art are shutting down. Meanwhile, the sleeping giant, Wizard, is finally doing something with their web site, already snagging exclusive columns from Bendis and Johns, and likely becoming the new home for most Marvel and DC exclusives. How long before they start to siphon off some of NEWSarama and CBR's audience and firmly position themselves as one of the top three comics sites? Six months, tops?

When I think of the other comics sites, including The Pulse and PopCultureShock, there's a sense of them all being sort of like the WB and UPN, valiant efforts that will never compete with the big boys and realistically shouldn't even try. I mean, seriously, what's the point of second-tier sites other than to add to the information clutter?

In the past, I've thought the right approach would be a la Wizard Edge -- a broad, exclusive focus on indies -- but I realize that, like "the black vote" and "Yankees fans", there's no such thing as an easily categorizable "indie fan", not in the monolothic sense that marketing generally works by at least.

Niche sites then -- like niche cable stations and indie publishers with specific target demographics, ie: MTV, Spike TV, IDW and Moonstone -- would seem to make the most sense, filling in the gaps the major sites can't, or don't want to, get into and cover properly. Sequential Tart, The Comic Foundry and The Comics Reporter are great examples, as are Prism Comics and, to a lesser degree, the Museum of Black Superheroes (which I just noticed has added Rich Watson's Glyphs blog under its umbrella recently).

What other ones are out there, and what other niches aren't being served, or are being underserved?

Also, for extra credit, how would you describe your ideal niche site, regardless of the specific niche? Previews? Interviews? eStore? Forums?


Emperor Nerd said...

Newsarama & CBR are doing what they must to stay in the game. Collaborating with the group blogs is a good step, and I doubt that Wizard's messageboard will ever be as lively as Newsarama's. I also hope they become more critical of the big two, since Wizard obviously won't be.

Greg said...

I'm sorry, boss. I feel like such a sell-out. How can I make restitution?????

I may be biased, but I really dig PopCultureShock. Newsarama focuses a lot on mainstream news, and PCS does some of that, but also gives interesting insight into lots of other stuff. Plus, Jason's column is excellent and really crucial, I think.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Emperor: I doubt NEWSarama will ever become notably critical of the Big Two. There's no reason for them to, really, and they're still going to have/need a comfortable relationship to maintain their hits and advertising rates. They do what they do well and more power to them, I say.

Greg: I hope I didn't give the impression that the blog thing was a bad idea or selling out. To the contrary, I think it was a smart move, particularly for NEWSarama, as it complements the already noticeable broadening of their coverage over the past year or so. And of course I dig what we're doing at PCS, I just question if it's not spitting into the wind to some degree when a more targeted approach might make more sense.

My question to both of you, though, is to play fantasy comics site. Accepting the big three as having the broad coverage in the bag, what's your ideal niche site look like?

Erech said...

My ideal site would be heavy on interviews, and insider representation, that would remind those of who have ZERO interest in company wide crossovers and continuity masturbation, just why comics are so much fun to being with.

Previews are ok, but just them in and of themselves are usually a turnoff, and I'm personally usually too lazy to go click through, even if its a book I'm interested in. It'd be a lot nicer to see (especially for an indie crowd) the creators schilling in interesting interviews, talking about the creative process, and giving real scoop behind the project. Vs the usual THIS COMIC SLASH COMPANY SLASH ARC WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS CHARACTER OR THE OTHER shit, which too often become the tone of interviews, yeah? I'm sure that a site like PCS wouldn't have that much trouble getting that sort of content going though, for instance the Oeming/Ellis interview was awesome, funny, but very informative. 2 guys talking shop, without any pretense or need to hide behing sales pitches.

Also for fun, guys like Mordechai Luchins, Chris Sims and Leigh (from the house of L) would be somewhere a part of my ideal site, rotating cast of hooligans who again, remind us about how crazy and fun comics are and can be, and not just rape-o-fests and giant grimfisted posturing.

Also, I'm a little surprised there hasn't been any longrunning, succesful webcomics on any of the big sites in question. Seems a perfect match, which would be a nice distraction on slow news days, ya know?

Anyways, that's my penny and a half.

Erech said...

rassum frassum no edit button on blogger...

Erech said...

Also, I think you should somehow get Mark Waid to write a column for you, because well, it would make me giggle.

Chuck said...

I would guess my site is one of those "niche" comic sites. I can tell you I've tried to expand into news, columns, message boards, etc. but I've found 1) people are generally happier with my site when I stick to the basics: new releases lists and information directly related to them, 2) any message board I've started is virtually never used, and 3) any column I've been the sole host for has either been discontinued by the writer, or, like Newsarama, has moved on to a more important comic book site.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Erech: I'm surprised about the webcomic thing, too, actually. We've talked about it with PCS, but nothing's ever come of it.

PS: You're an evil man. ;-)

Charles: I like what you've done with Comiclist.com. It's a great resource with a lot of room to grow. It provides a service, first and foremost, so it's got a solid foundation to build from. It's not really the kind of thing a community will rally behind, though, so I don't imagine a message board would ever be a part of what you do. I'd like to see a bit more Previews-related stuff, like the cancelled comics list you used to post. Maybe a primer on pre-ordering, and a Previews Review column?

Chuck said...

I'd like to see a bit more Previews-related stuff, like the cancelled comics list you used to post.

I can honestly say you are the first person who has ever said they read the canceled comics list. I appreciate that!

Maybe a primer on pre-ordering, and a Previews Review column?

Right now each month I have "Comic Previews by Ralf Haring" for DH, DC, Marvel and Image. Now, if someone would like to write that primer or the previews reviews, I'm very open to publishing them. :)

Greg said...

One thing on my ideal site would be a column dedicated to runs of comic books by certain creators that might not be collected in trades and might be overlooked but are still essential comics. Comics, perhaps, that you should own. Where oh where could I find that????

Seriously, though, one of the reasons I started doing that was because Wizard used to do something similar and I thought it was neat. We can't buy everything, after all, and I'm always looking for suggestions of things that are buried in the long boxes. The Internet focuses too much on the here and now and the future, so a bit of focus on the past is always cool.

I'd also like to see more of what Jason is doing. I really do think his column is crucial, and I'd like to see a column written by industry newcomers about how they got into the business and the problems they faced. It wouldn't have to be by a single person - maybe a rotating roster. I don't have a big interest in breaking into the field (if Quesada calls and asks me to write Uncanny X-Men, I won't say no, but I'm not going out of my way), but I think getting the perspective of people who are in the business would help us appreciate the final product more.

The idea of doing a preview of Previews is good, too. So good that before I even read these comments I started doing it at the blog. And not only a canceled list, but a "where the hell are they?" list too. Seven Soldiers #1 could be on it!!!!

Shane Bailey said...

Interesting question Guy. If this is a dream website then that would mean I would have my pick of writers and topics then right?

I'll think about this a bit and probably write a reply on NMH. I've been looking for something to post there lately and this has really got me thinking.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Greg: I've wondered recently whether or not The Hive might be better suited for a place like Comics Foundry than PCS. It's a great idea, and I love that Jason is putting his money where his mouth is with POSTCARDS, but PCS is more of a fan site than an aspiring creator site -- yes, there's a very thin line there! -- and I feel like there's a chunk of audience he's missing out on with us.

Shane: I'm thinking more from a general content perspective than a personality one, but either way I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

On a side note, has anyone else felt overwhelmed by the amount of content Blog@ is putting up? I track it via Bloglines and it's still too much.