Demographics: Comics Readers Almost 45% Women Now and How Publishers Stack Up

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At the beginning of each month I take a survey of all of the self-identifying comic fans on Facebook, looking at the changes from month to month. Two months (and some change) ago Facebook updated the interface I achieve this by, giving me more options in how to choose and, I suspect, expanding the algorithm it uses to determine the audience for the terms used.

In October, the study returned 12 million individuals from the 65 terms I used. Those terms were mostly publishers and things like “comics” or “graphic novels.” In November, the first time I used the new interface, the audience increased to 19 million individuals. The terms were the same, only the interface was different. The results returned were a bit different as well. Women, who accounted for almost 41% of fans in October, had jumped to 45.45% of fans. I ran the report multiple times over a few days and got the same result. I didn’t report on it, because I thought it was a glitch in the matrix.

Now, we come to December and I ran the same terms from November, now the number of “comic fans” on Facebook has jumped to 22 million. I then adjusted some terms, adding new ones in mostly and that amount of 22 million stayed consistent. As of December 1, women account for 44.55% of those self-identified individuals. Two months in a row with similar results, so I feel pretty good of putting that as the new benchmark. We’ll see what January brings and if it stays consistent and if it does, I’ll feel much more confident in that result.

But, I’ve been busy and took a request. When I last reported on how indie comics stacked up in all of these stats, I had a request to see how each publisher does and groups of publishers. Well, I completed that first part of the report, but I’m reaching out to you the readers to determine that second part. Below is all of the publishers I could find through my method.

Here’s the breakdown of below data:

  • Total – this is the amount of people listed by Facebook for that term
  • US Total – the above amount, but in the United States (% is that of the US/Total)
  • Men – The amount of individuals who mark themselves as men in the US (% is that of Men/US)
  • Women – The amount of individuals who mark themselves as women in the US (% is that of Women/US)

I have also color coded the results:

  • Green – Publishers where women are a majority of their Facebook fans in the United States
  • Yellow – Publishers where women are not the majority, but are greater than our result from my latest Facebook Fandom study of all of comic book fans.

Now, we can’t just add up numbers to determine the segments suggested in the comments, since the audience would overlap. So how would you break down these publishers for example mainstream/corporate, mainstream format, big publisher, alt, classic publisher, etc. If we come up with some good ideas, I’ll run all of that for the next report!

Comments

  1. Interesting. Out of curiosity, where are you inputting the search terms to get these results? Not the main search box — it just gives the number of likes for the publisher’s official page (usually lower than the numbers above) and no breakdowns.

  2. Peter says:

    I’m a little confused how this study is returning a total of 22 million “comic fans” but has a total number of “Marvel Comics” likes over 31 million, a number 5 times higher than the likes accumulated by the official Marvel page on Facebook.

    It also seems wildly suspect that supposedly the overwhelming majority of the fans for US comic book publishers reside outside of the U.S. Am I really expect to believe that 90% of the people who give a damn about the defunct Gold Key comics and over 3/4 of the people who liked Charlton Comics are not residents of the U.S.? Are we really expected to believe that Dynamite has three times as many fans outside the U.S. as in?

    I don’t know where the problem is, but given the wildly shifting reported total fans and the problems and inconsistencies evident in these numbers I can’t see how any reasonable inferences and conclusions could be drawn from these numbers.

  3. Gnubeutel says:

    There’s 100.55% US readers for FantaCo.
    Seems a bit odd that there are more women tagged DC universe than Vertigo.
    I would have expected higher percentages for, say, Oni press and some others.
    And i will never find out how more than half a million non US readers like Archie.

    But all in all it looks healthy.

  4. Tracking recognized or available popularity like this is cool, but a double-edged sword, I think. The data provides some good, if relative perspective, but it’s kind of sad that the best means of measuring the presumed commercial support of an entire medium is Facebook. Of course, the day the largest publishers play nice and find a way to do this collaboratively…..

    However, since there are multiple generations/demographics that couldn’t care less about Facebook, extrapolating the whole business across entire genders may not prove fruitful. But who knows. If the average Facebook user is 25, female, and affluent, should the graphs account for this bias by trimming out the old folks or sampling out the most-active users?

  5. And then there’s the question of fans vs. prospective paying customers vs. actual paying customers. Quite a lot of overseas fans, while valuable to publishers in ways, may never be paying customers because of licensing or other distribution reasons. So fan demographics and paid customer demographics may never realistically be brought fully into alignment.

  6. I’m surprised by the total numbers, too–not that there are a high percentage of women, but that there are so many self-identified readers. How many copies does a typical comic sell these days?

  7. I just checked Comichron’s sales figures. In October, only five comics sold more than 100,000 copies. So while there may very well be 19 million self-identified readers, there are far fewer buyers, and the buyers are the ones whose dollars are telling the companies what to sell.

  8. Brett Schenker says:

    To answer a few questions/comments:

    John – The following link hopefully answers the how, http://comicsbeat.com/more-on-the-facebook-demographics-that-reveal-a-surprisingly-number-of-female-comics-fans/ I also agree about fans vs buyers. But, I think these “fans” aren’t even being talked to or engaged, and if done so, most likely poorly. Imagine running ads for shops or giving them a coupon for a free digital issue. Powerful stuff mainstream marketing does all the time.

    A.B. – I agree as well. This data isn’t gospel, but it gives an idea and so far, the easiest place to start. Without serious cash behind me, this is the available data. I think though it shows that some of the beliefs (such as female fans aren’t a large population) aren’t to be believed.

    Gnubeutel – Yeah the 100.55% is a quirk of the system. Since when you get to such large volumes they don’t seem to really go into 10′s or single digits, I chalk it up to rounding. So 2600 people might really be 2613 or 2587. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason for that and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it.

    Will – That’s also my point. Some of these companies have massive fans to talk to. To convert just 1% is a huge boost for some companies and would do lots for the long term viability of the industry.

    As to the comments about US versus global, that larger number is also folks who don’t identify where they live. I don’t have a way to give that percent in Facebook users. But, this is the data returned and from various methods of getting the data, it’s a solid start and good idea as to what’s potentially out there.

  9. Michael Freeman says:

    I will say that yes there are a lot of female fans out there, but how do the female fans interact with comics. I am willing to say that most of the female fans interact more with a licensed product then with actual comics or collected edition. I was reading an issue of Thor on my commute to work about a month ago and got into a conversation about Thor with a female commuter. She loves Thor, or I should say Mr. Hemmsworth. She likes Marvel movies, and plays LEGO Marvel games with her son. She told me she was a big Marvel/comics fan, and in the course of the conversation told me she would be unlikely to read a comic or “Graphic Novel” for herself. Is she a Marvel fan, I would say yes. Will she buy a comic book for herself probably not. I think, The IP holders figured this out a long time ago, and have been catering to their female fan base for years.

  10. Thanks for the link, Brett — that explained it.

    Looking at it, I wondered if in addition to the slightly disproportionate number of women in the sample that is Facebook’s membership, there isn’t also a gender bias in hitting “like.” Is there data on whether men simply like fewer items on Facebook?

    Re: “As to the comments about US versus global, that larger number is also folks who don’t identify where they live.”: Yeah, that could be quite a huge number. Facebook doesn’t let you say just a state or a county, so a lot of people leave it blank, regardless of their privacy settings.

  11. Comichron’s figures do not (I believe) include sales outside the US, or book shop sales. Graphic Novels and tpbs/HC’s are an expanding market, and in the UK at least women make up more than 60% of the book shop market. From experience I’d say that percentage goes down in the ‘graphic novel’ section, but it’s probably still higher than many would expect.

  12. jonboy says:

    There is one basic (and incredibly huge) flaw to this article and specifically the title:

    Self-identified Facebook fans =/= Readers

    Those are not necessarily equivalent things. One does not mean the other. For example, not all readers are on Facebook. Not all readers on Facebook identifies themself as a fan.
    (Plus, Readers =/= Buyers)

    A more accurate title would be:
    Demographics: Comics Fans on Facebook Almost 45% Women Now and How Publishers Stack Up

  13. Torsten Adair says:

    I’ve been reading comics since 1974, actively collecting and studying comics since 1984, but I’m not one to clutter my Facebook account with likes, especially listing everything I “like”. (I’m more likely to list stuff I “love”, like animation and comics in general.)

    But here’s some more data:
    Google Plus: It uses “plus ones” for likes; and “followers”, where you get their data feed, just like a Facebook fan page.

    DC Comics:
    +1,309,305 “plus ones”
    “Have them in circles 1,191,907 people” (People following their postings.)

    Archie Comics:
    5,458 +1s, Have them in circles: 3,453 people

    Marvel Entertainment:
    3,575,483 +1s, Have them in circles: 2,813,904 people

    For a benchmark to compare Google to Facebook:
    George Takei. 177,666 have him in circles.

    Marvel does a good job of promoting all of their content, with vlogs, promotional specials, new releases.

    DC does okay, but could be better. (Especially with their “New DC Comics Cover Art” posts, which do not show titles, nor link to the DC Comics website.)

    Of the three, Archie is the king of coupons, with lots of online discounts! They also post issue-specific teasers, promoting art books and trades, as well as author events!

  14. Let's Have Some Actual Science, Please says:

    People like things on Facebook for all kinds of reasons- peer pressure, momentary impulse, advertising/media awareness, mistakes, whatever. Some people like things because they want to keep up with what’s happening in their newsfeeds. Ask any retailer what percentage of his customer base is female and I doubt more than a small handful will hit 40%. The sales charts don’t correspond to the numbers we’re seeing at cons, meaning a lot of these people at shows (many are women and girls) are not actual readers/comic buyers. In fact this is becoming an issue for a lot of self-publishers and indie folks who see the huge crowds and the huge table costs but not huge sales.

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