Recession Watch: Newsweekly comics meltdown

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Yesterday, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow revealed the dire news that his strip, This Modern World, and all other weekly cartoons were being canceled by Village Voice Media, publisher of the Village Voice, the LA Weekly, and 13 other newsweeklies.

This still leaves me with eighty-odd papers, as well as Salon and Credo, so it’s not a fatal blow. And believe me, I wasn’t so naive as to imagine I was going to get through this economic mess without taking some hits. Nonetheless it’s a serious chunk of major cities to lose in one fell swoop (don’t get me started on the joys of consolidation this morning). Anyway, if you live in one of those cities and think this is a bad decision, you might want to share those feelings with the local editor. Politely, it should go without saying. And keep in mind: it’s not just my cartoon, it’s all of them, so put in a kind word for my compatriots while you’re at it. The only thing any of us have going for us in a situation like this is reader support.

The Minnesota Independent confirmed the cuts. We’re too bummed to get dressed and run to the corner to get a copy of the Voice to see which other strips were running. Their comics page mentioned only Tomorrow and Mr. Fish, but there were others.

Today, Tomorrow has updated the situation and runs a quote from Derf who says it’s doom-time:

OK. This is it. We’ve reached the apocalyptic final struggle for the future of cartoons.

Village Voice Media is the largest group of weekly newspapers in the biz. It is suffering from the ills that have befallen the rest of the newspaper industry: dwindling revenues and withering readership. Their corporate response, which was delivered to me Monday, is to “suspend” all cartoons across the chain, said suspension to last at least through the rest of the first quarter, and quite possibly beyond. That’s right. NO more cartoons. None. This is very probably a fatal blow to me. Not only is it a significant income hit, but these are six of the largest and finest papers in the weekly industry. I’ve been in the pages of some of these publications for years. The Riverfront TImes was one of my first papers. I started run- ning there in 1991! This isn’t about me “sucking ” either. Since I won the Robert F. Kennedy Award in 2006, one of the highest honors bestowed on a cartoonist, I’ve been losing papers steadily. The reason cited is always budget cuts. Always.


Jen Sorensen was also cut from the Voice, and puts it into more economic context:

Now, cartoons are cheap content that keep a certain number of readers habitually picking up the paper week after week. Those readers might not take the time to write the editor if they disappear; they’ll just stop picking up the paper. Or they’ll write us to complain. I do understand that low ad revenue means low page counts, which means space is at a premium. (Space is a mysteriously complex issue even in “normal” times.) But it seems to me that the few crumbs — and I do mean crumbs — these papers save by axing cartoons is self-defeating. Heaven help us if the cost of cartoons makes or breaks the industry.


Emphasis mine. Derf and Tomorrow urge readers to write to their local alt. weekly editors and complain about the cartoon cuts. It would seem counterintuitive in an era when everyone just pops onto craigslist to get an apartment or a used dresser to cut original content that readers might actually, y’know, enjoy, but we’re living in an economy of nickels and dimes.

Somebody better figure out a way to make money off the Internet…pronto.

Comments

  1. michael says:

    “Somebody better figure out a way to make money off the Internet…pronto.”

    I think the only thing kids 18 and under pay for anymore is clothes, an ipod and access to itunes. They’ve properly deduced that everything else on the ‘net is free!

  2. I hope these cartoonist guys have day jobs, they are in a sinking ship. Asking people to write to save their ship doesn’t seem like a long term plan.

  3. Matt D says:

    Holy shit.

    This is unbelievable. The world really needs more Tom Tomorrow, not less.

    (no snark intended whatsoever – Tom Tomorrow is one of the very few prolific comic strip geniuses we have. It’s one of the only things worth reading in my lame ass alt. weekly – and it seems like such a horrible idea financially to remove something that draws a readership. I’m sure I’m not alone.)

  4. The Riverfront Times also carried Max Cannon’s “Red Meat” and one-off cartoons by Dan Zettwoch. I’m not sure how much a letter-writing campaign will help, though…I seem to recall people getting pretty fired up when the paper cut Matt Groening’s “Life In Hell” years ago and it never really came into anything.

    *sigh* Next thing you know, they’ll cut “Savage Love” and I’ll have no reason to pick up the RFT at all…

  5. Here’s an idea. Launch a competing classified ad service against Craigslist and pay cartoonists for rights to display these axed alt-cartoons as a way of drawing eyeballs away.

    Promote the new service by advertising on Craigslist, for as long as until Criagslist figures things out.

  6. Wait – I thought they already outlawed prostitution on craigslist?

    ~

    Coat

  7. “Here’s an idea. Launch a competing classified ad service against Craigslist and pay cartoonists for rights to display these axed alt-cartoons as a way of drawing eyeballs away.

    Promote the new service by advertising on Craigslist, for as long as until Criagslist figures things out. ”

    Given Craigslist is sucking the life out of the alt weeklies, at least in regards to the classifieds, it seems like taking and publishing their now-cancelled alt weekly comics online could be a next step. I don’t know, it just seems kind of logical in a backwards, stick-it-to-old-media kinda way.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] “OK. This is it. We’ve reached the apocalyptic final struggle for the future of cartoons.” – Derf (link via Heidi MacDonald) [...]

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