Alan Gardner reports that Ted Rall and eight others were laid off from United Media, the cartoon and content syndication giant.
Ted Rall, who worked as the Editor of Acquisitions and Development at United Media has been laid off last Thursday. Ted tells me that eight other individuals were also let go and that his responsibilities would probably be reassigned to other people. Ted was brought in for the position back in 2006. During his term he helped United Media launch Diesel Sweeties, Secret Asian Man, Family Tree, The Knight Life and Rip Haywire.
Rall was hired — after a search that saw just about every cartoon-type person in New York interviewed — to update United Media’s cartoon content in a world where blogs and webcomics are the currency of the Attention Economy. On his blog, Rall writes:
Considering the circumstances, I enjoyed remarkable success. My first feature was a daily newspaper version of “Diesel Sweeties,” by R. Stevens. If not the first transition of a webcomic to daily form, it was certainly the most successful. Unfortunately for print readers, the artist decided to focus on his online work and ended the strip. After that came Tak Toyoshima’s “Secret Asian Man,” the first daily comic strip about Asian-Americans by an Asian-American cartoonist. It remains in syndication today, and continues to garner attention. I recruited Signe Wilkinson to draw “Family Tree,” a family strip with an ecological bent filtered through Signe’s uniquely jaundiced eye, and “Family Tree” keeps getting sales as comics pages get slashed. There was also Keith Knight’s “The Knight Life,” in which Keith transitioned his autobiographical alt weekly strip “The K Chronicles” to the daily form. It is a success. Most recently were the daily comic version of Stephanie McMillan’s political cartoon “Minimum Security” and “Rip Haywire,” an updating and parody of adventure comics by Dan Thompson.
We think any legacy that includes R. Stevens, Signe Wilkinson, Keith Knight and the other cartoonists named has to be considered a success by any standard — even if Stevens eventually went back to running his own shop, the very fact that traditional syndication was no temptation for a successful webcomicker was an empirical experiment of invaluable worth.
In the comments on his blog, Rall assesses the grim prospects for the alt cartoonist these days; with even United Media trying to upgrade their business model, everyone is still wondering what the new business model is.