The Day in DC

10Days CopyEven as Diane Nelson arrives for some quality time at the DC offices this week, over the weekend people were asking the Big Questions. Graeme McMillan ponders the nuclear/Diamond option:

(One worry outside of Warners taking a stronger hand in DC’s creative decisions – and perhaps a more important worry to the comic book industry as a whole – is that DC Comics still has an option to purchase Diamond Distributors, which has been the case since the implosion of the comic market in the mid-1990s. Diamond, now essentially a monopoly in terms of distribution to comic book stores internationally, is the speciality comic book market; whereas before Levitz was said to be the moral voice stopping any such sale from taking place, without Levitz and with Warners looking to make DC Entertainment a profitable company, what’s to stop DC from buying Diamond now – especially as doing so would allow them to control the distribution of Marvel Comics?)


The Beat says: Warners has shown very little inclination to own distribution companies in recent years, having divested from Time Warner Cable, AOL, and Warner Books, their existing distribution company (now owned by Hachette). So, buying a specialty magazine distributor would be…a daring move.

§ ICv2 interviews Nelson and Paul Levitz on their press tour, and asks what people are really wondering about:

We assume the headquarters of DC Entertainment will be in the Los Angeles area. Are there any plans to consolidate, to move publishing to California?

Nelson: Our focus is going to be figuring out how we integrate DC Comics and DC Entertainment into Warner Bros. and we’re going to spend a lot of time with Paul’s guidance and my thoughts understanding the business and how we do that best for the future, so there really aren’t any plans to do any of the specific things you just asked.


Nelson is also questioned about the Direct Market:

Nelson: This is an area that first of all, admittedly, I have a lot more to learn about. I also am very aware that in my colleague Paul I have someone who understands that channel better than almost anyone. My focus is going to necessarily need to be how do we protect the core business and by extension the retailers who are the foundation of that, while also looking to build and grow the business for the future. I certainly appreciate the cultural and business value that those stores, their owners, and their customers provide for this whole business. And what that looks like for the future is going to take a whole lot of conversation with lots of people, not the least of whom is Paul.

Supplementary: for old Paul Levitz fanzine materials. Scott Edelman is your go-to guy. But Tom Mason wins the humor award.

Comments

  1. Nelson: “My focus is going to necessarily need to be how do we protect the core business and by extension the retailers who are the foundation of that, while also looking to build and grow the business for the future. I certainly appreciate the cultural and business value that those stores, their owners, and their customers provide for this whole business”

    Translation: “We’re gonna need more than geeks to keep this boat afloat!”

  2. “Even as Diane Nelson arrives for some quality time at the DC offices this week…” —- hahahahaha.

    Why dear god, would Warners buy a print magazine distributor when they (print mags) are plunging downhill with the speed over a roller coaster at Six Flags? They are concerned they aren’t making enough money with the properties they own. That’s why they are creating DC entertainment.

    The floppy is going bye-bye. Comic BOOKS will be the main focus of the direct market getting an influx of new readers via digital channels that DC will set up that will be more streamlined and ad savvy than current comic books.

    It may take five years, but in the corporate world that’s Flash speed.

  3. My translation: Maintain the direct market, but do not focus on that stuff, it is essentially limited. The potential market is not tramping into comic stores. Expand into digital and property license stuff, spin offs, with plenty of social whatever it’s called, you know, that TwittergoogleBook thingee.

    But yeah, why wouldn’t you sew up the distribution system and vertically integrate the thing all to heck? Leverage the roof off the sucka!!

  4. I still say that floppies are going to continue to act as a loss leader for TPBs and HCs six months down the line.

    And I don’t think buying Diamond is viable for DCE. If anything, I’d think we’d see them getting out of their contract with Diamond to distribute through TW’s other channels.

    On the other hand, two weeks ago we were all saying that TW had let DC operate on its own for 40 years, so there was no precedent that Disney would take a strong hand in Marvel.

  5. “The floppy is going bye-bye. Comic BOOKS will be the main focus of the direct market getting an influx of new readers via digital channels that DC will set up that will be more streamlined and ad savvy than current comic books.”

    “It may take five years, but in the corporate world that’s Flash speed.”

    Five years from this date, or less? Ten bucks says your wrong. What do you say?

  6. Tommy Raiko says:

    “If anything, I’d think we’d see them getting out of their contract with Diamond to distribute through TW’s other channels.”

    What other distribution channels does Time-Warner have that would require termination of the DC/Diamond arrangement before DC could take advantage of them?

  7. Synsidar says:

    What other distribution channels does Time-Warner have that would require termination of the DC/Diamond arrangement before DC could take advantage of them?

    They don’t have any. Time Warner depends on periodical distributors to get its magazines into newsstands and stores. The Beat did a couple of items in early 2009 on publishers-distributors fights. Later stories included this:

    There were some publishers who felt Anderson and Source would back down from their initial demands. It appears now they were not bluffing.

    “The business has not been profitable and has not been for a very long time,” CEO Charlie Anderson said in a January conference call. “What we are trying to do is give some stability to the channel. Short of that, there will be an implosion in the business.”

  8. That “Ten Days” logo needs some action, Heidi. Can you make the word “SHOOK” vibrate on the screen?

  9. Doesn’t DC have a sweetheart deal with Diamond? Diamond distributes DC titles to the Direct Market, with Diamond charging less than they charge the “non-exclusives”.

    DC uses Random House to distribute to the book trade (including libraries) while Diamond distributes product to the Direct Market. Those two distributors cover a big chunk of the retail sector. DC also is distributed to newsstands by other companies.

    What could DC do better?
    * They could follow Marvel’s lead and insert free comics into newspapers to promote a movie. (Hmmm… what if a movie poster was a comic? Take out a full page in the New York Times and print a teaser of the plot.)
    * DC could convince general retailers to either carry some of the product, or set up a dedicated “shop” which features books, comics, and other merchandise. (See: Six Flags Hall of Justice)
    * Create study guides for educators (especially ESL instructors), perhaps even a “textbook” reader for use in classrooms. (The ERIC database reports on one educator using Calvin and Hobbes to teach idioms.)
    * Create reader’s guides and promote Graphic Novel book clubs. Support and encourage retailer participation with co-op advertising and discounts. Use AOL chatrooms or a web-based networking portal to allow readers without a nearby comicbook shop a place to participate online.
    * Slowly create a backlist of original GNs for young readers. After five years or ten successful titles, use those titles to form a nucleus for an imprint. (The Vertigo model: Sandman, Swamp Thing, John Constantine support the line while allowing new properties to develop.) Titles should be supported by glossaries, educator guides, Lexile scores, and possibly other media. (See: Spidey Super Stories) Easy-to-read superhero titles should be added to the Johnny DC line.
    * Set up two parallel websites to the current DCComics.com. One should be geared towards educators (See: Diamond Bookshelf). The second site would be geared towards booksellers and die-hard bibliophiles. This second site could actually be developed into a portal similar to the Random House website, dedicated to selling books, while the original site exists to feed the fans’ needs. DC could also leverage fan passion by setting up a “DC35″ site for those who collect and study DC history, similar to Disney’s D23.
    * Add a bookshop to WBShop.com DC titles as well as other licensed tie-ins with other Warner Brothers properties (Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Smallville) could be featured. Perhaps even sell magazine subscriptions. (Nineteen titles available on BN.com, fourteen on Amazon.)
    * Set up a digital press which allows users to print images onto shirts, tote bags, posters… Create a digital print-on-demand press where users can create their own anthologies and share them with other users. “DC POD for me, see?”

  10. michael says:

    Wait! WB already HAS a book distributor, yet DC doesn’t use it?!? What the… O.o

    Again, the one good thing may happen is that Diamond gets less power or DC takes it over. Either is fine with me, as long as Diamond no longer has it’s current stronghold over the market like it does now.

  11. The Beat says:

    Stuart– I was working on sparkle motion, but ran out of time.

  12. Just so everyone knows… Warner Books, which is basically the paperback division of Little, Brown & Co., was sold to Hachette many years ago. Little, Brown still exists, but the Warner name was changed to Grand Central Publishing. Some vestiges (Time-Life magazine books) are still with Hachette.

    DC Comics is distributed by the herculean Random House Publishing, which is doing a tremendous job of marketing graphic novels to accounts which normally do not sell them. Random House themselves have an impressive GN catalog of titles, including the prestigious Pantheon and the manga-centric Del Rey.

    DC Comics has been distributed to bookstores since they started publishing graphic novels back in 1983 (with Simon & Schuster distributing some titles before then). First via Warner, then Hachette, now Random House. During Paul Levitz’ tenure, DC not only promoted GNs in bookstores like Waldenbooks (before people called them graphic novels), but also in libraries.

    If you wish to update your scorecard, Marvel was originally with Publishers Group West, then CDS (if memory serves), then with Diamond Book.

    Now… I don’t know the specifics of the Diamond/DC deal, but couldn’t a group of investors buy Diamond from Mr. Geppi (who has money troubles) and run it? What if… the exclusive contracts expire and the beneficial terms are not renewed? Perhaps Marvel and DC and Image might decide to limit their loses via comicbooks and instead increase their profit by selling digital comics. Just as Marvel published Ka-Zar and Moon Knight only in the Direct Market, so could Marvel publish Runaways or Black Panther only online.

    If Diamond declares bankruptcy, it will be VERY bad.

  13. Ooooh! Sparkle!

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