Like in any form of journalism – and yes, I realize “journalism” in comics reporting is a misnomer – one of the key aspects of success is keeping up with the latest news. Be it newly announced titles, new creative teams, the next big event or exclusive contract, or what have you. These are the types of things that catch readers’ interest, and staying on top of every move made is a monumental task, especially with a staff of three!
When I worked for SBC, I was practically a one-man-band, so to speak, for many months. But that’s ALL I did at the time. I’d spend 15-16 hours a day hunting down news, building features, contacting creators for interviews, and so forth. It’s something I could afford to do because I was getting paid to do it.
With Comic Related, it has largely been a labor of love, with hopes of something a bit more substantial for all of us in the future. And as I mentioned in the last column, we all had and have other jobs or things we are involved in that prevent us from dedicating 100% of our waking hours to staying up to date with every bit of news that comes in.
In those early years, though, we did our very best to do just that. Again, a lot of the responsibility fell to me. Chuck was working a full-time job, was married, and had other obligations as well. He also coordinated all the convention plans and travels and kept track of the finances. John was still teaching full-time at the time, and was also married and was more involved with Sketch Magazine. And even I had other responsibilities, namely lettering and working for Haven Distributors. But since all of my work was based from home, I was somehow able to manage it a bit more freely, and so I could follow the comic trends during the hours things tended to happen, saving other work for the off hours.
Still, we missed things, or were behind on this or that. But by and large, we kept up to date pretty well, and covered all the major happenings in the world of comics and related media. It helped that, as I’ve mentioned before, we had a great writing staff at the time, also, that had regular columns and interviews flowing into the site, and a number of reviewers covering a lot of books. That left the news to the rest of us. Our podcast area was also much smaller then with 4-5 shows as compared to our over 30 now! So our focus wasn’t so greatly split.
But there was still the legwork to be done. See, the way comic news works is the general stuff gets sent to us. Every major and minor publisher sends out press releases talking about their latest title, event, creator or whatever, so you see that news pop up everywhere. It takes a while to build up that network, though, reaching out to various companies to get added to their press lists, and then reminding them several times to send you new stuff to post. Eventually, publishers and creators start coming to you asking if they can add you to their lists, but I digress.
Even when you start getting weekly previews and monthly solicitations, which are time consuming to post the way we do them at CR – and I’m not bashful to say we present them in the best way you’ll see online, hands down – there is still plenty more to do. Because as I stated, you can find that stuff on every comic news site out there.
What takes real time and effort is following up on all these stories. That involves either writing articles based on the news you learn, or reaching out to publishers or creators to set up interviews to learn more. Some of the larger sites have near daily contact with the larger publishers, and thus they get those interviews faster and get the traffic they bring in, while the smaller dogs have to fight and claw to get something of equal clout to try to attract their own traffic.
And trust me, it’s not always easy to book interviews, especially with top creators. These days, it’s a little easier thanks to Twitter and Facebook, but just a few years ago, going through the supposed proper channels, meaning the publishers, served little in the way of getting things done, and rarely ever gained us enough good will to justify continuing in that regard.
All that mostly involves your top 5-10 publishers, though. One thing Comic Related has always tried to stand for is spotlighting independents and small press on equal levels with the mainstream publishers. And while it’s much easier to get interviews with those creators, it still involves time and effort. And when your staff starts to dwindle down to the core three and a few contributors, things get really difficult to accomplish.
Add in personal issues arising, and a site that is on the rise and pulling in tremendous numbers can quickly fall from grace and nearly implode. That’s sadly what happened with CR at one point, and it has been a struggle ever since getting it back to the status it was. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2009, I mentioned in previous columns that we did our biggest SDCC coverage to date, and our numbers skyrocketed. Later that year at Mid Ohio Con, we celebrated our 5-year anniversary with a cake that we handed out to anyone at the con. Some of our friends who stopped by were astounded by the numbers we were pulling in too By October, when the con was, we had gone far above those numbers in the first link above. We were riding a huge wave of success, and we were having a great time doing it.
As 2010 came in, we had big plans for the site. We were going to continue what we were doing, but expand as well. We had all these ideas, and were going to all these cons to get our name out there more. Unfortunately for me, 2010 is the year I started getting really sick. And while I did make it through the entire year hitting cons with the guys, by the end of the year, I was having some real troubles. Our numbers were still good, but they had fallen back from the 10 million hits a month to about 6-7 million, and stayed steady. We were matching our coverage, but not growing it, and that was a real problem.
Next Time: Going through 2010, the biggest CR gathering ever, and where things started to go south in 2011.
I’m honestly not sure if it will be 2 or 4 weeks before the next installment. I’m hoping to keep to bi-weekly, but things have been very busy. We will see. Thanks for sticking with me!
One Thought to “Behind the Curtain: Keeping Up with the Parkers”
Nice article and now I'm hungry for cake!