Behind the Curtain: SDCC 2014

San Diego Comic-Con is a special time for comic and pop culture fans across the board. It’s our mecca, our Superbowl. All the biggest announcements usually come out, and it’s one of the largest gatherings of “our people” for the year. For a comic news site, it’s just as big, but for much different reasons.
Given that San Diego Comic-Con just wrapped (well, over a week ago now), I thought it would be apropos to do a special installment of the column specifically on the work that goes on behind the scenes for the biggest comic convention of the year for Comic Related and Comic Frontline.

 I know I have touched on this in a previous column, noting our coverage of Comic-Con in the past on Comic Related. The reason I really wanted to do this piece, though, is because this year was different. This was the first year we ever coordinated directly with another site for joint coverage.
With me being involved with both Comic Related and Comic Frontline, and the two sites’ relationship constantly growing, I thought it would be fun and efficient to combine efforts on the coverage. And it was both of those things, but far more work than I had anticipated.

In previous years, coverage had been solely myself, Chuck and John, and for one year, mostly me alone. Sure, we had some reports coming in from people at times, and one year Chuck live-blogged from Comic-Con, which added to our coverage for that year. But by and large, the three of us simply followed all the news and called what we were working on and did our thing. Not easy, not simple, but yet simplistic in implementation and easy to follow each other’s posts.

See, for CR, we keep a schedule – kind of a calendar with time slots. This isn’t to hit every hour of the day, but to prevent us from double posting stories as would often happen prior to adapting the schedule. Our schedule is broken up into 12 regular hours of posting from 9am to 8pm Est/Edt with after hours slots for the remaining 12 hours if needed. We usually fill up all the day spots every day M-F and every other slot on the weekends. It helps us stay on task and breaks it up evenly between the three of us each day.

Now, only the three of us have access to this schedule (well, Chris from Comic Frontline does as well, but he doesn’t use it too much), so when we decided to combine efforts with Comic Frontline this year, we had to figure out a way to better coordinate the coverage.

Our goal was to minimize the amount of overlapping or duplicate stories on both sites. On a daily basis, in general, there are several stories run on both sites, but for Comic-Con we wanted to keep that as low as possible. And miraculously, it worked! There were only a handful of stories that ran on both sites, and only toward the end of the convention.

Honestly, I was very hesitant about the coordination, even though it was my initial idea, with lots of support from both CR and CF to do so. The reason being because I was the link – I had to be the go-between to keep the ship running smoothly, and still manage to create output myself. See, generally I do a lot (most) of the panel write-ups and things like that. I follow the live-blogs and watch for the information, and use that information to write stories around the content. The others generally take the individual stories or press releases or what have you and build stories around those or run as-is in some cases. Both sides of the coverage are equally time consuming, but the panel recaps and stories on those announcements are a bit longer to write, and to stay on top of things I have to constantly be writing, which I usually am.

This year, I wasn’t able to devote as much time to actual writing as usual, but I somehow managed to not only write several of these types of stories, but also record several videos for Comic Related’s YouTube channel, and keep the coordination between CR and CF going. And I was only able to do so through the tremendous support and assistance of the parties on both sides.

The Frontliners, as I like to call us, use an app/program called GroupMe to converse with each other on a daily basis. It can be used on mobile devices as well as computers, and is a group chat basically. We talk about everything from planning live shows, to picking books to review, to general chit-chat through the week. We’ve been using it for some time now, and it helps us all get closer and stay connected. For CR, we generally stick to a three-person chat on Facebook for all our communication, and neither Chuck nor John use GroupMe. So as you can see, the challenge for me was to follow and participate in both places and somehow manage the content coming in.

Come Day 1 of Comic-Con, I was still leery and nervous about being able to pull it all off and keep my sanity. But things went smoothly from the get-go, and it had little to do with me alone, but the group’s effort that really pulled things together.

On the CR side, it was basically business as usual. We started killing it with stories every 15 minutes as has become our tradition throughout Comic-Con coverage. We had started a bit earlier than Frontline and were already several posts in. So what I did when Jay – who posts most of the written site’s posts for Comic Frontline – came on was I screen-shared our schedule with him as a jpg image so he could get a grasp on how we were handling coverage on CR and to show him which stories we had planned. From there on, I’d send him groups of stories as we were working hours ahead on CR. That, I think, really helped him know what to post on Frontline initially and throughout.

As the coverage continued, other Frontliners jumped in with links to stories and ideas for videos to do and so forth. Jay would then start asking me if CR was covering this or that, and CR would do the same, asking if CF was doing this or that. And that’s basically how it went down the line. It became a seamless effort of passing information from one to the other that ultimately resulted in, to date, over 250 stories of coverage between the sites, plus various videos on both respective YouTube channels! It’s likely the largest coverage CR has ever done, in no small part thanks to Comic Frontline, who produced a good 50 of those written stories, give or take! Given that Jay did most of those on his own, that’s no small feat!

This coverage really was a result of two connected groups coming together with a common goal, a passion for the event, and a generous and excited attitude across the board. Each one of us contributed as much as we were able to between other jobs, school, other commitments and so forth, and we really pulled off something special. Comic-Con this year showed what these two entities, when combined, can accomplish. And the great thing about it was we did it because we truly enjoyed doing it. Sure, getting more views, more visits, more subs, etc. is always a great thing, and something we all truly appreciate. And yes, that is a part of the business side of running a site or channel like the ones we do. But each and every one of us got into reviews and news centering around comics and related media because we have a true love and passion for the industry. And coverage like this only further proves that point.

That said, we do this for all of you each and every day, and you repay us by reading and watching our content, and commenting on it, bookmarking and subscribing, and we greatly appreciate your support. When I say this has been a great group effort, I include all of you in that as well. Because without you, we’d be posting in vain, even if we still enjoyed it. You give us the reason to continue doing it day-in, day-out, and motivate us to carry on when we don’t always feel like it. We love what we do, and your appreciation for that makes us love it even more.

I have to give a special thanks to everyone on Comic Related and Comic Frontline that made this special coverage possible. Each of you contributed in your own way as described above, and some of you supported the rest of us while we did our thing. Jay, Chris, Michael, Mike, Kat, Nicole, Chuck, John, Lisa, Eric, Dan, all respective spouses and significant others, and various friends and family members, and especially our viewers and readers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now, just wait until New York Comic-Con!

-B

Comic Related’s San Diego Comic-Con 2014 Hub (containing Frontline stories as well):
http://www.comicrelated.com/news/25783/sdcc-2014-hub

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