Sunday, January 08, 2006

[Blog Entry] Comic Blatherings

Comic Blatherings

Mainly some specific reactions to this >anonymous blogger.

On What It Takes to Be No. 1:

Do you remember the so-called "Premiere Comic Book of the Philippines" that came out sometime in mid-2000 and then suddenly disappeared without a trace? Actually, the publisher prefers to call it the "Premiere Anime'-inspired Comic Magazine of the Philippines", but that wasn't the tag line that appeared in its posters.

I don't know why, but in his other blog entries, he didn't shy away from name dropping. So why doesn't he/she just say that it's Culture Crash that he's (I'll use "he" for the sake of simplicity) talking about? And he's anonymous anyway, so why bother with avoiding reprisal?

Internet search disclose that the creative team involved purportedly decided to pursue their own individual interests and cease publication. However, after recently conferring with a reliable source involved with the publication itself this blogger found out some interesting facts. Foremost of these is that it never sold below 15,000 copies nor above 30,000 copies.

Now you may think that's pretty high but if you consider the fact that in Metro Manila alone we have a population of about 2.5 million households or approximately 12 million individuals, a minimum of 15,000 to a maximum of 30,000 copies is pretty low, wouldn't you agree?

I'll tackle this in several ways. First, for simplicity's sake, I will assume that the writer has his facts straight with regards to sales. I love whole numbers, so let's assume it's 20,000 copies per issue that was sold.

First, is 20,000 copies a lot compared to the country's entire population? No. But 20,000 is a big number relative to commercial publishing. I mean most books have a print run of 1000~2000. And despite what some magazines might tell you, 20,000 rivals the print run of most magazines (minus magazine giant Summit, of course, and their popular FHM which prints more than that number). For a locally published comic, 20,000 is a lot. If it was election propaganda comics, that number isn't much, but for a small business venture, it's big and is probably the comic with the highest print run in the past four years.

My second argument is the statement of the facts. What's the actual print run? Is 15,000 ~ 30,000 sales per issue, or per month? If it's the latter, it's really a huge number. If it's the former, well, it's still an outstanding figure.

Even for a target audience, the above number is still small for advertising purposes. Why spend thousands (or millions) for print ad on the First Pinoy Manga if its selling only from 15 to 30 thousand? Better that it be placed on television, on AXN, Animax, or a nationwide broadsheet newspaper in order to get results.

In line with my arguments above, this statement is based on ignorance. In publishing, we have this multiplier that applies to circulation. Assuming you have a print run of 20,000 and all of that sells, does that mean only 20,000 people read it? The math will average it at around 100,000. Why? In your household, do each of you buy a copy of the local newspaper? Obviously not; the whole family shares one copy. Same goes with other publications, from magazines to comics. One is enough to go around the family, the barkada ("friends" or "clique"), the classroom, the office, etc. 20,000 might not seem like a lot, but 100,000 is.

The second why his argument does not work is because advertising is not just math (and that's assuming he has his figures for AXN and Animax right). Or rather, it's not simply advertising in a media that has a large audience. There's also such a thing as a target audience. The target audience of AXN, for example, is different from that of Culture Crash. Sure, there are overlapping audiences, but it's not a Coke vs Pepsi thing. Each one can also cater to a different market. One might advertise SMART on AXN, while Talk 'N Text on Culure Crash; both products are from the same company, but the target market of SMART and Talk 'N Text are different from each other.

There's also the fact that TV advertising is different from print advertising. TV advertising lasts a few seconds. Print is permanent. One also pays for each commercial aired; with print, you merely pay for the page multiplied by the circulation of the publication. There's a big difference there, as the former will only last for a certain period (i.e. if you're willing to pay for one month, the commercial gets aired only for one month), while the latter exists as long as the publication in question exists.

As for the broadsheet comparison, the target market comes into play. If you'r a niche market, you might be better off advertising in a more specialized publication. Let's say Broadsheet A has a circulation of 1,000,000 in comparision to Culture Crash with a circulation of 20,000. The former will reach more audiences, definitely, but it also comes at a higher price tag. And even then, you're not sure if the 1,000,000 people it reaches is your target market. Let's say you cater to the AB market. How many percent of the 1,000,000 is the AB market? It might be something like 10%. Why pay for a circulation of 1,000,000, when only 10% of that is your target market? It's like paying for something you want at ten times the price. Let's assume Culture Crash's market is the AB crowd (I'm assuming... I'm not saying that it really is), and 80% of its readers belong to that crowd. If you advertise there, you have more bang for your buck as there's only a 20% inflation rate, compared to the broadsheet that has a 900% inflation rate. You're getting a more concentrated market with something like Culture Crash more than a general one. I'm not saying that general advertising is bad, but for some products, it's better to focus on specific markets.

Another factor going against it is that the First Pinoy Manga appears infrequently if not unpredictably. Advertisers generally want to advertise in publications that appear regularly so their ads could be seen frequently. I suspect that any ad that appeared in its issues were "x-deals" or ads placed without monetary payment but in kind.

If there's anything valid in his entire post, it's this. However, would-be publishers can heed this advice. Advertising contracts for publications doesn't have to be stated in months or even every two months. You can make a one-year contract promising that you'll be releasing four times a year, and that their ads will appear in one, two, three, or all four of those releases for the year.

Average household spending in rural areas is Php 3,150 a month while in urban areas, its Php 3,592 (Source: Basket Behavior, Ibid.) These amounts are mostly allocated to basic necessities such as food, electricity, transportation, education, communication, and personal care products. There is almost no allocation for luxury items such as fiction books or printed comic books of any kind. So again, if I were the advertiser, its better that I advertise in an anime' television show where my target audience wouldn't have to buy anything to see my ad. All they have to do is click on the TV, watch the anime' program and voila, see my ad. Who needs the printed Pinoy Manga?

Again, it goes back to target audience. Who ever said the market of Culture Crash was the D- and E-class crowd? And if you take a look at it, it also makes sense with the "low" print run. If I was really targeting the DE market, would I just print 20,000 copies? And sell it at somewhere P100.00? And with a relatively high quality print-run (paper stock and color)? You're simply making a wrong assumption here. It's like using baseball theory on a basketball game. Right thoughts, wrong application.

No wonder the first Pinoy Manga closed shop. Business-wise, it wasn't managed well and it sure as hell wasn't that profitable. But hey, the westernized elite fans had fun and the magazine distributors earned a lot of money at their expense, didn't they?

They closed shop for a lot of reasons, and not necessarily all of them due to the industry. I mean I can think of several reasons why they closed down due to their own negligence. Their release schedule, for example. The industry is not to be blamed for that. I'd also like to point out that they survived this long not simply due to good planning, but the fact that James, the publisher, owns the printing press as well. They're able to cut cost in ways other would-be comic publishers can't (unless they happen to own a printing press as well).

I'd react more to his other "essays" on the industry, but this post is already long as it is.


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