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An offer they can't refuse possibly maybe.

When Scott Kurtz gets serious for a moment, you'd better listen. From his talk at San Diego Comic-Con, 2004:

...If Coca-cola wants to use newspaper advertising to strengthen it's brand, it has to pay for that kind of exposure. The syndicates makes millions from their comic features via books, television, movies and merchandise. The only way they are able to sustain that kind of income is due to the exposure and advertising that the newspapers give them. But the syndicates offer nothing in return. The funny pages are full of retreaded old strips that have lived way past their prime. Entertainment wise, they provide nothing. The syndicates really got a sweet deal. But that's about to change.

...

This year, the California based company Knight Ridder, which owns 31 daily papers around the country, has demanded a 20 percent reduction in the rates its papers pay for comic strips. If the syndicates don't comply, Knight Ridder is threatening to cancel more than 100,000 dollars worth of business. The newspapers are wising up and they're unwilling to pay. The Syndicates have nothing to offer them save a large bill. I've talked to a couple of syndicated cartoonists and even they see the writing's on the wall. One cartoonist, who I won't name, said to me "If any one newspaper would get the balls to just 86 their comics page, and suffer through the months of letters they would receive, we'd be done for. Once the papers realize they can survive dropping the comics page, everyone will do it."

He discusses being approached by a syndicate only to find that they wouldn't allow him to retain the rights to it. So instead of taking the syndicate's offer, he makes one himself:

In the coming months, I'll be putting into effect, a program in which papers can receive PVP for free. That's right, free. They don't have to pay me a cent for it. I will provide for the papers, a comic strip with a larger established audience then any new syndicated feature, a years worth of strips in advance, and I won't charge them a cent for it.

The exposure and prestige of PvP appearing in daily papers would more than pay for itself in a months time. In exchange, I can offer the papers a comics feature that's tried and tested, funny and best of all, free. They have nothing to lose or risk financially. They can see, in advance, a years worth of strips so they don't risk me flaking out on them. Most of all, I can provide them with yet another bargaining chip against the very syndicates. This is the perfect climate to take this step.

I've always been wary of trading free work for exposure, except when, like in Scott's case, the trade-off is offered by the one doing the work. Scott generally knows what he's doing (witness the success of PVP online and the PVP comic books) It'll be interesting to see how this pans out in a year's time.

Comments (1)

I really doubt that any paper with a significant circulation will take Kurtz up on his offer.

1) He draws a gaming strip. That's a niche audience (a large niche on the 'Net, but a tiny one among newspaper subscribers)

2) Newspaper editors really don't like comics. They consider them a waste of space that could be filled with articles or, better, advertisements, and have hung on to them for so long because they're afraid people will cancel their subscriptions. Knight-Ridder isn't threatening to dump comics just because they sense weakness in the syndicates; they're threatening to dump comics because they sense that they won't lose many subscribers if they do.

3) As far as they're concerned, Scott Kurtz is just some schmuck drawing comics in his mom's basement. Companies like doing business with other companies.

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