Jim Lee's Digital visual analogy

I'm just back from Dallas, and the 2011 ComicsPRO meeting. It was a very very very good meeting -- there is literally not a more productive weekend in comics on the calendar, though a lot of what happened and was discussed won't, necessarily, interest you the consumer. I will, I think, have a much fuller report in a few weeks inย  the next TILTING, but in the meantime I want to share one bit while its still fresh in my mind.

A lot of time was spent on discussing Digital, as you might expect, but early on on the first day, DC co-Publisher Jim Lee made a visual analogy that sort of guided my thinking for the rest of the weekend.

Jim held up two hands. In one hand he had a regular 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper, and in the other, he had a piece of dental floss. The former, he said, represented the revenues from print comics. The latter? Revenue from digital.

Now, clearly, digital will continue to grow -- heck, maybe with a lot of effort and brain cycles, it might even grow to be the size, say, of an index card, but the actual real on-the-ground reality of digital comics sales are that they are a virtually (heh) insignificant way of making money for the publishers.

This same idea was echoed again and again and again by each and every publisher at the meeting, and even the very providers of digital services: this is not a significant revenue generator as of yet, and certainly NOWHERE NEAR able to match, let alone surpass, the sales from physical print comics.

We're a niche market. A successful niche, to be sure, but a niche nonetheless, and not one that simply putting comics content in front of civilians will INHERENTLY and effortlessly drive sales of any huge value to the overwhelming majority of the market participants. As near as I can tell, most to the evidence says that digital is selling primarily to the lapsed or geographically-unable-to-participate markets (40%, I kept hearing over and over again, of sales are coming from Europe) (40% of a piece of dental floss, remember!)

If you're a rah-rah digital booster, that's perfectly fine. But I'd ask you not to make the same mistakes of the previous generations of fans-but-not-business-people who have said things like "If only we had comics related movies, that will fix all of our problems!" or "Manga sales are going to solve all of our problems!" or "If only we were in bookstores, we'd solve all our problems!" or any of that. All of these theories have turned out to.... well, not be reality-based is the kindest way to put it.

Digital isn't a magic bullet, and virtually every person with an actual business involvement in the production and sales of comics understands this. Digital is magic dental floss.