August 15, 2010
An addendum to the previous blog post.
At present, there’s really only about three states that webcomics are functioning in.
- The first and most common is stand-alone, or in business terms “self-employed”. These are webcomics like Remember that have their own servers and their own proprieters and whatnot and don’t really answer to anyone outside themselves for their operations.
- The second is a step away from that, a conglomerate or clustering, often called a syndicate (As if that could sound more evil, I don’t know). In business terms this might be a “parternship”, it’s a small group of webcomics banding together and supporting one another. Questionable Content is part of this selection, with it’s presence in the Dayfree Press group.
- The third and farthest from out starting point is the “franchises” or “subsidiaries” of webcomics at the moment, places like webcomicsnation (Home of BACK-SPACE) where one big company keeps track of the servers and hosting and such which others can build their webcomics on top of at the cost of…well…quite a bit in most cases. These are generally the easiest to get into but usually at the cost of most of your aesthetic and statistical freedoms, I often hear BACK-SPACE’s Vikkie Moule bemoaning the total invisibility of her own traffic stats.
So we’re sort of at one of the earliest points in evolutionary history. Our base organisms (#1) are mostly floating about with little care in the world and forming some basic multicelled organisms, mostly parasites (#3) or simple critters (#2).
The closest to what I imagine is necessary for the economic and creative security of webcomics in the future is actually already around in #2. Dayfree Press advertise eachother on their individual webcomics but they don’t really have much interaction between them, though most of the creators talk to one another.
If Dayfree Press is a syndicate, then what I’m imagining is more of the whole criminal underworld. Or, in our previous biological terms, a simple critter to a full-blown complex organism. In the words of Carl Sagan “We’re made of trillions of cells, within us is a little universe.”
Understandably, communication between so many creators would be tremendous and difficult to manage freeform. Word of mouth and traditional communication methods would be entirely overwhelmed if everyone was talking to everyone else. Imagine every human on earth shouting at once, the sound (distance not withstanding) would be tremendous. Much as I dislike the idea of centralising a hive like this, there’d need to be a central communications core, one with a very serious chunk of power behind its hosting.
A WebHub, as it were.
Because of that necessary server strength, booting up this behemoth would require a personal sacrifice on the part of the more profitable and successful webcomics today, the financial costs would be significant. Divided amongst them however, it’s a drop in the bucket to what it could produce.
Imagine a kind of webcomic creator’s craigslist, an open forum where users could talk to one another and request aid in whatever form they need (I imagine a lot of new threads would be regarding hosting in this creature, c’est la vie). The barest of administration, almost everyone on the exact same level. Not because of power struggles, but simply because placing more responsibility in the Hub in certain members would insinuate they were somehow more influential.
WebHub, once off the ground, would probably be run by donation. Members (each a webcomic creator) would give a little bit of their earnings, however meagre, to the cost of keeping the Hub operating and paid for. Fundamentally however, WebHub would only be a forum, perhaps with a dedicated list of operating webcomics; there wouldn’t be any hosting available because it would exist only for communication between creators. It would not be a hosting service like webcomicsnation at all.
Once WebHub has everyone talking to everyone else, then real things start happening. With the provision of a natural trust (nothing too grand, I wouldn’t dream of saying we should blindly do whatever anyone asks), the occasional hyperlink or shout-out in a comic or blog post by big names and small would level the playing field substantially. What began then as a brain in WebHub now has grown a nervous system.
And finally, the biggest step: Financial intercommunication. If someone is having trouble getting their hosting one month, slip them a pound or a dollar or two, mention in a post that there’s a comic struggling a bit to get on it’s feet. If someone had a car accident and needs money to cover things for a little while, slip them a little more. There’s no overt implication that they should pay you back later, this is just charitable good will throughout the community.
Through WebHub, finances start flowing throughout the whole industry. Money is distributed wherever it’s needed the most, no-one stands alone when they’re having a hard time in the economy for whatever reason. If no-one has a problem, no-one needs your money. It’s just that simple, heck it’s practically just samaritanism, but it’s something that doesn’t exist in almost any industry to date.
So from just getting everyone talking to one another, we have our brain in WebHub. A central nervous system grew from name drops and links. And finally, with everyone in financial security, a heart is beating within the giant organism that is the new revolutionised webcomics industry. What happens next? Muscles and ligaments.
Figuratively speaking of course, but with money freely distributed throughout the network, bigger things can take place. Conventions purely for webcomics start to appear, charities driven by the industry help and save millions, publishers entirely under the ownership of the industry crop up. The new media giant has finally arrived in webcomics.
I don’t know if this will happen in my lifetime, if at all. But I do know this much: It will be necessary soon, and it will be a glorious golden age to behold.