About the TV model .... (directed at Steven but anyone, feel free to jump in here)
[Apparently I missed this post when it went up originally, because I certainly don't recall commenting on it then, and it raises some big questions for me personally]
Okay, so immediately when I read your lines:
Many comics are ugly.
Many comics are badly written and badly thought out.
Many comics are ridiculously derivative and unoriginal.
I immediately thought, 'well, in my opinion that describes pretty much every CSI show out there and every reality TV show, and they're obviously doing well, so are you perhaps saying that we should be focused on doing something GOOD as opposed to something that SELLS?' (which is a side-question: I'm guessing the goal is to be BOTH, but which do you think is better for the comics industry right now, doing GOOD material or REALLY POPULAR material? Analogously, for the sake of argument, let's say we all agree the CSI shows are crap. They're still obviously very popular. So are they good or bad for the TV industry?)
Later, you seemed to start to answer my thoughts when you said ....
and a lot of networks wouldn't agree that it's doing just fine at all, at least not for them.
To what extent is this true? The TV marketing strategy just baffles me (especially now that, I've heard said multiple times, the whole 'sweeps week' idea is pretty much meaningless), and I'm really curious: is their paid-for-by-commercials paradigm starting to fall apart? Has it been on the verge of collapse for years? Is it a model that COULD work for comics, if implemented? (This was my grand scheme when still trying to produce something.) I'm extremely curious on feedback on this whole topic, and I'd love if you, Steven (or others, since obviously many who read this thread are in one business or the other) expounded on why the TV advertising model could or could not work for comics, and where TV stands in and of itself as a marketing ideology, if you will.
There are already comics working on something quite similar to the TV model - web comics, which support their distribution via advertising, gain additional money from licensing, and can get additional income from collecting the material into for-pay print editions (a la DVD sets).
If you're talking about print comics, however, it'd be a bit more uphill to make it work. The marginal production and distribution costs of a print item are much higher than the marginal bandwidth cost of internet distribution, and it doesn't cost the TV station any more when one more person turns on their set.
There are giveaway publications that have non-advertising content and support themselves on advertising. However, the ones that come immediately to mind have one focus: local content and primarily local advertising. The alternative weekly newspapers, for example, which give you some local arts coverage, local movie listings, concert info, and so forth. The local phone book with the yellow pages ads for local merchants. The local content make it particularly important to the local reader, and the local advertisers are willing to pay the higher costs to reach the audience in that targeted locality, in contrast to the financial efficiencies of national advertising.
A giveaway comic, even with local content, seems unlikely to have things that the average local person will feel the need for.