Behind Wowio's Curtain

By | Friday, August 24, 2007 2 comments
I've talked before about Wowio, an online service that allows users to download comics and various other books for free. I find this fascinating because A) I can download and read comics for free, and B) it's an interesting look at how businesses are trying to figure out the online web comics marketplace.

I've stumbled upon an interesting nugget on Wowio's business plan. Gina Biggs had her Erstwhile #1 uploaded to Wowio a couple of weeks ago. As near as I can tell, it's the only outlet she's using for distribution currently. What's particularly interesting is that Gina makes note on her web site that she is paid fifty cents for every copy of the book that's downloaded. (Although I have to presume that it is in fact limited to fifty cents per account that downloads it. Otherwise, I could make a mint downloading the same issue over and over again.)

Doing a little back-of-the-envelope math, let's assume that, if it were printed traditionally, it would have a sell-through of around 3,000 copies. As a Wowio download, I think it's reasonable to presume that a quarter of that number might be downloaded. (While the "free" aspect would certainly entice more viewers, I think that'd be considerably offset by the limitation of needing to have a Wowio account.) That gives us a very rough estimate of 750 issues and, at fifty cents each, a profit of $375 to Gina. Not a huge sum, to be sure, but not insignificant when you start weighing in some of the added benefits...
  1. Zero production costs. Gina can distribute this without having to put any cash upfront for printing, shipping, etc.
  2. Minimal work needed for promotion. If she were trying to sell a traditional comic, half the battle would be simply shuffling from one convention to another, buying a table, sitting there for days on end, and maybe selling a half-dozen issues. Here, Gina can sit on the couch watching reruns of M*A*S*H and Wowio is going to plug her book as one of the recent uploads, as well as suggest it to folks with their "If you like this, you might also like..." lists.
  3. Less competition. In the still-burgeoning digital comics arena, she has a leg up on many, many other creators. A fair portion of Wowio's content are simply digital version of existing print comics. Very few are digital only.
  4. Potentially larger audience. A traditional comic is going to be seen by people who go into comic book shops, and that's about it. Wowio can (but I don't know if they actually do) generate additional interest with cross-over traffic from the folks who are just looking for "regular" books.
Now whether Gina comes out ahead on the deal in the long-run, I don't know. But it seems to me that she can put this type of thing out there, make some money on it, get a bigger name for herself, and can spend more of her the rest of her time focusing on paying the rent, rather than just hawking her comic.

I still think Wowio is a great idea, certainly at a conceptual level, and I hope that their business model works for them. I think Gina has taken a solid approach to getting her work out in the industry with a fairly low level of financial risk. It should come as no surprise that I'll be keeping my eye on her and Wowio to see how things continue to develop.
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DaVince said...

One MAJOR downside is that it's "for US people only". Not even a proxy will help you on that one.

Anonymous said...

the program 'hotspot shield' gets past that though... u just need an email account which isn't "public"