The Calculus Of Change

By | Friday, April 24, 2009 Leave a Comment
Seth Godin, called by American Way Magazine "America's Greatest Marketer", recently recounted (if ever so briefly) the death of WordPerfect...
What happened was that the change in operating system created a moment when people had to pick. They had to either switch to Word or wait for a new version of WordPerfect. In that moment, "do nothing" was not an option.

So, in an economy which has seen four straight months of job losses that topped 600,000 each (At least, here in the U.S. Other countries are having, in some cases, a worse time of things; Spain's unemployment rate just passed 17% and is expected to get worse!) there are increasing numbers of people who are having to give up even the smallest of luxuries just to survive on a severally curtailed (sometimes non-existent) income. And that means there's less money for them to spend on comic books. They can't not change their behavior because that could literally starve them to death. Doing nothing different is not an option.

Historically anecdotal evidence to the contrary, there are most definitely people who have to give up comic books because of the recession. The folks at Blog@Newsarama recently posted a "how have your buying habits changed lately" question and you can read through loads of responses where person after person state that they're buying fewer pamphlet books or switching to TPBs or finding another retailer (mainly online and/or mail order) to receive a heftier discount. This will certainly begin showing up as decreased sales, and it's only the recent price increases that will keep the publishers from seeing a significant decrease in revenue.

But the changes in buying habits people are listing? They were prompted largely by the recession. People's hours have been cut or they've been laid off or the price increases were just too much to bear. But there was an external impetus that prompted them to action. Doing nothing different was not an option.

Now, the original question B@N asked was specifically framed around monthly pamphlet comics. And, without any suggestion or prompting, people began responding with comments like...

"I look forward to digital distribution that will (hopefully) make monthly comics afordable again."

"I want to read most of them for the story content and feel no real ownership of the physical copy. I'd be happy to pay a lower price for digital copies of the comics but Marvel and DC seem to want to suffer the same fate as the recording industry."

"...Which hasn't stopped people from going to illegal downloads from pirate groups like DCP or Minutemen. In fact, some of the DCPers have noted that since the $3.99 books started, the number of n00bz looking for downloads has jumped almost five-fold."

So, not only are readers changing their old buying habits, they're actively looking for existing publishers to respond to the changing market. Doing nothing different is not an option. Godin went on to say...
When people have to pick, they have to confront some of the fear and organizational barriers that lead to the status quo.

It seems to me, then, that the best time for a marketer to grow is when clients have to pick something. Seeking these moments out is inexpensive and productive.

Doing nothing different is not an option.

Which makes me wonder all the more, why are comic publishers still doing the same things that they've been doing?
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