Someone was asking on Google+ the other day which sites people used most often for comic related news. Not surprisingly, Comics Alliance, CBR and Newsarama came up more than a couple times. But I responded that I get most of my comic news directly from the sources themselves by monitoring them on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. With all of the interest around Thrillbent, for example, I heard most of it because I read it on Mark Waid's Twitter feed. Not that I never check comic news sites, of course, but they're not my primary go-to sources.
Which makes for an interesting dilemma for those who aren't looking far down the road yet. If enough people get their information directly from the source -- whether that's Twitter or some new-fangled shiny doodad of the moment -- then how does one get the word out about their projects? What I mean by that is: how does a creator who's new to the field and no one has ever heard make his message heard if all of his/her potential audience isn't congregating in one place like Newsarama? If the potential audience is following creators they know they like, how do they discover others that they might also like?
Well, currently, there are two solutions to this, but neither are guaranteed or ideally realized just yet.
First is to rely on some algorithm to tell your potential audience, "Hey, if you like this creator that you already follow, you might also like this new guy!" The technology for that is in its infancy right now, so it's hit or miss, at best. This also seems to only work well for relatively well-established folks who have a pretty good following already. Right now, for example, Twitter is suggesting I follow Brian Michael Bendis and Publishers Weekly -- both pretty well-known names in comics and publishing. And, as if to prove just how bad this technology is right now, it's also suggesting Adam Schefter, who's apparently an NFL reporter for ESPN. I don't even like sports, much less football, and have never Tweeted or blogged about either so I have to assume he's being suggested only because he has 1.5 million followers. It's certainly possible, if not inevitable, this type of technology will improve over time, but it'll be a while before this is really a viable avenue for getting the word out.
The second option is to hit up people that you know. Currently, a lot of folks send their PR material to the various news outlets, but I think that's started to shift to their being sent to taste-makers. Your name might not be well-known, but if you can catch the attention of someone whose name is more popular, they might be able to redirect some traffic your way. How many projects have gotten huge boosts, for example, because Warren Ellis said something about them? Or Neil Gaiman? Or Wil Wheaton? These are guys who command a lot of attention and when they say, "Hey, this looks cool" a lot of people will turn their attention to it. Even if only 1% of Ellis' Twitter followers decide to start following my blog, for example, that's over 20 times the traffic I get right now. But if 1% of my readers turned their attention to some project I highlighted, that's still a significant step up from zero. So while it probably wouldn't help Gaiman perceptibly if I reviewed his Sandman books, for example, a review of a new comic from a creator few people have heard of could help sales there.
Of course, catching someone's attention and keeping it are two very different things. You're still on the hook for delivering on whatever it was that caught someone's attention in the first place. But it's going to be interesting to watch over the next few years as people start figuring this out, and send more material to Ellis or Gaiman than they do to CBR or any of the other big news web sites. Interesting, too, to see how those taste-makers react and start formally addressing what they will and won't look through.
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