On History: Looking Backwards AND Forwards

By | Tuesday, December 09, 2014 Leave a Comment
Tom Spurgeon posted some notes/commentary about his upcoming move to Ohio and starting up Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. He hints at a lot of interesting things, both with regards to upcoming plans as well as those that have been in the works apparently since at least July. But since we're talking history today, I'd like to call attention to this passage...
CR, completely independent of my taking the gig in Columbus, has been experiencing trouble for quite some time. I'll be announcing several changes in the way I do CR, changes that are long overdue and may help me to continue doing it and make for a better publication/source in the next few weeks. The model we started in 2004 and still use today doesn't really work anymore. I hope you'll bear with me and I hope you'll be open to me pitching a few things at you at an appropriate time.
What exactly he means, I'm not sure, and I'm too rushed at the moment to try to pester him enough to find out. He could mean how he writes the site, how he organizes the site, how he finances the site... The point, though, is that he recognizes that the site as it exists now is out of alignment with what should be done with it. With what's do-able and/or what's expected in today's culture.

Think about 2004 for a moment. Facebook didn't exist. Twitter didn't exist. YouTube didn't exist. Social media, for all practical purposes, wasn't a thing. MySpace had only been around one year. The iPhone wouldn't be released for another three years. How people created and consumed media was completely different.

San Diego Comic-Con attendance had yet to break 100,000, and had just started using the now-infamous Hall H. The second X-Men and Spider-Man films had just been released, and proved that maybe this superhero-genre-in-film-thing wasn't just a one-off. Marvel and DC had published line-wide stories, but it wasn't an ongoing thing; "Civil War" and "One Year Later" were still a couple years off. Digital comics (legal ones, at any rate) didn't exist, and comiXology was still a few years off. How fans approached and read comics was completely different.

Webcomics were only a decade old, and we were only just beginning to see some success stories. Girl Genius hadn't switched to an online format yet. There was no such thing as xkcd. Robert Khoo had only been working with Penny Arcade for a year or so. PvP had just been picked up for a print run with Image. People were still very much unsure how to make money at webcomics, and even the few that were seemed to be radical, almost unheard of exceptions. How people looked at and thought about webcomics was completely different.

Everything that was designed for life in 2004 doesn't necessarily make sense in 2014. The landscape has changed. Anyone who continues to run a business (like Comics Reporter) as if it were still 2004 will only continue based on whatever momentum may have already built up; there will be people waiting to step in and take over with more contemporary ideas if you aren't able to update your business models. Because society and technology changes whether you like it or not, you can't afford to keep doing the same things you've been doing because it worked in the past.

History can be useful as a guide, certainly. But tying yourself to a model because of history is a sure way to head towards obsolesence.
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