On Business: What Happens When..?

By | Monday, January 16, 2017 1 comment
You may have heard this weekend that Ringling Brothers is shutting down operations later this year, just a couple years shy of their formal centennial. (The 146 year number cited in reports includes the years of performing before the original Ringling brothers purchased P.T. Barnum and James Bailey's show, merging the two into a single circus troupe with double-"and" name.) That's a long time for any business to remain in operation and that they remained viable through the advent of radio, movies, television, video games, and who knows how many other forms of entertainment is laudable. Very, very few businesses can trace their records that far back.

We've seen some impressive anniversaries in comics publishing too in recent years. DC, Marvel, and Archie have all shot past their 75th anniversaries and are working their ways towards 100. Whether they actually make to 100 remains to be seen, of course, but they seem to have weathered some harsh storms already. While I wouldn't suggest any of them can count on smooth sailing, they have shown they can adapt to changing conditions.

Interestingly the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company in 1955 was right around 75 years. I don't think any comics publishers would have qualified as Fortune 500 back then, but it's interesting that they have the longevity of them. More interestingly, though, is that the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company today is less than 15 years! Of those 1955-era companies, only 61 still show up on the Fortune 500 today. That's 12%. 88% of companies that were expected to have a 75 year lifespan didn't last 50 years.

All companies fail at some point. Just as all people die. Eventually, we'll get to a point where DC, Marvel, and Archie don't exist. Just like Fawcett, Charlton, Quality, and countless other publishers don't exist today. But, when one of those companies folds, what happens to the comics you bought from them?


You bought the comic. It's yours. You keep it as long as you like. It doesn't matter what happens to the publisher as far as that specific comic you purchased is concerned. That's why, as I'm sitting here typing, I can literally see books in my collection from First Comics, Pacific Comics, Eclipse Comics, NOW Comics, Atomeka Press, and Gold Key amid the books from Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse.

So my question today is: what happens when comiXology goes out of business? I don't wish them to, of course, but sooner or later, they will, just like Ringling Brothers. What happens to all the comics you purchased from them?

Just something to think about.
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Reno said...

Quite right. That's why DRM has to go. Even with DRM, pirates still found a way to download and distribute digital comics. The ones being affected are the honest folk who purchased legally, but because they're honest, don't know how to circumvent DRM in order to save their comic purchases on their devices.

iTunes has done away with DRM for almost a decade, and sales didn't decline because of it.