The digital revolution has wreaked havoc in nearly every corner in the print publishing game — except, surprisingly, comic books. According to Tom DiChristopher at cnbc.com, print sales in comics are thriving alongside the rise of their digital counterparts.
“Print comic book revenues have been on the rise in recent years,” DiChrisopher says, “even as digital comics' sales boom. Print receipts have held up at a time when publishers have introduced all-you-can-download subscriptions that offer thousands of comics for a flat monthly or annual fee.”
In 2014, digital comics revenues excluding unlimited subscriptions reached $100 million, according to ICv2— up from just $1 million seven years ago, when ICv2 started collecting data. Meanwhile, the North American market for print comics grew from an estimated range of $650 to $700 million in 2009 to $835 million in 2014, according to ICv2 and the Comics Chronicle. That includes sales of single issues at comic shops and newsstands as well as book channel sales of trade paperbacks, or collected volumes of comics.
There are signs digital comics are butting up against the law of large numbers. Sales growth slowed in 2014 to 11 percent, down from 29 percent in 2013 and 180 percent in 2012. In the coming years, it could be more difficult to keep growing the readership.
Weekly circulation of newspapers is down 17 percent over the last decade, and advertising sales have plummeted more than 50 percent, according to Pew Research Center. Magazine ad revenue is forecast to see only minimal growth through 2019 on the strength of digital sales after five years of decline, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“To be sure,” DiChrisopher continues, “comics are relatively new to the digital domain [and as time passes, the situation for comics may change and parallel the fates of music and print media]. Creators have been uploading web comics since the rise of the commercial internet in the '90s. However, mainstream comics didn't migrate online in any significant numbers until smartphones and tablets became commonplace.”