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a indústria dos webcomics

In the beginning there were no webcomics,” Ms. Gambrell wrote, “and then there were just enough that you could read all of them, and then there were just enough that you could be reasonably sure you were reading all the good ones but then there was enough infrastructure that you could start your own, and you didn’t need to set up a website, or a shopping cart (you never needed to draw).

Anteriormente abordámos a indústria dos cómicos no digital e nessa introdução contrapusemos à tendência específica que nos importa: os webcomics. Antes de prosseguirmos mais o tema devemos fazer este pequeno-longo parêntesis. Os webcomics não estão isentos dessa conspurcação que afecta todo e qualquer ímpeto artístico, e como os spandex também eles são permeáveis à tentação de se comercializar: não os romantizamos.

Para o resto desta crónica remetemos essencialmente para uma série de quatro artigos publicados no ano passado no Observer - na tão apropriada para o caso - secção Business & Tech:

The Webcomics Business Is Moving on From Webcomics
http://observer.com/2015/11/webcomics-changing-business-model/

Patreon, Webcomics and Getting By
http://observer.com/2015/11/patreon-webcomics-and-getting-by/

The Changing Internet Through Webcomics
http://observer.com/2015/11/webcomics-and-the-changing-web/

Lessons in Creativity From Successful Webcomic Artists
http://observer.com/2015/11/lessons-in-creativity-from-successful-webcomic-artists/

Não vamos discriminar entre os 4, partam do pressuposto que qualquer citação sem prova em contrário veio de lá - sorry folks: if ya wanna rip it, u gonna read it :) - e todos os outros links encontrarás facilmente nos lugares cimeiros do google.

Numa série de entrevistas a conhecidos autores do grande público webiano -por nenhuma ordem em particular...:

K.C. Green "Gun Show", David Malki "Wondermark", Winston Rowntree "Subnormality", John Allison "Scary Go Round", Dave McElfatrick "Cyanide & Happiness" "Explosm", Dorothy Gambrell "Cat & Girl", Ryan North "Dinosaur Comics", ?? "Amazing Super Powers", Drew Fairweather "Toothpaste for Dinner", Zack Weinersmith "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal", Dylan Meconis "PvP", R.K. Milholland "Something Positive", etc-

-podemos resumir o ponto de partida em quatro citações:

webcomics is the business of posting strips online for free

the consensus among these artists is that new technology has forced change

nearly everyone that remains is actively diversifying their income streams. Many have deemphasized comics

advertising and merchandising have been the webcomic industry’s monetization constants since the early days, while social media has proved to be more threat than ally

Transversal nestas passagens encontramos razões da natureza frenética da web que ainda está longe de assumir qualquer tipo de forma ou funcionamento estável e definitivo. No que respeita aos webcomics a grande revolução actual e principal desafio reside nas redes sociais: o advento de novas tecnologias e novas plataformas - e novas funcionalidades - foi ao mesmo tempo penalizada com novos comportamentos e hábitos que ameaçam o modelo "tradicional" dos webcomics como estes sempre existiram:

a hit webcomic in the early 2000s during the online ads boom could become a very healthy living (...) But web ads are a fickle patron.

"Gunshow" de K.C. Green - now a classic.

Hit it:

the ‘10s seem to be offering creators more possibilities than the ‘00’s did. Yet those are also remembered as boom times by some

the business of webcomics rolled along smoothly until the great T-shirt crash of 2008

between ads and merch, popular webcomics could make a profit or even thrive, until the financial crisis shocked the system

Aqui fazemos um parêntesis ao parêntesis e recordamos um artigo de 2011 2 agosto 2011 para comparação: apenas 4 anos antes o advertisement sustentava os nossos criadores a ponto de alguns se poderem considerar profissionais da área, sobrevivendo desafogadamente de uma dieta exclusiva de banners e merchandising:

mostly they earn money from merchandise sales, supplemented by advertising and donations

O sucesso da solução encontrada era suficientemente generoso para na introdução ao artigo se apontar os webcomics como provavelmente a única actividade nativamente web que sempre gerou retorno desde o seu início numa altura em que um pouco por todo o lado todas as grandes indústrias ainda se interrogavam como poderiam algum dia –se o podiam de todo- sustentar algum modelo de negócio que lhes permitisse monetizar a internet.

E business was good, bom ao ponto de recusarem o modelo habitual de syndication para os seus cómicos:

but for Jacques [“Questionable Content”] and many other webcomic artists, syndication is out of the picture: “There’s no real money in that,’’ he says

if a syndicate came to me and offered me a hundred newspapers, I would probably say no’’ [Rowland, wigucomics.com]

Mas de volta a 2015,

T-shirts have tanked.

À distância de hoje é-nos mais fácil avaliar essas transformações, mas leia-se um desabafo em plena convulsão para compreenderem as implicações à data. De volta a 2012, apenas um ano depois dos nossos webcomianos afastarem contractos ao pontapé:

I studied up on the “webcomic business model”. Growing an online readership, pageviews, unique hits, referrals, advertising and ad revenue, collectives, voting/rating/popularity websites & incentives to GET people to vote, to mirror or not to mirror your archives, self publishing, zazzle & cafepress… the list goes on, and we all know it well. We’ve all done it. We’ve tried each and every tactic, hoping this next endeavor will be the one that gets our comic the exposure it needs to get to the next level. We follow the main rules of the webcomic business (you know, if you’re serious about it):

1. Be consistent and stick to your schedule. NEVER miss updates.
2. MORE updates. More deadlines. More blog posts. If you’re sleeping, you’re a slacker… FIVE days a week or you’re not serious! (well, maybe not that harsh, but you know that voice in your head has said it.)
3. Be a social media whore. Promote, promote, promote.
4. Guest comics, fanart, share other’s work, comment on their sites… you have to give back, too.
5. Find/join/create a collective. Network. Start doing comic cons.

I followed the rules. Where’s my success?
Instead, I see a plateau. I have kept the readers I have made over the years.

Open For Debate: Ditching the Webcomic Business Model 14 novembro 2012

Apesar de contrariada, esta autora teve um seu pequeno momento de clarividência:

Screw page views. SCREW ‘EM. It doesn’t matter. If Z&F isn’t going to suddenly be popular among the webcomic readers demographic, then ad revenue is never going to be a viable source of income. So, page views, unique viewers, stats in general are practically worthless to me.

...destaque nosso mas este é o punk em mim a falar agora. Voltaremos a este tema na nossa última parte dos comics no digital, webcomics, media & punk!

As redes sociais que inicialmente instigavam um maior tráfico aos sites acabaram por secá-lo quase por completo quando os seus utilizadores se habituaram a confundir o Facebook com a totalidade da web e raramente se aventuram hoje fora dela. Foi um game changer: o declínio de visitantes aos sites conduziu à queda de receitas por parte dos patrocinadores.

David Malki, who makes Wondermark, thinks it plateaued in 2011 and 2012. “It’s not something people mention a lot, but I think it corresponds with the time where people stopped going to websites

every day, more people seem to lose webcomic sites from their daily routine

it used to be a tight community where people were assiduous about directing readers to other comics they liked (...) but in recent years that’s become a lot less prevalent

at first, social media drove bursts in traffic. Discovery! Growth! Over time, though, the social sites became more jealous of their users. All our sources agreed, people have clicked out of Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr less and less.

I think the biggest change is the way in which people use the web. For so many people, Facebook is their Internet. (...) as social media brought more people online, it also gave them other things to do

there are more eyes, but there are more distractions

Nota humorística: a crise afectou mais uns do que outros, alguns seguiram desde o início um caminho menos arriscado:

[Dorothy Gambrell] She opted for a classic approach to diversifying her income stream: a job

Humor à parte, há uma razão para essa pequena nota, e voltaremos a ela no "punx'r'us". Entretanto poderíamos nem estar a perder o nosso e vosso tempo com estes temas se efectivamente a web e o Facebook se confundissem num só. Mas juntamente às redes sociais a web trouxe-nos outro tipo de plataforma e comportamentos: o crowdfunding – que, curiosamente, pode encontrar as suas origens nos próprios webcomics. Hoje estas ferramentas tornaram-se a principal fonte de receita dos webcomidianos há muito estabelecidos e mesmo aos recém chegados do mercado - e voltaremos a abordar o crowdfunding nessa ocasião futura. Para já, notamos apenas que esses serviços sustentam os webcomics “comerciais” na era das redes sociais e dos ad-blockers.

these days I find most people do both advertising and merchandise, but of course the most disruptive (in a good way) has been sites like Patreon, which let readers directly fund cartoonists

Ainda que uma salutar dose de cepticismo se recomende: afinal a web é ainda um work-in-progress de modas muito imprevisíveis:

they’re riding that old business model into the sunset adding on Patreon and Kickstarter and whatever other Internet website wants to take a cut of money for asking people to give you money in the way that’s deemed socially acceptable this year

Antes de concluirmos este resumo da monetarização dos webcomics devemos ainda salientar igualmente a disparidade de escalas cinzas que separam criadores conhecidos. Dois exemplos:

there is an important point to make first—my business is not a business in the sense of being a small and medium sized enterprise or even particularly entrepreneurial,” John Allison, the creator of the site Scary Go Round, said. “It is a lifestyle business—I make comics because I like the activity of writing and drawing. It is a self-sustaining, one-man enterprise

Drew Fairweather, the creator of the disarming Toothpaste for Dinner and co-creator of Married to the Sea, has largely moved on from webcomics, strategically. “In 2010 I hired a trio of illustrators (located in China) who are insanely great artists, and they’ve illustrated Toothpaste For Dinner since then”

Em resumo: ao nosso queixume sobre a indústria dos cómicos e a sua vertente digital não consagramos uma falsa virtude de uns webcomics. O pursuit comercial coexiste, persiste, resiste, insiste. A praga é universal:

starting out as artists and turning into entrepreneurs

Entre estes há os que optem por caminhos mais elementares:

some new artists have moved their work entirely onto social networks

Há quem se venda descaradamente:

a webcomic is less about a comic and more about an entertainment website philosophy

Há os puritanos:

I am always afraid I’ll be the print cartoonist in 20 years

E os que se desfazem dos rótulos:

‘webcomics’ is a pretty dated term. I have been a comics professional for 12 years

some people who made ‘webcomics’ back when ‘webcomics’ were ‘webcomics’ are making comics now and doing really well at that

Mas a todos eles podemos acusar –note-se! “acusar”!- o mesmo predicado:

once a creator starts to earn appreciable income from their artistic output, it raises profound questions about what their work means and what money means.

Falaremos de webcomics num future installment pela promessa e potencialidade que lhes vemos, e este aspecto está-nos no cerne da questão. Mas neste apanhado de artigos roçaram já na evidência das mesmas, ainda que não as tenham explicitamente soletrado. Transcrevemos:

‘webcomics’ it’s one content delivery system among many, which is really what it always was (...) and few content delivery systems have a fan base

A preocupação sobre o “fan base” denota a intencionalidade do seu autor, mas a mesma lógica nos será pacifica quando revisitarmos o tema sobre o prisma do canal sem que nada devamos à comercialização dos seus conteúdos enquanto fim em si. Felizmente,

the open web doesn’t present the same opportunities that it once did for this breed of visual narrative. The next generation of artists may need to look elsewhere to stand out (...) but whatever space someone points to and says comics couldn’t possibly make money there, that might be a good place to try 

- se estes artistas tornados empreendedores abandonarem a open web em busca da sua carreira, estamos convencidos que a promessa de um new breed of visual narratives está ao virar da esquina. Mas adiantamo-nos. E adiantamo-nos bastante agora, mas há que ter esperança :)

Webcomics are dead. Right? That’s not a bad thing (...) Comics are doing great. The little arbitrary wall that was built around ‘things on the Internet’ is just gone.

Acrescentamos nós: ‘cuz tha internet is now on things.

Não podemos fechar este capítulo sobre $$ e webcomics sem registar o caso mais extremo que podemos apontar. Se nos States os webcomics –na perspectiva “guiteniana”- ou estão mortos ou recomendam-se à custa dos patronos, do outro lado do mundo a realidade é muito diferente.

Já o dissemos antes, não somos de modo algum simpatizantes da solução –

Não lhe apontamos qualquer verdade absoluta ou sequer uma predileção pelo tipo de conteúdo que promove - por via dos seus “transmedia tie-ins” estes assemelham-se demasiado a um “produto”, não uma “BD”
In Real Nós

- mas note-se a diferença:

Following a trend of cooking shows and DIY home interior shows that have churned out star chefs and self-taught designers, unconventional webcomics have now newly emerged as a new leader in the local entertainment business

"Comedian Yang Se-hyeong, top, and webcomic artist Lee Mal-nyeon" in koreatimes.co.kr

Aposto que nunca tinhas imaginado ler uma citação dessas no teu tempo de vida. Falamos, obviamente, do caso Coreano onde os webcomics continuam a sua mescla aos audiovisuais. Extraído de uma notícia recente 18 agosto 2016:

The economic ripple effect of well-made content is beyond what we can imagine, since webcomics can be extended to other cultural content

the increased activities of webcomic artists prove the elevated position of webcomics in the entertainment business

at a time when comedy programs, which have long been the traditional channel for producing entertainers, are going downhill, local broadcasting companies are increasingly eyeing those webcomic artists with their unique and trendy ideas

more and more webcomics authors are escaping from their cyber realm and entering the small screen

behind their ordinary looks, webcomic artists with their unique characters surely stand out. Since they have a trend-sensitive job, where they should communicate with their fans in real time, they have rich ideas to draw a stronger viewer response

works that largely appeal in non-mainstream subculture are popular among young people and his B-rated attitude embedded in his everyday life comes across as fresh to viewers

more and more young and aspiring webcomic artists join the business, enriching content ranging from epic and fantasy to thriller and daily life, and the market is growing fast

unlike the 2000s where only local giant portal sites (...) provided webcomic content, now small and medium-sized companies specialized in digital comics (...) have jumped on the bandwagon, providing more platforms for those artists

the trans-media storytelling business, where those webcomics serve as the basis for adaptations into movies and TV shows, is also booming

based on fast mobile network speeds and high public acceptance of digital comics, webcomic authors' influence on local entertainment is up and growing. The number of updated webcomics on web portals amounts to more than 1,200 and Naver's daily webcomics readers surpass 6 million

SE! precisávamos de vos convencer que tha internet is now on things. Voltaremos aqui também.

Claro que! há tanto tempo a martelar esta tecla e corremos o risco de já se terem esquecido que se raramente mencionamos sequer a indústria é porque temos problemas mais perto de casa que nos ocupam a tempo inteiro. Recordando: não é comércio vs arte...

O principal erro é mesmo pensarem que só podem seguir a via do comércio ou da arte. Mo' tha come...

Sendo "janela" literal, eufemismo e metáfora.

case in point: tha abolition of iWork