For years, Comixology has been the leader in digital comics, but the company has hardly been on autopilot as a result. Earlier this year, Comixology launched a new monthly subscription service, similar to that of video streaming services like Netflix.
Now, as announced in October, Comixology is taking another play out of the Netflix playbook by launching Comixology Originals, a new program that will see the digital distributor teaming with comics publishers to produce content only available through Comixology. While only just announced, Comixology Originals has been in the making for quite some time.
"We've talked about it forever," says Comixology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger. "It's always been a question, ever since Netflix and Amazon's TV streaming services started doing original programming. We like the idea of being able to pick out special projects that help them come to life, as well as appeal to new customers and to some of the core as well, so we've got a huge spread of great books."
"We talked to a handful of publishers for the debut titles and worked with them directly on putting these books together," says Senior Director of Communications Chip Mosher. "It's been a fantastic process working with publishers who we have really great relationships with anyway and working with them on a different level than what we've done in the past. It's not been that different than what we do already. We collaborate deeply with publishers on marketing roll outs and merchandising and selling the books. This is just a different way of collaborating with our publishers."
The initial lineup includes three titles from three different publishers. BOOM! Studios is offering an Adventure Time issue featuring the gender-swapped character Marshall Lee. Valiant Comics is reimagining their superhero universe as a high school for Valiant High. The third book in the lineup is something unique, as The New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler, artist Gideon Kendall, and editor Josh O'Neill complete legendary cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman's unfinished comic Marley's Ghost.
When asked about what other publishers were waiting in the wings to reveal their own Comixology Originals content Mosher would only tease that there was "More to come," but promised that this launch lineup was just the beginning of something much bigger.
"I think that you'll find that at the end of the first year, we'll have a great group of titles that run the gamut of interests, with diverse content from diverse creators and with an eye on different entry points to comics for new fans," Mosher says.
Attracting new fans to the comics medium is a major goal for Comixology, and Comixology Originals offers a new way to leverage popular intellectual properties to draw new readers in.
"What having exclusivity does for us is allow us to put a little more muscle in," Steinberger explains. "Let's say we target Adventure Time fans. It means that we have a special bit of content that will be very interesting and exciting to those fans, only available for us. It lets us really concentrate even our marketing dollar power to focus on something that is only going to be available if you come to Comixology, so it really gives us a great piece of content to do that with."
The, once the Adventure Time fan has downloaded the Comixology app and purchased and enjoyed the Adventure Time Marshall Lee Spectacular, perhaps they'll notice the other Adventure Time comics available on Comixology, and maybe another title will peak their interest and keep them invested in the comics medium.
"That's one example, but across the board, we feel like we have content that's special that we can then put our muscle behind."
Part of that muscle will also include mixing Comixology Originals into the Comixology Unlimited program, allowing readers an opportunity to get a taste of Comixology Originals' content through Comixology's subscription service.
"We're very serious about this program and over time, we're going to be able to play around with the release schedules and determine what works best for getting the most people interested and committed to reading some comics on Comixology and Kindle," Steinberger says.
Through of all of this, Steinberger and Mosher make clear that they're not trying to overturn to apple cart that is the direct market. As always, they see Comixology as a complement to brick-and-mortar comic shops.
"First of all, you can see us announcing these ahead of time and putting them up for pre-order, so we're actually following the pattern that you expect from the direct market," Steinberger says. "We have the opportunity to experiment with that, but we've always been more of a partner than a disruptor and I think that's part of the reason we have succeeded in this market segment. For us, it's more about, how do we get more people into comics and by what method can we get the most attention on these books? In this case, we think that the pre-order method is a great way to do it because it's our big turn into exclusive content like this and it gives folks like you an opportunity to dig in and for us to create some buzz around it.0comments
"Next time, maybe we do release it and have it available immediately," Steinberger continues. "That's the kind of thing that we are very excited to get to experiment with and compare the results and decide which method works better. For this one, we are going very traditional. Announce ahead of time, get it up in pre-order, allow people to 'set it and forget it,' in essence, now, because they're interested in it and then we'll deliver it to their devices when it becomes available."
Fan interested in doing just that can head over to Comixology, where the first three Comixology Originals offerings are available for pre-order.