Once again pop culture trade news site ICv2 will host Insider Talks, an annual business conference held in conjunction with New York Comic Con that brings together key professionals in the comics and pop culture industries. This year’s Insider Talks will feature presentations by Graphix publisher David Saylor, ComicHub v-p Atom! Freeman, Comixology CEO David Steinberger and others. PW spoke with ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp about the presentations and changes at this year’s conference which will take place October 7 at Pace University.
The theme of this year’s Insider Talks is The Future of Comics in The Age of Streaming. Can you tell us more about what this broad subject refers to?
The ways people consume entertainment are changing. Streaming is having a direct effect on comics by providing another channel for media based on comic properties, and by providing source material on which comic can be based. We also wonder whether binge viewing, a direct outcome of the age of streaming, may be reducing consumer appetite for serial entertainment (like periodical comics) and increasing demand for complete stories (graphic novels).
The growth of subscription-based streaming entertainment options is definitely affecting how people expect to get access to digital content, which is having an impact on digital comics as well as other media. And more broadly, comics are now competing for entertainment time and spending with a rapidly growing channel for delivery of stories to passionate, narrow audiences.
This year’s speakers include Scholastic/Graphix v-p and creative director David Saylor (who will be interviewed by this reporter) and Atom Freeman from ComicHub, a new POS platform. What can we expect to hear from them?
David Saylor is running the most successful publisher in comics right now, with Graphix, which he founded at Scholastic in 2005, now the largest graphic novel publisher in the U.S., with previously unheard-of seven-figure print runs for its top new releases. That’s pretty impressive for a new imprint competing with comic publishers that have been around for 80 years. He’s got a lot to teach us about why he saw that opportunity, why it’s working so well, and where he thinks it’s going next.
Comic store sales have always been kind of a black box; we know what goes into comic stores in the form of sell-in numbers, but until now we haven’t known what happens once they get there. ComicHub, which is a retailer services business that includes a point-of-sale system, has been collecting that data from its growing base of stores and will be sharing the first-ever information on what’s actually selling through in comic stores. The black box is opening!
Other speakers include NPD BookScan executive Kristen McLean and Comixology CEO David Steinberger. Can you give us a brief preview of their presentations?
McLean will present case studies on comics and streaming, using NPD’s POS and SVOD streaming data to examine some recent examples of comic content making the leap to the screen, how viewers have reacted, and how these case studies can help us understand what it takes to be successful in the rapidly evolving cross-platform future.
Steinberger and I spent five years together on the Comixology board of directors in the period of the company’s most rapid growth leading up to the sale to Amazon. I’ve always enjoyed and learned from the conversations we have about the market and where it’s going, and now our attendees get to share in that experience.
We’re looking forward to ICv2’s annual White Paper on the size, direction, and emerging trends in the graphic novel and comics marketplace. Can you give us small preview your findings for the past year?
We’ve been finding (and been able to demonstrate through our analysis) that content, format, and channel are all tied together, with kids’ titles and manga driving growth in graphic novel sales in the books channel but having a much smaller impact on sales in comic stores, where periodical comics featuring superhero and “author” titles are the most popular titles. We’ll present data from the first 2/3 of 2019, as well as showing where the long-term trends are taking the business.
The timing and location of Insider Talks has changed a bit this year. Can tell us the reasons behind the change.
We made a few changes in location and timing this year. With the construction at the Javits, space during New York Comic Con is very tight, so we needed to find a new location. We’re very happy that Pace University, where there’s a significant academic presence for comics including an academic journal on comics and classes in its publishing program, has agreed to host the event this year. We still have a great relationship with New York Comic Con (they’re a sponsor of the ICv2 Insider Talks and are helping to promote it), but they’re no longer hosting it.