Saturday, September 13, 2008

Marvel's Retailer Site

Not sure yet what I think of this. Marvel comics is rolling out a web site for comic book retailers.

They claim that it will, "save time, save money, increase sales and increase your customer base?" Yes, that last one does actually end with a question mark in the promotional material (see site link).

Much of what they are offering on this site is already offered on the Marvel area of Diamond's web site. Some other things can be obtained from other web sites. Little of what they are including in the package is new. They do say that the art that would be accessable would be legally usable by retailers for advertising and marketing, rather than having to try to get Marvel copyrights released - the work's already one. However DC Comics offers promo art already, for free, on Diamond's web site. DC also offers a co-op program where retailers can used funds that they've spent on buying DC comics and get it back by running advertisements with the (free) DC marketing materials. Marvel makes no mention of even considering an advertising co-op plan.

Part of what they hope this will do is increase the amount of comic book stores that have web sites. That's a good thing. But I also understand that the promotional mailers you can generate with this package would give Marvel access to your mailing lists - who's to stop them from emailing those same people information about their discounted subscription service?

And the variants and graphic novels they are giving away (not really giving, it costs $48 per month to participate in it) might just be junk they over printed and need to dump.

I like the promise of direct Q & A time between retailers & Marvel. But who at Marvel? Some assistant assigned to the project or someone who can actually enact change? And will Marvel listen, or are they just offering this as a gesture that will not change the way Marvel does business? I would hope that this open channel would bring ideas and changes for both retailers and Marvel, but I am an optimist.

Here's another sticking point - as I explained, the fee is $48 per month. Don't they offer full digital comics on-line for only $5 per month? So you can read a virtually unlimited amount of complete comics for $60 per year, but are expected to pay almost ten times that, $576 annually, to get information you could get for free and have Marvel's trash mailed directly to you? On TOP of what retailers already pay Marvel every week when they buy Marvel comics for their stores!

On the other hand, it is nice to see Marvel taking an interest in the brick and mortar retailer and trying to provide us with a variety of information, ideas and support all in one place. No matter how missguided the effort may be, they are at least making an effort.

If I were wearing Joe Quesada's loafers what would I do different? Well for starters I'd lower the price. $9.99 per month should be more than enough. I would offer something of value. Maybe make the Marvel "Seak Peak" comics available for retailers to link to from their web sites so customers could check them out. Offer a co-op plan. Give a discount on having Marvel's official costumed characters make appearances at stores that are in the plan (it's $2500 minimum price right now). Forget about variants - let's please move past those darn things and focus on actually creating good comics. Rather than giving out trash that Marvel needs to clear out for space reasons create preview comics that retailers can give out to customers. I always thought that those Marvel Comics Presents was a clever idea that would sell comics - if they were free instead of $3.99. Those Daily Bugle's were cool - make those available either for free in paper form or free on-line to members. Don't just say you're going to give retailers their own web frontage - show them what it might look like. Facilitate communication between retailers and Marvel's stable of creators in order to help retailers get in-store signings - this promotes the store as well as Marvel's comics and those that work so hard to make them.

Let me make a quick side note - Marvel is much better with giving retailers free promotional materials than DC is. We get sample posters, promotional post cards, and promotional comics all for free. But again - that's already given to us for FREE - why pay unless they're planning to cut that off and only make it available to those in their retailer program.

What do you think of Marvel's retailer site? What would you do differently?

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