Annie Taylor-Label Asks

Hi Chris, I’ve been reading your articles and posts on RSS feeds using advertising, and I was hoping to get your opinion on something. I’m a cartoonist, and am syndicated through Full Tilt Features, which was initially developed with a particular venture in mind which involved syndicating comics via RSS feeds to one of the major web journal sites via a subscription service. To make a long story short, the deal fell through. Regardless, we decided to carry on, and see what the future holds. Each of our features are published three times per week on a rotating basis via RSS feeds, as well as two sample feeds including all of our features, panels and strips.

One of our main concerns is how to generate an income via this type of syndication. Although we love what we do, we like everyone else, need to pay the bills. Being that our product is what is being subscribed to, there is no incentive for readers to visit our home page, which means that generating an income via traditional web advertising, banners, pop-ups etc. isn’t a viable option.

We have considered attaching unobtrusive advertising to the images, say as a subtle banner, or seeking sponsorship, e.g. “This comic sponsored by…” A possibility would be to also offer an alternative “No Advertising” subscription service. Our worry is that the journaling community at large, (who dominate RSS subscribers) would reject any form of advertising via RSS. We’re at a loss for an alternative!

As it stands, the future of the comic strip industry looks bleak at best. Syndicated cartoonists are working at 1950’s-60’s rates, and as do online cartoonists, depend on merchandising and advertising from their websites to subsidize their income. The truth is, very few cartoonists, whether syndicated, or online can support themselves solely on cartooning as is.

Do you see a future in RSS comic syndication? How do you see this affecting traditional syndication? And what does the future hold for such services as Ucomics, or It’s unlikely that readers will choose to pay for a subscription, when they can read their comics for free via existing RSS feeds and an aggregator. I don’t believe either the comic creators, nor their syndicates are aware of the enormity of the problem they are facing. Nor do I think once they do, that they’ll allow their features to be syndicated for free through scraped feeds.

Will RSS be another nail our coffin, or offer us a new venue, and a brighter future?