Giving Value To The $3.99 Marvel Comic, For Readers And Retailers

Earlier today, Bleeding Cool reported on the plan for Marvel to ship Avenging Spider-Man #1 to retailers polybagged with a code inside for customers to download a digital copy. But it's just the start. Marvel have now laid down their plans in this FAQ below for retailers.

The headlines seem to be that this is just the start, there are more comics to ship in this fashion, they will initially use clear polybags, and Marvel will aim to do this for all copies of $3.99 books.

Bleeding Cool has covered the recent reduction in the size of most $3.99 books at Marvel, creating the highest price-per-page at the front of Previews. It appears that the "free digital version" with every copy will be an attempt to make up for that.

A number of retailers have announced they'll be removing the polybags and the codes, to sell them without the download, seeing this as an insidious way to move print customers to digital-only customers. As a way to mollify them, Marcvel will pay retailers an additional fifty cents for each of the digital copies downloaded by their customers using the digital code inside, and there will be some kind of affiliate system going forward so that comic shop customers who go on to buy digital comics will benefit the retailers that recruited them.

How will the codes be kept secret in the books?
For this first round, these books will contain the codes printed on one of the inside covers, and the books will be clear polybagged to keep customers from simply copying the codes within the store. We may try other methods going forward as we don't want to keep customers from reviewing books before they buy them on a regular basis.

Will these eventually be in all $3.99 books? We'd like to get there. Consumers are demanding more value for their purchase and we strongly feel that this will give them that extra added value.

Will I have the option to buy versions of the comic without the free digital copy? No, all copies of this issue, including variant covers, will contain the free digital copy codes. Marvel has a responsibility to our consumers and we'll be promoting that all copies contain the digital codes. We don't want to run into a situation where a customer goes into a retail shop to buy this book with the code and the retailer only has a different version of the product. That makes us all look bad. Also, it's a confusing message to make if we were to say "only some of the copies will contain digital codes, so good luck finding the retailer that sells these…"

How will Marvel use digital comics to push customers to my brick-and-mortar store?
Marvel will be able to email customers in our marketing database who purchased the print copy of AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #1 letting them know when the print copy of #2 is in stores. Marvel will also be able, in the future, to market to these customers via email any in-store events or programs for retailers and at retailers request. Marvel is exploring multiple methods of couponing to digital customers, sending them into stores for redemption. More on this as it develops.

What will Marvel do with the customers' email information? At present, with a customer's consent, we will be providing retailers with the email addresses of customers who purchased the books in their stores. At a future date we would like to start promoting the in store sale of upcoming releases of print comics back to those customers and drive them into stores. These same customers will continue to receive weekly email notices of what is on sale in the Marvel App, provided they have consented to this use of their contact information.

How much will retailers be credited for digital copy redemptions made by their customers? And when and how will these credits be given? For this initial launch program with AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #1 retailers will receive a credit at Diamond of 50 cents per each unique qualifying download. The credit process will begin approximately 8 weeks after the on sale date to insure that the highest number of redemptions has been made. Retailers will be credited for redemptions made for up to 6 months after the on sale date. At this time there will not be a minimum number of qualifying downloads needed to qualify for the credits. We are working with Diamond to inform retailers in advance what their likely credit will be.

Will retailers get credit for future purchases that a customer makes with Marvel digital comics? We are working on a system now that once a customer is identified with a retailer, any purchases made of a new digital comic or collected edition day and date release, a bounty or reward of some kind gets passed back to the corresponding retailer.

Do the codes expire? For this test we are planning to have the codes expire somewhere between in approximately one year.

Will Marvel share the outcome of this test with retailers? To the best of our ability we will be able to share your store's performance as well as the performance of the overall program as it relates to the Direct Market. We will not share individual store performance with other stores.

Will the credit only apply to the Direct Market or will newsstand sellers receive the credit? The credit only applies to Diamond Direct Market customers.

How often will Marvel be doing this? This will be the first test program of its kind. Then we plan to roll out other test programs, such as couponing to digital consumers to send them into comic shops to have coupons redeemed and more.

What do you consider a "success"? If we can excite customers with the extra added value of the digital comics, continue to reward brick and mortar retailers by making them partners in this process, and by growing the customer base for the Direct Market even by a small percentage, then that would be a success.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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