Another outlet for comic book news, commentary, and criticism will shut down this month, as Paste Magazine ends their comics vertical at the end of June. Editor Steve Foxe announced the sad news on Twitter Thursday:
Foxe tied the decision to the poor economy for quality-driven writing about comics:
The 24-hour comics news cycle and the volume-driven click economy is something we could go on about for hours (and yes, it's something we gleefully embrace like pigs wallowing in filth), but this isn't about us, so we asked Foxe for his thoughts on the economy of comics journalism, whether it's possible to improve it, and how it relates to the comics industry as a whole. Here's what he told us:
First off, I should be clear that I'm not assigning any blame, either to Paste or to readers. Paste Comics always had strong advocates among Paste leadership and we probably got a longer lease on life than we "deserved." And Paste has amazing readers who share the heck out of our articles.
Ultimately, the way ad revenue has changed, especially with regard to platforms like Facebook, just makes the digital media landscape that much less stable, as shown by closures and layoffs at much bigger outlets, too. Sites that rely on ads to stay afloat have tough choices to make, and likely tougher ones in the future.
I've also always been the doomsayer pointing out how Twitter has irreversibly changed the game. Why click through to different websites when you can follow the creators you like for constant Q&As, behind-the-scenes peeks, and big announcements all without leaving the same app you're already on? I'm just as guilty of it.
Because comics (not comics-related media, but comics) are a small market, we're seeing a microcosm of what's happening to journalism as a whole: everyone wants the quality to be better, but the stuff that actually gets clicks is the kind of content we all complain about: listicles, reactionary essays, etc.
I'm not all negative, though: I'm encouraged by platforms like PanelXPanel and The MNT that are finding ways to attract direct reader support and still pay contributors. I think that's the direction to look for quality, in-depth comics writing from a range of voices. And thankfully major outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and the NYT are waking up to the viability of decent comics coverage too.
This is a difficult growing pain, and I do think the ecosystem is suffering a bit right now, but like comics themselves, good writing about comics won't ever go away, even if the delivery method and payment systems change.
Back on Twitter, Foxe thanked his colleagues at Paste, particularly the site's comics writers:
So if you're in the market for writers or editors…
It's sad to see another comics outlet bite the dust, but it's unlikely that we've heard the last of the people behind it. To continue to enjoy Paste's comics section for the rest of the month or to read through its back catalog, click here.