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‘The smartest business decision I’ve made in years’: A look at how Wizard World Digital is doing

by  in Comic News Comment

When Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus decided to cancel his long-running magazines Wizard and ToyFare, and relaunch them in an amalgamated electronic form as a digital magazine called Wizard World, he did not do so quietly. Well, alright, the initial press release didn’t so much as mention the cancellations themselves, or the employees laid off in the process. But Shamus has been quite vocal about his new project’s prospects for success, as well as what he perceives to be the dire state of the industries surrounding it. In an interview with iFanboy’s Ron Richards, Shamus spoke of the new digital magazine sharing the things its staff likes with “the millions of people that we reach all the time,” in contrast with more traditional digital-news outlets like websites, which he said “are pretty worthless in their ability to have an impact on an audience.” And in the editor’s letter (see above) for Wizard World‘s third issue, “Version 1.3,” by way of explaining why he made the leap to digital publishing, he writes:

The creativity in the comic book industry is at an all-time high, yet it saddens me to see that publishers can’t get new people excited, and are losing existing fans at an alarming rate. The publishers keep doing what they’ve done in the past, but keep expecting better results. Not gonna happen!

Perhaps Shamus’s apparent disdain for comics publishers he deems stuck in the past explains why Wizard World‘s first three issues contain exactly zero articles on currently ongoing Marvel or DC titles. (Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Marvel/ICON book Incognito gets a graf in a piece on comics that should be made into video games, and toys for the upcoming Thor and Green Lantern movies get prominent play, though.)

“I am doing something new…and it feels good,” Shamus writes. “Starting a digital magazine feels like the smartest business decision I’ve made in years.”

Apparently, another decision made in the making of Wizard World was using the URL shortening service bit.ly for all of the digital magazine’s download links. Each issue is available in one of three ways: They are directly downloadable in PDF and Issuu formats, and can also be accessed by downloading Wizard’s iPad app. And by adding a plus sign to the end of any given bit.ly link (eg. http://bit.ly/dYy4I9+ ), anyone can see exactly how many times those downloads have been clicked. As of this morning, here are the stats:

Wizard World for iPad on the iTunes App Store
745 clicks total for all three issues

Wizard World Version 1.1 (aka Version 1.0), March 2
PDF: 4,695 clicks
issuu: 616 clicks

Wizard World Version 1.2, March 9
PDF: 3,277 clicks
issuu: 429 clicks

Wizard World Version 1.3, March 16
PDF: 1,779 clicks
issuu: 260 clicks

Caveats galore, of course: The stats for the iPad app link tell us nothing about how many people went to the iTunes App Store on their own and downloaded Wizard’s app directly, without first clicking through the link Wizard’s website provided. There’s also no way of knowing how many of the downloaded PDFs and issuus have circulated from person to person. And while the Graphic.ly and ComiXology platforms Shamus promised in his interview with iFanboy have yet to materialize, that doesn’t mean they won’t at some point. Maybe that explains the delay for issue/Version 1.4: Originally slated for a March 23 release according to a house ad in #1.3, it has not yet been published.