IDW: Fending off imaginary cannibals

ICv2 starts off the week with a marathon interview with Ted Adams of IDW Publishing. Part 1 focuses on the current comics and graphic novel market and IDW's place in it, which is pretty solid — sales held steady in 2009 and 2010, and last year IDW became a Diamond Premier Publisher, meaning they get featured in the front of Previews each month. Part 2 covers their digital strategy, which has been quite aggressive, and in Part 3, Adams talks about IDW's plans for new comics and collections in 2011.

It's all interesting reading, but of course the part that's most interesting to me is Adams's reflection on the digital comics market in part 2. Digital sales doubled last year, he says, but the number is still small—"an insignificant part of our net revenue." And it seems to be new revenue:

We’ve been aggressive in the digital space, [but] we can clearly say that it has not been cannibalizing our print sales because our print sales have been up substantially in the same period where our digital sales are up. I can tell you that at least from IDW’s perspective, the success that we’ve had with digital distribution has not cannibalized our print publishing revenue.

That's good news, right? Yet further down in the interview, Adams says that IDW won't be releasing digital comics on the same day the print comics go out because retailers don't like it.

We’re not going to have a universal day and date release for our comic books. I know that it’s something that direct market retailers don’t want to see happen, and wherever we can, we’re going to be respectful to that. As I said before, the direct market is far and away our biggest and most important market.

Adams goes on to reiterate that retailers' fear of cannibalization is "not a rational fear." Yet basing one's digital strategy (assuming they are doing things this way to placate retailers) seems equally irrational—although I suppose one could argue that a gesture made to please one's largest market is the most rational strategy of all, even if it makes no sense to the outside world.

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