The Great Statistical Purchasing Analysis of 2010!
This is the third sequential year that I’ve attempted some form of statistical analysis on my comic book purchasing habits, and it seems very clear that a multi-point trend may be developing. In short, I am spending significantly less money and bringing home fewer and fewer books with each passing year. This is true in a year over year comparison, but even more dramatic when looking at the numbers on a two year cycle. Before I dive into my own thoughts and analysis, I’ll just present the raw data for you to absorb. I seem to be technically incapable of converting an MS Excel chart into a jpg or gif file to drop into Blogger (blame it on MS Office 2007), so in lieu of the slick graphs I built, here’s a cold boring look at the three years worth of data I’ve compiled so far:
Total Purchased: 259 (Singles): 55 (Trades): 314 (Total)
Total Spend: $777 (Singles): $1,200 (Trades): $1,977 (Total)
Weekly Item Avg: 4.98 (Singles): 1.06 (Trades): 6.04 (Total)
Weekly Spend Avg: $14.94 (Singles): $23.08 (Trades): $38.02 (Total)
Total Purchased: 197 (Singles): 26 (Trades): 223 (Total)
Total Spend: $697 (Singles): $521 (Trades): $1,218 (Total)
Weekly Item Avg: 3.79 (Singles): .50 (Trades): 4.29 (Total)
Weekly Spend Avg: $13.40 (Singles): $10.02 (Trades): $23.42 (Total)
Total Purchased: 169 (Singles): 18 (Trades): 187 (Total)
Total Spend: $616 (Singles): $413 (Trades): $1,029 (Total)
Weekly Item Avg: 3.25 (Singles): .35 (Trades): 3.60 (Total)
Weekly Spend Avg: $11.85 (Singles): $7.94 (Trades): $19.79 (Total)
Since comics still seem intent on working in a weekly publication cycle, I’m always drawn to the weekly end of the purchasing trends. As you can see in terms of plain volume, rounding to the nearest whole book, I was essentially purchasing 5 floppies and 1 TPB or GN per week in 2008. That number dropped to 4 floppies per week and 1 TPB or GN every two weeks in 2009. At the end of 2010, the data shows that I’m now buying on average just 3 singles per week, with 1 TPB or GN every three weeks, which was barely enough material for me to highlight a deserving Graphic Novel of the Month as was the custom at 13 Minutes. In fact, if readers look closely, there’s a month or two that I basically skipped because I didn’t think anything I bought was good enough to showcase.
In terms of dollars and cents, from 2009 to 2010, I went from spending approximately $13/week to $12/week on floppies, just a 12% decline. For TPB and GN activity from 2009 to 2010, the average spend went from $10/week to $8/week, showing a 21% drop. One of the interesting observations about this is that the rate of decline between floppies and their overall price is not decreasing at a proportional rate because the average price point on singles is increasing over time. In 2008, the average price point was an even $3, in 2009 it rose to $3.53, and in 2010 it was $3.65. In the span of just two years, that’s an average jump in price of 22% on the single issue titles I buy. Basically, this is the result of many $2.99 titles becoming $3.99 titles from The Big Two, and some assorted second tier publishers coming in at other assorted price points like $3.50 or $3.95.
For me, the most startling way to look at this data is to examine the longest term possible and compare total spend weekly and annually from 2008 when I started tracking it directly to 2010. It’s an aside, but I wish I’d captured 2007 data, because I know for a fact I spent WAY MORE money on comics that year based on my income level and it probably would have been the peak purchasing year. Sheesh, it was the year I dropped $1,400 alone on an original page of Paul Pope art from his DC Solo short “Teenage Sidekick” that won the Eisner Award. But, let’s work with the numbers I DO have. For all intents and purposes, this two year comparison from ’08 to ‘10 shows a 50% reduction in total purchasing habits across the board. Half! In 2008, I spent about $2,000 total on comics, or about $40 per week. In 2010, I spent a total of about $1,000 on comics, or about $20 per week. Those numbers are scary if that’s any representation of my age group and/or demographic and their declining interest based on everything from macro-economic factors to the intrinsic quality and perceived value of the material being published.
You know me, I like to make bold predictions based solely on pattern recognition. So if we project that two year cycle all the way out, it means that in 2012, I’ll be spending $500 a year on comics, or about $10/week on average. In 2014, it will be $250 per year and just $5 per week (which should get me about one book by then). In 2016, it would yield $125 per year and $3 per week. If you run this forecasting model to exhaustion on the two year cycle, in the year 2026, I will spend just $3 on comics for the entire year. At today’s prices, which obviously will not hold, that would be just one single floppy all year long! I’ll be 52 years old in 2026 by the way; will we even have dead tree style books by then? Won’t there just be some ocular implant that I beam the data directly onto from the central cortex? The only thing I am certain of is that time will tell if this trend holds or if it is an anomalous blip when shown in a longer term context.
For now, it’s got me a little worried that my interest in comics is generally waning. I could easily blame it on the financial drain of the economy or the prioritization of kids and not having as much discretionary income to dispose of on fast fiction. But deep down I know it’s probably an equally robust mixture of those financial concerns along with the perceived value in the quality of the product, not to mention my admittedly highly subjective taste. You can just go down the line and start wiping out major portions of the potential market share and “spendable” product. For example, I’m not buying any of the plethora of Green Lantern titles, woosh – gone, or any Batman titles, woosh – gone, or any Superman titles, woosh – gone, or any Avengers titles, woosh – gone, or any Spider-Man titles, woosh – gone, or any Hellboy or BPRD titles, etc., etc., etc. I’m not loyal to any company or property or single character; if anything, I’m loyal to some creators.
Brian Wood writes something? I’m there. Warren Ellis writes something? I’m there. JH Williams III draws something? I’m there. Nathan Fox draws something? I’m there. Paul Pope decides to bust out a new project? I’m so there! But the general shift in the industry is that creators don’t seem to be staying for long runs on any properties. Brian Wood cranking out 72 issues of DMZ is an anomaly. Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca being on 30+ issues of Invincible Iron Man uninterrupted is an anomaly. How often does someone like Paul Pope actually put out an original project? Let’s see, Battling Boy was announced as early as San Diego Comic-Con 2007 and still isn’t out. Many of the creators I like are so specialized that they don’t even work on regular ongoing titles, but are more in the niche special project category or engaged in limited runs, stuff like J3 on Batwoman, or Morrison & Quitely on All-Star Superman, or the sporadic Rafael Grampa project, whether an OGN like Mesmo Delivery or a small slice of an anthology like his recent Wolverine story in Strange Tales.
That type of interest on my part doesn’t bode well for regular sustainable readership of an ongoing monthly title. I’m not saying I’m done with comics. I love comics. But I’m finding far fewer instances of interest for me personally. I’m finding far fewer books that I subjectively deem worthy of spending my money on. I’m finding far fewer books that I buy being retained in the collection long term. I’m finding far fewer that are nuanced enough to go back to for multiple readings, thus finding less perceived inherent value. I’m finding far fewer single creators that I trust enough to follow with a completist mentality. I seldom find an attractive convergence of something “special” like, say, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday on Planetary that draws me in. It seems, for now, that the empirical data certainly supports what my gut’s been telling me for a while, that there’s a general sentiment of majority disinterest. Yet I want to be interested, so long live the minority.