The Great Statistical Purchasing Analysis of 2012!

Welcome to the 5th consecutive year that I’ve tracked my comic book purchasing and provided some commentary about the data. I still enjoy analyzing the information because I’m fascinated by patterns and the way the numbers change over time, but I do fear that it’s becoming less meaningful because a variety of factors are skewing the numbers away from being a truly accurate snapshot of what I actually consume. Nevertheless, I’ll present the data, make some basic numerical observations, and try to walk you through what’s skewing the metrics. In short, remember that this is a purchasing analysis, meaning that it represents only my out of pocket expenses, not the total quantity of what I consumed, meaning that it does not take into account comp copies.

Essentially, this dynamic is still in play: I perceive less value remaining for me with the vast majority of what’s currently being published, and I have less discretionary income available to throw at comics, thus there are fewer titles I’m willing to adventurously plunk down money on for a single time or to habitually spend money on in a sustained fashion. Price points holistically on the upswing are intersecting with enjoyment on the downswing, coupled with fewer creators I feel any personal sense of loyalty to. With those caveats aside, let’s just dive in… I’ll start with the TOTAL QUANTITY of SINGLE ISSUES purchased from 2008 to 2012.

2008: 259
2009: 197
2010: 169
2011: 125
2012: 143

For the first time in 5 years, there’s a year to year uptick of 14% from 2011 to 2012, yet still a whopping 45% decrease from 2008 to 2012. I’m buying nearly half of the floppies I was just 5 years ago. While I quit buying Marvel and DC books that weren’t creator-owned halfway through the year, those were essentially replaced by a new crop of creator-owned Dark Horse and Image Comics. Wild Card: what this 143 number doesn’t factor in are the comp copies I received, which I actually tried to keep track of for the first time this year. When you combine print copies comp’d for review purposes (the majority at roughly 90%) and their digital counterparts (the minority at roughly 10%), that’s another 113 singles consumed, which would be a big number to tack on if they’d been paid for, pushing the number up to 256, extremely close to the original baseline of 259 in 2008. Looking at the same category of SINGLE ISSUES in terms of TOTAL DOLLARS SPENT, the results are as follows.

2008: $777
2009: $697
2010: $616
2011: $458
2012: $455

This is interesting – even though total volume of floppies was up 14%, the TOTAL DOLLARS SPENT was down from 2011 to 2012 by just a hair, at .007%, with an overall decrease from 2008 to 2012 of 41%. This disproportionate decrease in dollars spent vis-à-vis total single issues purchased is something I attribute to one single factor. Starting in the middle of the year, I began receiving a VERY deep discount from my new LCS sponsor Yesteryear Comics. On those review books, this meant I was spending 40% less than cover price on average, but still consuming roughly the same quantity of material. That’s something that’s likely to continue and will drastically skew the numbers if run out and applied to an entire year of purchases in 2013. You could also try to factor in my 113 comps just for kicks. If you affix an average price of $3.50 per item (which is a guesstimate because the price point on the indie portion dances around), that’s another $396 worth of material consumed – but again, not purchased. That would actually push the total up to $851 if it were added, well beyond the initial baseline of $777 in 2008. Moving on, since comics are periodicals and the weekly sales pattern is endemic to the business paradigm, I like to look at my purchasing habits on a weekly basis as a meaningful metric as well. Here is the AVERAGE QUANTITY of SINGLE ISSUES purchased per week over the period.

2008: 4.98
2009: 3.79
2010: 3.25
2011: 2.40
2012: 2.75

Basically, I would buy about 5 SINGLE ISSUES per week on average in 2008, and that’s slowly declined to about 2¾  per week on average today. While it’s a 15% increase from 2011 to 2012, it’s an overall 45% drop from 2008 to 2012. We can also take a look at AVERAGE DOLLARS SPENT per week on SINGLE ISSUES.

2008: $14.94
2009: $13.40
2010: $11.85
2011: $8.81
2012: $8.75

In 2008, I’d spend approximately $15 per week on SINGLE ISSUES, and by 2011 and 2012 I’ve dropped into single digits, spending just under $9 per week on average. That’s a barely noticeable 6 cents, or a .007% drop from 2011 to 2012, with a 41% drop from 2008 to 2012. Moving on to the GRAPHIC NOVELS AND/OR TRADE PAPERBACKS AND/OR COLLECTED EDITIONS AND/OR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL THEM BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN category, I tracked all of the metrics in the same manner. First, here is the TOTAL QUANTITY of TRADES/OGN purchased.

2008: 55
2009: 26
2010: 18
2011: 12
2012: 07

This is a 42% drop from 2011 to 2012, with a drastic decrease of 87% from 2008 to 2012. Now, keep in mind that these metrics are for books purchased, not consumed. You’ll definitely get tired of hearing me make that distinction by the time we’re through. Thirteen Minutes has flourished in the last couple of years and the number of comp copies I receive has increased dramatically. Another factor is the sheer amount of Amazon credit I accumulate. I’ve tried to do a better job of tracking the combination of review comps and comics via credit I received this year. By my count, one way or another, I acquired, with no out of pocket costs applicable for a purchasing analysis, at least 64 additional TRADES/OGN, which would obviously push the total number of items consumed in this category way up to 71 if we added it, blowing past the initial baseline of 55 in 2008. Let’s move on to look at TOTAL DOLLARS SPENT on TRADES/OGN.

2008: $1,200
2009: $521
2010: $413
2011: $103
2012: $78

From 2011 to 2012, this is a 24% decrease, with a staggering 94% decline from 2008 to 2012. I’ve nothing more to add here other than emphasizing that this year’s $78 in no way reflects my reading habits accurately in terms of what I actually consumed. As I mentioned, I received tons of comp copies from all over the place, and I also ended up with a ton of Amazon credit that I burned up on TRADES/OGN, but those “sales” transactions weren’t included here as gross purchases because they didn’t represent any net monetary cost to me as an actual out of pocket expense. This becomes harder to calculate, but just for kicks, even if you figure for the ease of computation that average price print on one of these items is just $20 (it’s probably higher), that’s an additional $1,280 (on my 64 comps mentioned above) worth of TRADES/OGN actually consumed, which would more than double the initial 2008 baseline to $2,480. But, repeat after me, this is a purchasing analysis, not an analysis of raw consumables, hence their exclusion and heavy caveat. Let’s look at the weekly averages in this category, starting off with the AVERAGE QUANTITY of TRADES/OGN purchased on a weekly basis.

2008: 1.06
2009: .50
2010: .35
2011: .23
2012: .13

That’s a 43% drop from 2011 to 2012, and an 88% drop from 2008 to 2012. It’s still staggering to me that I was basically buying 1 full-on TRADE/OGN per week in 2008. Now that the number has slipped to .13 per week, it’s almost a meaningless and insignificant entry in and of itself, but it does equate to about 1 every 8 weeks, if we sliced it that way. In terms of AVERAGE DOLLARS SPENT on TRADES/OGN per week, the numbers shake out like this.

2008: $23.08
2009: $10.02
2010: $7.94
2011: $1.98
2012: $1.50

As you can see, this is a continued decline of 24% from 2011 to 2012, and an overall 94% whack from 2008 to 2012. Lastly, and mostly for kicks, we can look at combined units for both floppies and collected editions, that’s all “things” qualifying as “comics.” Here’s the overall TOTAL UNITS PURCHASED.

2008: 314
2009: 223
2010: 187
2011: 137
2012: 150

That’s an uptick of 9% from 2011 to 2012, and a substantial 52% drop from 2008 to 2012, meaning that I’m essentially buying half of the comics I did 5 years ago. That’s a pretty powerful bottom line statement, all things considered. In terms of TOTAL DOLLARS SPENT on TOTAL UNITS, it looks like this.

2008: $1,977
2009: $1,218
2010: $1,029
2011: $561
2012: $533

This equates to a 5% decline from 2011 to 2012, with a 73% overall drop from 2008 to 2012. I went from spending nearly $2,000 on comics 5 years ago, to spending just a quarter of that, in the $500 range this year. Add it all up and *cringe* it looks like I spent about $5,318 on comics in the last 5 years. Sheesh! That’s a used car. However, yet another way to look at this is that if you offset that 2012 cost by what I was paid for various freelance gigs, I’m coming out way ahead, totally in the black with the “job” part of comics paying for the “hobby” part of comics, and then some. But that’s sort of an abstract correlation to be making that’s outside the scope of these proceedings. To begin summarizing, yet another way to look at the big picture is that if you factor in the 113 singles and 64 trades I was comp’d on and project the dollar amounts out, reality today is that I’m actually SPENDING WAY LESS, but CONSUMING WAY MORE, which is a hard combination to beat. In short, if you put aside inherent artistic quality and just look at it purely financially, COMICS WIN. That’s the key message to take away from this year’s analysis. To run things out, as for AVERAGE TOTAL UNITS purchased per week…

2008: 6.04
2009: 4.29
2010: 3.60
2011: 2.63
2012: 2.88

This means that I went from purchasing 6 total “things” that could be classified as comics per week (whether singles or trades) in 2008, to not quite 3 in 2012. Those metrics represent a small uptick of 10% from 2011 to 2012, with a 52% drop overall from 2008 to 2012. Lastly, we can also look at AVERAGE DOLLARS SPENT per week as applied to TOTAL UNITS.

2008: $38.02
2009: $23.42
2010: $19.79
2011: $10.79
2012: $10.25

This is another pretty straightforward metric that seems to ring true based on my perception of what I actually do in the LCS on a weekly basis. It means that in 2008, I was basically dropping $40 per week, and now I’m only dropping about $10 per week on average. This comes out to a 5% decline from 2011 to 2012, with a 73% decrease from 2008 to 2012. That feels like what actually occurs for sure. I usually buy 2 or 3 singles per week. Questions? Comments? Can you stand the mighty power of the numerical excitement!? Shall I keep going next year?


At 12:30 PM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...


This is one of my favorite posts of the year. I'm really glad you're keeping up with it, Justin.

Even if the numbers are trending downward (at least in terms of your SPENDING...not reading, definitely not reading, just spending, I gotchyu on the spending) it's an interesting quantitative look at how an adult's spending habits change.

I feel like I can certainly sympathize. Despite a continuing passion for the medium, we have less discretionary income. Less of our money is being funneled into our hobbies as our priorities change (i.e. a focus on family).

This post of yours seems to contain a message; the companies need to focus on new readers, younger readers, with more recreational income. After reading your rant...er, I mean...post about The Massive #7, I thought, "Maybe that's why you're seeing a trend toward to more insipid tales of zombies and sensationalism." I dunno. Just wagering a guess.

You and I have talked about this before, but a lot of the new comics out there just aren't for us anymore. We're not the larger companies' bread and butter anymore. That's not to say there aren't comics out there for us, as we can still enjoy the Brian Woods and the Seths of our medium, but the work that interests us is definitely a niche section of an already niche medium.

In answer to your final question, please keep up with this yearly post, even if it is for an audience of one.

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Justin said...

That's a really good point, Ryan, something I hadn't exactly considered. The courtship of new readers, a target demo to which we are aging out of.

I suppose it could be a good thing that I'm not interested in titles like The Walking Dead, or Deadpool, or Aquaman, or whatver, *IF* it means that majority is being targeted at a new younger generation of readers that's being successfully onboarded to the medium/industry.

I would love to see some type of demographic study, though, that correlated titles by name to readers' age group, because I was under the anecdotal impression that the whole "kids don't read comics" dynamic was still in effect, and that *ALL* comics were aimed at our generation of mid to late 30 year olds and up, essentially the last that grew up reading comics as kids and retained the habit into adulthood, prior to the proliferation of video games, home computing, internet, iPhone, handheld microcomputers, YouTube, NetFlix, RedBox, Hulu, et al to distract todays youngsters away from the written word. *Gasp* End Rant.

Old Manfully Yours,


At 11:13 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

That's true. I think every mass population movement, whether it's turning kids on to comics or letting people know that The Massive is the best damn book on the shelves today and they need to go buy a few copies, it all starts with a grassroots movement. Folks like you and me, with a passion for this medium, need to read comics to our kids, encourage our friends to do the same, and eventually kids will talk to their friends, and so on. Mass marketing can only do so much (not much?). It's really all about the personal connections to this sort of thing. Hey, I'll be buying The Massive #7 this week. :)

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics


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