Comics / Comics News

The Exclusive News Game In the Comic Book Industry

By Hervé St-Louis
March 23, 2012 - 12:01

I'm an idiot. I have been publishing The Comic Book Bin for 10 years and never once have I requested or even hinted to a producer that I wanted the information it was sharing with The Bin to be exclusive to us and that in order for us to give them a time of the day, they had to avoid speaking to our competitors. For it's ridiculous and negates the truth that information wants to be free. But that's not how our competitors see things.

We've all known for years that way back in the days Wizard Comics had exclusive dibs on news from Marvel and DC Comics. We all accepted that. Wizard's publishing model was print-based and in order to survive, it had to have the news first, before all that information leaked to news sites online. I get that. But the information did start to leak out to news sites online and before you knew it, Newsarama and Comic Book Resources became the semi-official mouth pieces of DC and Marvel Comics. A lot of ink was wasted denouncing this attitude and nothing changed. Frankly I don't care. The news shared by Marvel and DC Comics exclusively to Newsarama and Comic Book Resource was usually navel-gazing and not what I consider real news. I still have that ideal that comic news reporting can really happen.

The next development were the various gossip and rumour sites. Now these had sustained life of their own. If you are a regular follower of The Comic Book Bin, you will know that we do not officially gossip or spread rumours. We've done it once or twice, but we usually refrain from hype like that. We like to get our news confirmed.

A few years ago, DC Comics figured out that it could control its message better if it released its news through the Time Warner family of media outlet. Its seems to have become a general practice at Time Warner that all its news is repurposed first through one of its affiliated companies. There's nothing like totally controlling the message and the medium. Marvel Comics, just like DC Comics and the larger comic book publishers also figured out that they could control their message by publishing it directly to end users on platforms like MySpace at first, then through enhanced portals and these days through Facebook. That left less material for the likes of Comic book Resources and Newsarama to play with.

But since most of the comic book news happens through press releases anyway, we always have the right information from the most authoritative sources. That is until other news sites started demanding that even these press releases which really are not news because they are sent by a producer to a news agency for publicity purpose and thus not independently researched, although authoritative, be sent to them exclusively.

I'm a fool because apparently this has been going on for years and I just got wind of it. Now other publishers that are not Marvel or DC Comics are also asked to send their news material exclusively to the likes of Newsarama and Comic Book Resources before they can even go to another site like The Comic Book Bin. Even if most of the time, the news is not published or posted, they still want it first. The purpose of this is of course to stop another competitor who may care about this stuff from posting it and thus supposedly having a lead on a story.

I realize some people will think that by "free" as in "information wants to be free" that they think I'm saying information should come at no cost to users and be free of charge. That's not what "free" means here. "Free" in the context of this article means information has the freedom of being delivered by any news or non news outlet and is not captive of one group. Information should flow freely from a source to any news outlet.

I'm pretty sure the FCC has something to say about this kind of practice in the news industry. I know in Canada that this kind of action would be called anti-competitive forms of competition and would be illegal under the regulations of the Competition Bureau of Canada (oh no he used a legal threat).

The basic ethical issue (oh no he used a big word!!) at play here is that news or the most likely appearance of news has to be free to foster a well-functioning civil society and informed citizenry. Yeah, even if it's just about comics. Keeping news away from another competitor through underhanded pressures does not benefit the producer that is being strong-armed into not sharing their news. It certainly does not improve their bottom lines. It also assumes that all people interested in comics flock to Newsarama and Comic Book Resources to get their news.

One group it does not benefit are readers, News wants to be free. Information wants to get out there and go viral. In an age where every self-proclaimed social media expert screams at potential clients that their messages have to be everywhere and has to be heard by the most amount of so -called gatekeepers, the practice of strong-arming producers into exclusive news agreement is anti-competitive, against the interest of the many, and morally dead.

The most stupid part of this is how the people who force producers into exclusive news contracts think that they can control the message and eventually wipe out the competition. Don't they understand this thing called the Internet. Information flows through and out and not a single actor, be they Google or Facebook has been able thus far to contain and control the platform and where information flows totally. What chance do a couple of poorly financed comic book Web sites have in the long run of controlling the deployment of news across the Web? Do they really think that they will succeed where Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are trying but will ultimately fail?

I guess I'm not such an idiot after all.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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