As I explained on Wednesday, at the end of June I conducted a survey through Comic Tea Party to assess reader habits for webcomics/indie comics. I went over the results for the first ten questions in that post, so if you missed out, check in on it.
In this post, I would like to do two things. First off, I’m going to discuss the optional question 11 which many participants did fill in and that I have aggregated to the best of my ability. Second, I am going to discuss my own thoughts on the results of the survey as well as some areas where there is room for error. Of course, if you don’t care about my thoughts, you are highly welcome to skip them and draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, let’s jump in and discuss the survey some more.
Question 11: [OPTIONAL] As a reader, what encourages you to engage with a webcomic/indie comic (regardless of the how)?
As mentioned, this question was completely optional, and was in the form of a paragraph fill-in. Of the 188 respondents to the survey in general, there were 95 responses to this specific question. This amounts to 50.5% of respondents filling the question in, which is more than I actually expect. Below are the results aggregated to the best of my ability, but be aware there is room for error since this is an interpretation of fill-in answers (and tone and other aspects aren’t always conveyed well in writing). Also, be mindful that some responses were counted in multiple aggregate categories, as the respondent themselves fit the criteria for several of them. Anyway, the results are as follows:
Once again, the following is simply my own thoughts on the results of this survey. You are under no obligation to agree with my thoughts, and in fact I encourage you to maintain a healthy skepticism to the results of this survey (or any survey for this matter). However, I thought for some this might be more helpful as opposed to plain data.
Question 1: Though I know many creators love to print their comics, this question is fairly telling that digital is the king for webcomics/indie comics. I doubt this is really that surprising of a result, to be honest. However, it does show that print still has its place, since more people answered “some print” than they did “only digital.” I think the more important lesson to take away from the question is the importance of a digital presence, since that is where the majority of audiences are. As for margin of error, it is hard to gauge percentage. In other words, if someone read 80% digital to 20% print, they’d select the same answer as someone who reads 60% digital to 40% print. Thus, there is a bit of lack of accuracy if you want a super narrowed down result.
Question 2: Unsurprisingly, given people’s busy nature “whenever there is free-time” was the most popular choice. However, the trend that interests me more is that weekdays slightly outweighed the weekend. I feel this fits my own experiences on the internet, as the weekends tend to feel slowly and rather empty. I have nothing to say for margin of error particularly on this one, outside of I could’ve unpacked the data more to provide more trends.
Question 3: As we can see from the data, “several times a month” and “once a month” dominated people’s frequency of checking out new webcomics. This isn’t particularly surprising, though it is revealing numerically why grabbing new readers can be difficult. It’s a competition for people’s eyes every month, so it’s a good reminder that the competition can be pretty high. The margin of error lies in my interpretation of the fill-in results. Obviously, I may have taken things differently than people meant them, so that’s something to keep in mind. I did my best though, and am particularly confident in the aggregation of the fill-ins for this question.
Question 4: There is no doubt here that fantasy took the crown on this question. Now, before anyone takes this to mean people are only interested in the fantasy genre, I am going to point to a key factor: the content that’s available. While I don’t have exact numbers, from my experience most webcomic/indie comic creators write fantasy stories. Again, I do not have exact numbers, so that’d have to be a survey for another time. However, this is besides the point. This result may be due to what’s available more than it has to do with people’s preferences. Thus, this is a margin of error I think is important to keep in mind if you’re a creator.
Question 5: All I have to say to this question is that I was surprised by the results. I thought bulk readers would be a bit closer for those who prefer page-by-page updates. Apparently I was wrong, but it’s good data to know. In regards to error, you could argue some people might consider bulk differently, as Webtoons episodes tend to be several pages at once; some people may consider this a page-by-page sort of update though, while others consider it a bulk amount of pages. It’s hard to say, but there is room for doubt that this is the true spread between page-by-page and bulk..
Question 6: Going by the aggregated chart, the majority of readers who answered the survey actively keep track of 10 comics or less. This is actually somewhat concerning to me, as that is such a small, small amount of the webcomics/indie comics available. However, let’s jump into the next question, so I can explain why this is such a big concern to me.
Question 7: I’m not going to lie: it disheartens me to see that 88 respondents comment on 0 of the comics that they actively keep track of. While I won’t judge those who choose not to comment (as they are not obligated to do so), it is still…just very sad. When compared in conjunction with question 6, though, this is where the true concern lies. As seen on the scatter graph, there is generally a linear correlation between the number of comics kept track of and the number of comments given. In other words, the more comics people kept track of, the more likely they were to comment on one of those comics. However, since respondents are keeping track of 10 comics or less, that means there are not being a lot of comments being produced at all. For an industry that thrives on comments, I feel this is something as a community that should be addressed.
Keep in mind, there is room for error on this as most people were guesstimating. However, I will say I doubt people got the 0 comments part wrong.
Question 8: Despite seeing many people worrying that nobody is recommending comics, this is clearly not the case. Thus, this is a positive we can definitely take away from this survey question. There is also lots of social media boosting, some commenting, fanart, and other creator work admiration. All in all, it is good to see that people are active in some fashion despite the previous two questions. Once again, this question did have an “other” fill-in, so there could be errors in regards to how I interpreted or aggregated.
Question 9: Unfortunately, the results of this question were of no surprise to me. “Shyness” and “nothing worthwhile to say” have been, in my experience, the number one reasons people don’t comment. This seems to be the case even now. Though we shouldn’t disregard the other responses either, this is clearly the number one struggle that needs to be addressed as far as comments for indie comics/webcomics goes. Once again (again), this question did have an “other: fill-in, so interpretation errors could be present; this is perhaps most relevant for this question to note, as there were several answers I struggled classifying. I attempted my best, and I do believe the more important results are for those with the non-fill ins.
Question 10: I have nothing much to say about this question, other than I’m glad to see there are some fandoms out there for specific webcomics/indie comics.
Question 11: While there is plenty to take away from the results, I think the key one to note is the importance for a creator themselves to be engaging. To me, this says the community desires a human connection, and it is important that the creator provide that for them. Of course, interesting content is important as well (by a quite a bit), so these two factors must be worked together.
Overall Conclusion: In the end, I feel there are two key points that should be learned from this survey. First off, there is extremely high competition in the industry. Not only are people spending only a little bit of time checking out new comics, but the amount of comics they wind up keeping track of is very small. This fosters a highly competitive arena where you’re fighting for people’s eyeballs while also keeping readers hooked. However, I think this also means creators should not always blame themselves for their lack of readers, as frankly it is such a high pressure, time constrained audience out there.
The second key point I think we should take away is that the greatest threat to the community is perhaps the issue of commenting. For all the various reasons in question 9, readers just don’t feel comfortable commenting on the indie comics/webcomics they’re reading. This results in the false sense for many creators that nobody is reading their webcomics/indie comics. Thus, self-doubt and other bad effects ensue. I think as a community, focusing efforts on improving comment amount should take a high priority, though at the moment I have no specific solutions to address the problem. Nevertheless, these are results that should be considered and learned from with the help from question 11.
Whatever you take away from this survey, I want to personally thank everyone who filled it out. This sort of data gives a lot of perspective on how readers are feeling about their experiences, and it allows creators and readers alike to move forward and do better. If you’d like, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Again, you are welcome to disagree and draw your own conclusions. This concludes my ramble about the surveys, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!