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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 11/30/2009

How soon till a newspaper dumps ALL its comics?

By Michael Cavna

It's counterintuitive. It's unthinkable. It's blasphemous.

And yet someday, perhaps sooner than we'd like to entertain, the prospect will be made real in print. Namely: A major newspaper that currently carries comics will, well, won't.

As print papes wrestle daily with trying to determine what stories and features justify their real estate -- as time and technology and the economy tighten their grip on the possible -- we see comics increasingly reduced in size and number and readability. You know all this, of course, just as sure as you know that comics apps and webcomics and free comics sites change reading habits daily. And so print comics pages cling like broadcast TV networks and rock radio stations and major league baseball to their less dominant entertainment perches.

So the question of the day is (as much as we loathe the notion): How soon till a major newspaper, in an act of inky extremism, dumps all -- yes, ALL -- its print comics?

By Michael Cavna  | November 30, 2009; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip  
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The cartoon either says it like it is, or makes the reader grin when things are...perhaps not what they should be/ down. So how can the media get rid of comics?

Posted by: teddy1233coxnet | November 30, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

You do realize that your 'sister' paper, the Express, cut 3/5 of its comics today, right?

Posted by: Mrhode | November 30, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Comics sections are one of the few differentiators left for newspapers. It's something unique and helps to connect to readers on a deeper level than just a news product. So, knowing the genius of editors, they'll probably cancel them all tomorrow.

Posted by: greasypores | November 30, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

>> Mrhode:

I'd been anticipating this cut -- a decision that I personally think puts the "bizarre" in "Bizarro" (a comic I'll miss in print, btw). I would think a free "commuter newspaper" would especially want an engaging comics/puzzle page. Shows you what I know, even as a daily Metro rider.


Posted by: cavnam | November 30, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

You are behind the curve. Last week, your competitor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES, stopped carrying all of their daily comics except for "Mallard Fillmore" (although they still had a color comics section this last Sunday, go figure.)

Posted by: dcjimd | November 30, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

> dcjimd:

Actually, this is precisely, primarily, what precipitated today's question: I'd been hearing (through ahead-of-the-curve anonymous sources) that the Washington Times planned to do this. Which is why I'm deeply curious: Do you think other papers will soon follow suit? Among less enlightened editors, will dominos begin to fall?


Posted by: cavnam | November 30, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

While I enjoy reading comics in the newspaper, I would anticipate that in the foreseeable future most newspapers will publish no more than a few token comics. There are three basic reasons for this: (1) most US metro print dailies are going to need to get a lot thinner. Comics take up a fair amount of space that could otherwise be used for news or sports coverage; (2) metro dailies will need to focus on creating unique content. Syndicated comics aren't unique (although a local editorial cartoonist would be).; (3) plenty of papers, ranging from USA Today and the NY Times on the one hand, to small community weeklies on the other, seem not to suffer for their lack of comics pages.

Posted by: OTBerbur | November 30, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

How many subscribers to the Post started their daily newspaper habit as children by first reading the funny papers (or asking their parents to read them aloud)? Dropping this part of the paper will be a GREAT way to insure newspapers' long-term survival, I assure you.

On account of train riders' obvious difficulty in reading an extended news story in the paper (especially one extended over multiple pages), I would think there would be a significant market for a "commuter paper" that consisted of nothing but the comics pages! Perhaps outside a Metro stop would be a good place to open up a comic book store?

Posted by: seismic-2 | November 30, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

No comics - no sale.
What paper would drop is most read section (after Sports)?

Posted by: lufrank1 | November 30, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how much it costs newspapers, per strip, to publish comic strips. I assume they pay a fee to the syndicate.

But newspapers are also cutting down their sports and news reporting staffs, not to mention the copy editors and the like. Which is more expensive? Let's say they chop out all of the comics, thus saving those syndicate fees; how many staff people does that buy?

Seems to me that they wouldn't save a LOT getting rid of the comics and that even if they did, they wouldn't fill the space with news or sports or whatever, they'd just have a slimmer paper.

Posted by: dfranzen70 | November 30, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I think it will happen by the end of 2010. In fact I think I think publishing comics in general will change significantly by the end of next year. It's ironic how the comics realestate has been reduced so much when it used to be used to attract readers to papers. I just read how Watterson forced the papers to accept his full size color Sunday comics. That kind of experimentation is dead in print but flourishes online.


Posted by: SuperSiblingsComics | November 30, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely nothing that our brain dead newspapers do anymore would surprise me. And in their present postage stamp sized format, the truth is that if even the Post went web only with its comics, I wouldn't care. It'd be just one more thing that's slowly driving me into keeping my New York Times subscription and letting the Post fend for its marketing deparment-driven self.

I completely agree with the readers who have suggested that if the Post really wanted to distinguish itself, it would restore the comics section to its former large format, four page splendor, and trumpet that fact as a reason to subscribe to the print edition instead of just mooching the product off the web. But right now all the Post is doing is nickel and diming itself to death.

Posted by: andym108 | December 1, 2009 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Hear, hear, andym108!!

Posted by: Mrhode | December 1, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The San Antonio Express-News still has good comics on the weekdays. The Sunday secion is terrible. So, I'd see them doing a HouChron and skipping sundays. Any loss is a shame and should not happen...but, $$ talks, as usual.

Posted by: ZeldaJane | December 1, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I cannot recall a single comic in the entire Washington Times comics section that I would miss in the slightest. However, my number one reason for never subscribing to that right-wing rag is that they continue to print Mallard Fillmore. It's like distilling Rush Limbaugh onto newsprint.

Posted by: kilby | December 1, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I have three boys at home under 16. I get three papers delivered every day. Two of them have comics, they both get read by the boys. It never ceases to amaze me: Comics are the first thing that brings a young reader into the fold but the last thing an editor will change for a fear of alienating a few old blue-haired readers. Couple this with the fact that as Boomers come of age (myself included) I have given up reading certain comics because, well, I can't. Talk about cutting one's nose off...

Posted by: ddalton432 | December 1, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone from higher up the food chain read the comments? I have to completely agree with andym108. For months we have been saying that you need things to bring readers in.

Posted by: buckeye96 | December 2, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

@buckeye96: Editorial staff read the comics? Hell, their own comics editor is too much of a COWARD to even sit for a Q&A on her own paper's comics blog!

Posted by: drewdane | December 2, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

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