Coming from the Tabulit HQ, also known as my apartment, this is Alex, coming at you with all that’s happened with Tabulit in May.
This month was a particularly tough one. We tried all sorts of things, and then we just failed one after the other. Had our first round of payouts. New artists came in. New comics. TCAF. So let me dive in right away.
We did our first payouts that rolled over from March and April. It wasn’t much altogether. Over the two months, we made just over about $300 in revenue for the last quarter, which we completely gave back to our artists. Humble beginnings though.
One silver lining is that for the artists on other ad based platforms (cough-tapastic-cough), we beat their overall accrual of ad revenue by a huge margin. Like 20x. So it’s a sign that we’re going in the right direction. If we can beat tens of thousands of ad impressions with just around 50 or so subscribers, I think we’ve proven the viability of the pay-to-view model.
No, we weren’t able to have a table at TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) this year. Hopefully next year it will be different. I’ve learned that as a digital company, it’s a bit difficult to place a fully decked out table at fairs or festivals. If people remember, we didn’t have the best times in Toronto and Boston last year, especially me soloing the Boston Book Fair (man I had to go to the bathroom so bad, and the port-o-potty was like, 5 metres from my table).
But, we did have some Tabulit artists representing us there. Katie, Stefan, Sean, Jade & Jake, Aaron, and Francois, as well as Meags though I wasn’t able to actually meet up with her.
In any case, TCAF was very fun. Met great new artists. Also caught up with prospective artists who were looking to join Tabulit. Hopefully next year, we’ll have some prints up, and that will give us a chance to put up a bangin’ exhibitor table.
So we did this thing where we gave out promo cards to Montreal cafes for distribution. Ed also printed some out and distributed them in cafes around Calgary. As I mentioned, they were also at the tables of Tabulit artists at TCAF. Bottom line is, those things did not work. The effect of the promo cards was basically, overall, 0.
Which is a sign that this isn’t something we should keep doing. Ed also printed some alternatives on his side. They were these postcard sized printouts of comics from Tabulit. These didn’t work either.
I’ll be honest. This month we lost way more subscribers than we actually gained. We tried to customize the subscription programs to encourage fans of artists to sign up, making subscription plans that gave 50% of the price to individual artists directly, while the other 50% gets shared in a pool. Needless to say, no one was convinced.
So we’ll be making some changes to our subscription plans this month, though the 4.99 general subscription will stay on.
I want to take this opportunity to say: the subscription plans work. They work in terms of supporting the artist. We’ve seen that happen, albeit in a small scale. And moreover, we are constantly adding new exciting stuff every month, even every week.
However, there is an upside. We started the monthly Tabulit postcards for subscribers. These postcards have custom commissioned illustrations from Tabulit artists on them, and I write handwritten notes thanking subscribers. Prototypes went out this month, with an illustration by Graeme, and the reception was very positive. People loved it! So we’ll continue this. Each month we pick a Tabulit artist and pay a fee to have the artist design a great illustration for the postcard. For June we have a wonderful watercolour illustration from Jade going out, so if anyone wants some real Tabulit love in the mailbox (with a touch of Alex), make sure to grab a subscription!
And an even bigger upside. We partnered with Artisfy this month, and through Ed’s enormous efforts, managed to sweep up a corporate content deal. We are now using Artisfy to manage all freelance projects, and big thanks to David Miranda, founder of Artisfy for making magic.
As Ed mentioned, we’ll be using a portion of our share of the deal to boost the payouts to artists this quarter. So at least we have another avenue of growth we can count on.
Oh, and I almost forgot (but I didn’t. It’s just a figure of speech). Ruxandra has officially joined Tabulit as our Community Manager! Even before May she has been managing our social media accounts and newsletters from March and April. She’s actually a great friend of mine. We go way back to undergrad days of McGill. The Tabulit duo, is now a trio!
In closing, I would also like to say this. We are in for some extremely tough times ahead (though it has never been not tough). But I think we have proven the concept this month, and more people are noticing. In the era of free content everywhere, I think it’s crucial to figure out how to make digital content work. Honest to God, I don’t think ads are an answer (just look at Medium), and neither are things like Kickstarter or Patreon. What we need is an understanding, that people put a lot of passion and effort into their works, and that deserves value, whether in print, or in digital. A direct exchange of value.
And I think we’ll definitely get there, because I can assure you, this already has happened. The Korean webtoon industry, which is one of the biggest digital content markets in the world, now relies heavily on pay-to-view systems, and that is because people understand. Despite the fact that you just view it on your browser or your phone, there is a definitive value that is being offered by the artist, at the artist’s expense in terms of hours worked and resources invested.
So as we go into June, I’d like to say thank you, to all the artists, the subscribers, the supporters, my friends, and everyone else who have supported and continues to support Tabulit. Particularly to Ed and Rux. Man we are slumming it out big time together, but with you guys alongside I feel like the Energizer Bunny. We are all making a better creative digital economy together. And we should be proud of that.
Here’s to another great month everyone.