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DC Needs to "Reinvent What We're Doing Digitally," Says Publisher

Jim Lee thinks that DC needs to respond to a flat digital comic book market. "If there's anything that should continue to grow year-in, year-out, it should be that channel," he says.
DC
Jim Lee thinks that DC needs to respond to a flat digital comic book market. "If there's anything that should continue to grow year-in, year-out, it should be that channel," he says.

DC’s publishing arm spent the first half of the year in a transitionary period, laying off 3 percent of its workforceclosing the long-standing Vertigo imprint and taking Mad Magazine off newsstands as it transfers to a predominantly reprint publication. In a new interview, publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio identified remaining problem areas that they expect to address moving forward.

Talking to comics industry analysis site ICv2, DC publisher Lee (seen above with fellow publisher DiDio and Warner Bros. Global Brands and Experiences president Pam Lifford) talks about the difficulties surrounding DC’s digital comic book sales, noting that they have "been pretty flat in recent years."

He explains, "a lot [of the audience] is moving to subscription, and that is having a downward pressure on transactional sales. But I think it's discouraging in general because everyone talks about digital being the future. If there's anything that should continue to grow year-in, year-out, it should be that channel. The fact that it's kind of plateaued and we've hit a wall speaks to a lot of different things. We need to reinvent what we're doing digitally."

The subscription service DC Universe, which launched in September last year and added DC’s complete digital comic book back catalog in April, is "part of that" reinvention, Lee said.

"I think there's always going to be room for a tool that allows us to engage directly with fans," he explained, suggesting that DC Universe can be that tool, beyond simply offering fans a chance to watch DC-branded movies and television, or reading DC’s digital comic books. "That is the future, if I could borrow that line from digital."

Digital isn’t the only problem facing DC in terms of comic sales; Lee’s fellow publisher, DiDio, talks in the same interview about the problem of DC’s graphic novel and collected edition output, which has fallen in prominence in the bookstore market dramatically over the past couple of years.

"Graphic novels has been a weak spot for us that we have to address, because that has [traditionally] been such a mainstay of our publishing schedule and publishing plan," he said. "If that's changing in any way, shape or form, whether it's because of lack of interest or because digital is cutting into that business, we're not really sure. We have to explore that a little bit further."

It’s not all doom and gloom, however; DiDio also spent a portion of the interview talking about DC’s current successes in publishing.

"The periodical numbers have been strong for us," he said. "Our idea to bring down the number of books, I think, is working for us. It allows us to spend more time to improve the creativity of the material, which is what we feel is important right now. The Young Adult line starting to really catch fire with the Raven book has been exciting for us. I think we've been more than pleased than what we've seen on the Black Label material so far. All those things considered, it's been going good."

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