“We are not a digital comics Walmart” Graphic.ly co-founders Micah Baldwin and Ron Richards on why their app is best for creators and fans alike.
In the world of digital comics you could be forgiven for assuming that there are the big two (ComiXology and iVerse) and that’s it. But shame on you for being so narrow-minded. Just as in the print world, there are some amazing apps outside the remit of the big two and one of my current favourites is the very cool Graphic.ly. Mixing a comics reader with an in built social network, it’s the closest thing you can get to the hanging out at the comic store and shooting the sh*t. It’s packed with awesome titles from a whole host of publishers including Marvel, Image and Boom! Studios and so features great titles such as Walking Dead, Savage Dragon and Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, many of which are available the same day as in print. I decided to get in touch with founders Micah Baldwin and Ron Richards and ask just how Graphic.ly came about and how they hope to compete with the big boys.
Could you tell me a bit about how Graphicly was created and what was the inspiration behind it? Did you approach it from an apps basis or from the comics side of things? What are your respective backgrounds?
We started Graphicly initially as a simple way to get the comics that were extremely difficult to find at our local comic stores. As we have grown, our real inspiration came from the hundreds of publishers and thousands of creators who were unable to get their content distributed. We want all creators to have their stories seen, and the current print and digital construct didn’t allow for that.
Micah Baldwin (CEO) has been involved in technology startups for most of his life. Ron Richards(VP, External Relations) co-founded iFanboy. Micah Laaker (VP, Product Experience) used to run Yahoo!’s Developer Network and prior to that ran design for Island/Def Jam. Dan Theurer (VP, Engineering) ran several teams at Yahoo, including YDN, APIs and their Open Strategy. David Uslan (VP, Business Development) has been in the comics industry his entire life, helping his father Michael Uslan (Producer of all the Batman movies) acquire and produce movies, tv and comics.
What do you think makes Graphicly different from other digital comics apps like ComiXology and Comics +?
We are not a digital comics “walmart” who make decisions based entirely on which books drive the most revenue. We exist entirely to support publishers and creators distribute and promote their work. In addition, we support a creator’s ability to build a 4-dimensional story by adding in-story extras (like video, audio, commentaries and the like) and directly interact with their fan bases — where their fan bases are, such as Facebook.
How has the arrival of the iPad helped the growth of Graphicly and how do you see the growth of tablets running Windows and Google OS changing the landscape?
The iPad and other tablets allowed two things to occur: 1) publishers and creators finally had a platform that they were comfortable designing for, and felt better about seeing their content on the device; and 2) the larger interface allowed us to be more innovative in the feature set we provide publishers and creators. The addition of Windows and Google OS tablets will just accelerate the acceptance of tablets and the move into a “post-PC” world.
You have quite an eclectic selection of titles on Graphicly, what are some of the success stories you like to tell people about? e.g. Getting big names on board or smaller titles that have done well as a result of the increased exposure?
Oh, there are so many! My favorite story is about Josh Flanagan, who is one of the co-founders of IFanboy. He has been working on a comic for years, and just was never quite able to get it where he wanted so that Diamond would pick it up for distribution. We–finally!!–convinced him to put it on Graphicly. When he did, he got dozens and dozens of likes and comments! It was in part due to the quality of the book, but also because Josh was able to leverage social media, and his current following, to drive interest and sales.
Just this week, we had a preview of Holy Terror by Frank Miller, Legendary Comics first graphic novel on Graphicly. In just a few days, tens and tens of thousands of people saw the book, and thousands read and discuss it.
Not just comic publishers are leveraging Graphicly’s platform. Electronic Arts has been working with us around one of their titles, SSX, which has been a wonderful success to date. We are now talking to brands and others that see the power of the platform to tell their stories and engage their fans.
How do you think the growth of digital comics is affecting the comics business? For the better or for the worse? And what changes do you think need to happen for people to full embrace digital?
Digital comics is the logical next step for the comics industry. It will continue to grow, and people will become more and more comfortable with the idea of digital comics. Will it hurt the print industry in the short term? Yes. But like the huge increase in the sales of Vinyl in the music business, comics will find its “vinyl” and will find digital truly driving more print sales in the long term.
Collectors may never embrace digital completely, and frankly, thats ok. We are building a product that focuses primarily on new and lapsed comic book readers, with more than 50% of our users being new and lapsed comic readers. This is a much larger percentage than other digital comic providers, and indicative of the importance of the digital evolution of publishing.
What’s next for the Graphicly team? What would you like Graphicly to achieve in the next 12 months and what technological advancements are you anticipating most? e.g. iPhone 5, iPad 3, the growth of Google etc.
We are going to continue to focus on releasing products that help creators and publishers share and distribute their content digitally and connect with their fans. The end-point technology – iPhone5, iPad3, etc are really not relevant to the innovations that we are working on for publishers and creators. But, if I had to pick one, HTML5 is something we are very excited about given its ability to provide an immersive experience globally.
What is your preferred tablet of choice for comics, are you iPad and iPhone fans for example? And what are your favourite titles on the app as a consumer?
I use an iPad, mostly because I have one. 🙂 I do really enjoy the NOOK and am excited for the Amazon Fire for their ability to provide both reading and interactive experiences.
My current favorite app on my iPad? Jamie Oliver’s Recipes. I am a horrible cook, and his recipes are pretty easy to follow.
In term of comic books on the iPad? I love our Apple Newsstand apps for Morning Glories, The Walking Dead, Irredeemable and others. Its great to not have to remember when a book comes out, or keep trying to find it. It a simple, elegant reading experience and I can read all the comments people are leaving about each book.
In terms of the NOOK, the Cowboys and Aliens graphic novel is great! There are extras attached to the book, and if you go into a Barnes and Noble store, exclusive content unlocks. Its the first use of location in a story to unlock additional story elements! Frankly, its just a small example of the innovations we are working to bring creators.