ComiXology innovated the idea of digital comic books with its service, but Comic Blitz CEO Jordan Plosky doesn't think it goes far enough. Set to launch later this year, Comic Blitz joins a growing number of flat-rate monthly comics services such as ComicsFix and Scribd offering a Netflix-like service for comic books.
Plosky, who worked previously as ComicFix's Director of Content Acquisition before starting Comic Blitz, believes his company's selection of titles, from publishers such as Valiant, Dynamite, and now Zenescope, along with its reader-friendly interface, including an offline reading queue, will set ComicBlitz apart for fans.
Newsarama sat down recently with Plosky to find out the details of Comic Blitz’s plans to corner the market on on-demand comics reading, along with what readers can expect for Comic Blitz’s future.
Newsarama: Jordan, what is Comic Blitz?
Jordan Plosky: Comic Blitz is basically like Netflix, except for digital comics. So customers, users, people who like comics get to pay $9.99 a month for access to everything that we have in terms of content on the platform.
So once you pay your access fee, you get to read whatever it is that you want that we have available.
Nrama: So it’s on demand access to comics content that you’ve hosted on Comic Blitz.
Plosky: Exactly. So, instead of walking into a store and saying “Oh that kind of looks cool, maybe I should buy that, or maybe I should be that,” once you pay your admission fee into the club, you get to do whatever you want in that store. You can read absolutely everything that we have to offer.
Nrama: How did you get started on Comic Blitz?
Plosky: My background is in music, and that is a very shrinking industry, so I kind of just decided to follow my other passion, which is comics. I don’t write, I can’t draw, and I just wanted to be involved in the world of comics. And then I was working with another start up doing the same thing, we went our separate ways and I started my own, and I’ve been at this for about a year and a half now.
Nrama: So with working at ComicFix in 2013 and then Comic Blitz since, you've been doing this for a while.
When is Comic Blitz launching?
Plosky: We’ll be announcing when our launch will be at Boston Comic-Con this weekend. It will definitely be before the end of this year. We are already in beta right now, so there is a select group of people who have seen the app, and are giving us their feedback right now. We’re gonna be implementing that feedback in order to make the product as user friendly and as fun and easy to use as possible.
Nrama: So this is something you built from the ground up, the app and the interface. This is all proprietary to Comic Blitz.
Plosky: Correct. On the tech side of things, getting really geeky, it is a lot of open source code that you kind of utilize. Our developer is building it from scratch. We’re not licensing anything from any other comic e-reader or anything like that. We built our own e-reader. We built our own templates for menus and pages within the app.
Nrama: Talk a little bit about some of the content Comic Blitz has coming up. Do you have creators and books signed on, or is there anyone you’re pursuing right now that you can talk about?
Plosky: The publisher that are part of the beta test are Valiant and Dynamite, so we have a small selection from each of those publishers on the beta right now. We have a lot more from each of those two publishers.
And this will be the first time that we’re revealing another publisher. We have Zenescope also signed on as well. So when we launch it’ll be amongst the publishers that we have. We have more publishers signed on, we have more top publishers signed on, and every publisher that we have is generally like a top ten, top twenty publisher. You’ll know every name that we have.
So that’s where our focus is right now, on stuff that people want to pay $10 a month to read. Comic-Con International: San Diego has been great, we got a lot of verbal commitments already so we just have to work out some contractual things with a few more really recognizable publishers. We’re gonna have a great launch. We’re gonna have a great library. It will absolutely be unlimited, all you can read. You’re never gonna be able to read everything that we have in one month. You’ll keep coming back, and keep reading more and more.
Nrama: Have you thought about hosting original content? Is that something that’s on your radar at all? Original stories from creators or publishers that aren’t available anywhere but on Comic Blitz?
Plosky: Sure. We love that idea because that would give us a competitive advantage, saying “Hey, you can only get this story, this book here, and nowhere else.” Unfortunately, that’s something that comes after you’ve established yourself, because that’s not a cheap proposition. If we were to pony up in order to make a comic, that’s a large upfront cost. So we sort of have to prove ourselves the way that Netflix did. They were around for a few years before they started doing original content.
So when we get our feet in the sand a little bit and establish ourselves with the brand, yeah, absolutely, we would love to do original comics. It’s a strange transition because right now, we’re actually a distributor. But once we start publishing comics that sort of pivots us into becoming a publisher as well. So it’s not part of the plan right now, but we definitely have our eyes on it for the future.
Nrama: Let’s talk a little bit about what sets Comic Blitz apart from some of the other digital comics companies that are out there, like Scribd and ComixFix. What is it about Comic Blitz that’s gonna make you the go to place for that?
Plosky: We know that we’re not the only ones in the marketplace right now doing this kind of thing. But we really believe in our niche product. We are focused on comics and graphic novels, so we know our audience. I am our audience. This is something that I thought, “Oh, this would be great to have,” because, quite frankly, it’s kind of expensive to buy digital comics. And that’s the number one complaint that we get from people.
We’ve done surveys and people say the number one problem in digital comics is the price. Well, for $9.99, that kind of negates that argument. Because for less than the price of one graphic novel, you can have unlimited reading. So there’s the value proposition, but then there’s also the user experience. The way that we built the reader, and the way that we built the menus should be really intuitive for anyone who’s ever been on a digital comic app before, or even someone who hasn’t. It should be, I don’t want to say dummy-proof, but it should be really easy to use our platform.
I’ve seen some other ones, and it’s confusing, or not necessarily intuitive, so I think that we’re gonna have a better general user experience without even going into the bells and whistles that we have planned as well.
Nrama: When you host comics, are they only going to be available for that month, or is this going to be something where you’re hosting comics in perpetuity, or for a set amount of time on your platform?
Plosky: Our deals with publishers range in timeframe, but I’ll say right now, the minimum amount of time that we have on a contract is two years. So you’ll have at least two years to read the content we have from these publishers, but we don’t see ever getting rid of any content. That wouldn’t be helpful to us, it wouldn’t be helpful to publishers. We are a different industry from Netflix, which has that rotating content issue, if you will. I know they got rid of all their BBC stuff, and people were up in arms, “Well I’m paying $7.99, $8.99 a month for Netflix to watch Doctor Who and you’re getting rid of it.”
I don’t really see that problem happening with us, because publishers want the exposure, publishers want the revenue. Like I said, it’s slightly different than those other models. So I don’t foresee that problem, although I guess it’s always possible.
Nrama: $9.99 a month is the cost of just two or three comic books. How do you make that work for a publisher? How do you make this a profitable model for yourself, and for them?
Plosky: To be totally up front, we are not competing with the day and date releases, this is more of an after-market product. So to compare us to other subscription sites, they wait a certain amount of time after a single issue has been released. We also wait a certain amount of time, and I’ll say, it varies from publisher to publisher, so it’s not necessarily six months after. We have some more favorable terms as well.
I can’t really say exactly what they are, but after a comic is released, or maybe after it comes out in trade, we’ll have it available. We’ll have full story arcs all the time, maybe every now and again we’ll have just a number one issue so that you can kind of dip your toes in and see, “Oh, I like this. I can’t wait for the rest of it to come out,” but for the most part, because we wait and we don’t compete with that day and date, it allows the publishers to make the money they would make when those comics come out, and then, what this does, this model sort of creates syndication royalties for comics.
So if you look at movies and TV, they can play forever. So Avengers comes out, does gangbusters at the box office, it’s in movie theaters. Then it comes to Netflix, and video-on-demand, and RedBox, and you can buy it on iTunes, and then it’s on cable, and it’s run in 300 countries for the rest of eternity. Comics never go away, but publishers don’t see that after-market revenue. That goes to Craigslist, and eBay, and stores, and unless stores are ordering more from the publishers or diamond, publishers aren’t seeing any more money. So this creates an entire new revenue stream for the publishing industry, this sort of model.
Nrama: Are you going to be hosting individual issues as well as trades, or is it just collections, or both?
Plosky: Our preference is individual issues because that kind of gives the feel of binge reading. Finishing one issue and swiping right through and reading the next one. Not having to go to a website and find the next comic that you read and then go back into your app to read it. This is strictly straight into the next one. And it lets a user break it up by individual issue if they’d like as opposed to being committed to reading five or six issues in a graphic novel.
Of course, we do have graphic novels as well, but for the most part we like the single issue feel. You get to see all the covers, you get to break it up and have spacing in between the books if you like as well. But then again, some books are just graphic novels. They were never intended to be single issues and we have those as well.
Nrama: Have you given any thought to doing backmatter or additional content? If we buy a subscription, will we see the alternate covers and extra material that sometimes makes it into trades?
Plosky: We do have a lot of ideas that we are in discussions about with publishers, but until they come out we really can’t say any more about it. But we know that we have to be more than just a distribution service in order to succeed, so there are a lot of ideas that we have, there are a lot of ideas that publishers are interested in pursuing, and we’ll see which ones of those come out first.
Nrama: What are the platforms that Comic Blitz is going to be on?
Plosky: We’re launching on iOS, and if things go well, of course we’ll go straight to Android. In the startup world you kind of choose one or the other and see what happens and then if you’re successful you move to the next platform.
Nrama: Just to wrap things up, Comic Blitz is kind of a unique proposition in the market right now. We’ve talked about how there are a couple of competitors. In your opinion, bottom line, what is the best reason that Comic Blitz should be on everybody’s mind?
Plosky: If you’re reading this interview, you’re probably pretty steeped in the comic industry. So for you, I say, we are for you. We’re building a service with the comic book reader in mind. This isn’t just something else that we decided to do to get more customers for some of our other platforms. This is all we do.
We are a comic book reading app for comic book readers. We know what you want, we’re putting those items into our app, for the best possible user experience. On top of that, even I’m surprised by some of the content we’re getting, so I think everyone is going to find that $9.99 a month for the content that we have is going to be well worth the price of admission.