Webcomics are important. Or at least, they are to me – not just as a source of entertainment but culturally. For the last two decades cartoonists have been able to cut out syndicates and publishers entirely and get their comics out directly to readers, and that is phenomenally important. It means comics are not longer constrained by external editorial forces demanding that they keep their comic simple and homogenized. Dumbing of Age probably wouldn’t run in a newspaper. Girls with Slingshots definitely wouldn’t.
Unfortunately I’m noticing a growing trend with webcomics of keeping the comic strip out of their RSS feed, replacing it with a tiny, unreadable thumbnail or, in some cases, a simple link.
If your webcomic’s RSS feed does this, I’m probably not reading your webcomic anymore.
My morning ritual is simple. I wake up, get out of bed,
drag a comb across my head and jump onto my RSS reader to check the sites I follow. It’s nice, simple and convenient – I can read blog posts, news articles and, yes, webcomics without having to have a hundred different tabs open, without having to browse over to each site individually. My RSS reader allows me to quickly digest the online content I want to digest. It’s brilliant, and I’m able to read more blogs, get caught up with more news and read far more webcomics now than I could a decade ago.
But now that some cartoonists are opting not to include their strip in the feed, I’m simply not reading the comic anymore. It’s easier for me to hit K on my keyboard and skip to the next one than it is to open a tab and check out the comic. I’m not unsubscribed from the feed, so I find myself skipping past a bunch of comics that even as recently as a few short months ago I was reading voraciously, but I am reminded that, yeah, I don’t read that much anymore.
I don’t begrudge the decision to omit their comics from their RSS feeds. Ultimately they need to get eyeballs on their website so people can see and possibly even click on the ads they’re running, and this won’t adversely impact a comic with a large fanbase like PvP and Least I Could Do because there are enough readers who will click through and read on the website. And yeah, I’ll admit that there are a small handful webcomics that I will click through to read – Penny Arcade, Wasted Talent, and the aforementioned Girls with Slingshots are the ones that come to mind.
But when your time is limited, when your morning routine is locked to this narrow band of time like mine, eventually you’re just going to stop reading these webcomics because you’re not going to click those links. There is a very small list of people who will click the link to every comic they follow on their RSS reader. Most will be forced to pick and choose what they read. That’s when webcomicry becomes a competition, and it really shouldn’t be.
One of the last things you want is for someone to stop reading your comic, because that’s one less person who could be buying merchandise, going to book signings, and sharing your work with their friends. But worse than that is having someone stop reading your comic, and realizing they don’t miss it.
Because if they don’t miss it, they’re never coming back.